The Rogue Hydra is a 100Wpc amplifier that combines a tube input with a class-D output section (using only the module's MOSFET output, bypassing the rest), with about 2dB of negative feedback. If Rogue is lucky, then this will appeal to both audiophiles that are tube fans and those that are fans of modern digital technology. If they're not lucky, then tube fans will reject it because it includes the evil of digital, and digital fans will reject it because it includes technology that they regard as obsolete. Ultimately, it's the sound that mattersand, according to Rogue's Mark O'Brien, it's an effective combination of the tube sound with the power of solid-state.
Ron Sutherland of Sutherland Engineering is famous for his phono preamps. At TAVES he introduced a new product: the N1 ($10,000), a line-plus-phono preamplifier. The most striking thing about this product is that it uses Nixie tubes for the display of source number and volume. Nixie tubes are those little tubes that light up to display a number or other characters. It's a charmingly retro look. I didn't think that these tubes are being made any more, and Ron Sutherland confirmed that this is correct; however, he has purchased a huge stock of Nixie tubes, so his customers are taken care of.
An amplifier producing nearly 400Wpc, weighing close to 100 lbs...from Rotel, of all people? Don't they know their place in the audio world? Next thing you know, Krell will start making integrated amplifiers! Oops—Krell is making integrated amplifiers...
If one were to judge by the new product introductions from Ayre and Jeff Rowland Design, $18k seems to be the price point for high-end solid-state preamplifiers. Rowland's new Criterion preamp uses NiMH batteries in the power supply; these are more easily available than the lead-zinc ones that were used