Absolare of Turkey and New Hampshire unveiled its ne plus ultra Passion Signature line, which includes the Absolare Passion Signature 845 parallel 52W monoblock amplifier ($48,500/pair) and Passion Signature preamplifier ($22,500). While I heard these products in single-ended configuration, they are also available in balanced versions. Not only have their power sections undergone significant revision, but they have also been customized with costly Duelund cast capacitors from Denmark, NOS resistors, NOS tubes in the preamplifier, and NOS driver tubes in the amplifier.
The good news about Gato is that it sounds as good as it looks (IMHO, of course). Sounding great on Reference Recordings' much-heralded disc of Copland's Symphony 3, with fabulous bass, the Danish company's new DIA-250 ($4500250Wpc into 8 ohms) and DIA-400 ($600045Wpc into 8 ohms) class-D integrated amplifiers produced fabulous bass, with 0.33 dB adjustments. Included are Burr-Brown PCM1794 dual chipsets that automatically upsample to 24/192, an asynchronous USB input, and a home-theater pass through.
"What planet am I on?" an alien visitor might have remarked when peering beyond Gato's eye-catching electronics to the brazen new world of Las Vegas 2014. There, somewhat beyond the point where Roman architecture and Ferris wheel meet futuristic tower, jet plane, Hilton Grand Vacations, and a very troubled sky, and far above the relentless hawkers who line Las Vegas Blvd., a huge number of high-end companies spent four days trying to lure distributors and press alike with sonics, glamor, and hype.
Moon by Simaudio of Quebec showed its two newest slim-box Evolution Series components. The first, the Moon Evolution Series 760A dual-mono, class-A/B balanced power amplifier ($8000), is "conservatively rated" at 130Wpc into 8 ohms, and boasts a zero global feedback circuit, proprietary output transistors, and class-A output to 5 watts. The company's Costa Koulisakis claims of its unrelated Evolution Series 820S power supply ($8000)intended for use with the Evolution Series' 740P preamplifier, 610LP and 810LP phono preamplifiers, and 650D and 750D CD/DAC transports"We've never done a better power supply in our lives." Together with other Evolution series components, the system produced notably spacious sound.
Despite the upside down dissection, Viola's The Concerto stereo amplifier ($22,000), first introduced in October in Tokyo, produced very smooth fast and solid sounds with nice depth and fine warmth on Fourplay's plastic version of jazz. My scribble says that the amp has a choke input power supply and Motorola thermal track transistors, and outputs 100W into 8 ohms and 200W into 4. Not pictured are Viola's Crescendo preamplifier and Oceanway's Audio Montecito loudspeakers ($48,000/pair).
Excellent bass, speed, and a distinctly solid-state signature of high-end three-dimensionality were the hallmarks of a Sony system that paired the TA-A1ES 80Wpc integrated amplifier ($2000) with the new HAP-Z1ES hi-res music player with 1TB HDD ($2000), SS-NA2ES loudspeakers ($10,000/pair), and Kimber Select copper speaker cables and copper power cables. This was my first opportunity to experience the much heralded "audiophile grade" HAP-Z1ES, which plays back a full range of file formats, including DSD; includes a 1TB hard drive for playback and storage; has built-in Wi-Fi for app control and music transfer; and, shades of far more expensive dCS, includes a DSD re-mastering engine that converts all signals to DSD.
Beautiful, airy, and colorful sound distinguished the forthcoming Peachtree Nova 220 SE ($1999), an all-in-one class-D baby that produces 220Wpc into 8 ohms and 440Wpc into 4 ohms. Cribbing from our sister site, Audiostream.comthe pre-show press release cannot be found in my mailboxI see that it accepts up to 24/192 data through its USB and coaxial S/PDIF inputs. Its new discrete class-A preamplifier stage offers improved micro-detail over old Peachtree models, and its S/N ratio has improved 12 dB over the Nova 125 (Stereophile's 2009 Budget Product of the Year). Paired with Martin Logan Summit X loudspeakers ($14,000/pair), this baby acquitted itself with honors on Reference Recordings' version of Tchaikovsky's Hopak from Mazeppa.
Primare may be known for "affordable products," but the wonderful inner warmth and superb, large images the new Primare PRE60 fully differential network preamplifier/streaming DAC ($10,000) and Primare A60, 300Wpc, fully balanced, class-D stereo amplifier ($10,000) produced on a 24/96 HDTracks download of the third movement of Mahler's Symphony 2 convinced the company to issue its first products at this price point. Of the brief time I had for auditioning, I loved every second of what I heard.
It's "T plus A," not "T and A," I was told of the 35-year old German company whose products Dynaudio first began importing into the US three years ago. Supplying bright, incise sound, great bass, and really impressive dynamics was a full HV (High Voltage) Series Reference System that paired T+A's new A 3000 HV Reference power amplifiers ($37,000/pair), complete with new PS 3000 HV power supply upgrades for the A 3000 HV ($25,000/pair), with the new P 3000 HV Reference preamplifier ($15,000), MP 3000 HV CD transport/DAC/streaming client ($13,500), and new Solitaire CWT 1000 SE loudspeakers ($50,000/pair). Transparent Audio cabling enabled the system to deliver all it can.
In all my years of evaluating audio systems, I have never heard a more mesmerizing, realistically air-filled soundstage than that created by pairing VTL electronics with the recently reviewed Wilson Audio Alexia loudspeaker ($48,500/pair). Wishing to start my CES adventures on a positive note, I thus headed to the VTL room on the Venetian's 30th floor, where VTL's TP-6.5 Signature phono preamplifier MC Step Up ($10,500), new TL-6.5 Series II Signature line preamplifier ($13,500), and S-400 Series II Reference stereo amplifier ($33,500) sang with the Alexias, Transparent Opus MM interconnects and speaker cables, and Nordost Odin power cables. With the sources the superb Spiral Groove SG1.1 turntable with Centroid tonearm ($31,000) outfitted with Lyra Etna cartridge ($6995), a MacBook Pro running Audirvana, and dCS Puccini and U-Clock ($24,498), I was greeted by beautiful, extremely liquid, transparent, and, yes, remarkably airy sound that drew me deep into the music.
Although several of the biggest high-end PR firms didn't make it to CES 2014, Lucette and John Nicoll of Nicoll Public Relations were very much in evidence. Virtually every member of the press knows Lucette, because she's the person in the press office at T.H.E. Show Newport Beach. Given that her company also represents 14 brands, including Bowers & Wilkins, Classé, Clarus, Meridian, and Rotel, it's no wonder the couple was smiling.
Kalman Rubinson has already posted a photo of Korg's DS-DAC-100m lower down in this report, so I'm including a photo of the other DAC they had on display, the DS-DAC-100 which retails for $599 and comes with the company's AudioGate software allowing you to convert any file to DSD in real time. I watched a demo as this was being done live and it's quite an impressive piece of software.
Keep in mind that Korg makes the DSD recording devices that many labels are using, including MA Records.
The company logo reminds me of a sixties horror movie and the glass front panel evokes memories of lying on the floor in a pal's living room in 1972 listening to his Dad's Stack O' Mac, but something about that bioluminescent glow gets me every time. All the more weird since this is such a contemporary product.
The MB100 lets you stream from the internal 1TB drive, wirelessly from your personal device, or hook up USB, eSata or NAS drives. You can also stream from Pandora, Spotify, etc. All is controlled via an iOS or Android custom app, web browser or TV user interface and output to either digital or analog ports on the back.
Available in April or May this year for around $6,500 retail. Go with the glow.
PS: Some of you must have similar memories of listening to music as a kid while the Mac's green and blue lights cast an eerie hue on the ceiling?
In addition to the DAC 202 DSD update, Weiss has also added the feature to its Man301 Network Player. Both DSD64 and 128 are supported and the update is free to current owners. New, the Man301 sells for $9,100 without DAC built in and $12,200 with.
Erick Lichte loved the DAC202 when he reviewed it two years ago, and the company has now made a good thing even better. Daniel Weiss is one of the more soft-spoken men in audio, so I listened carefully as he explained that current owners can update their DACs to include a USB input for DSD for $1,800, while newbies can get one for $9,100 ready to DSD.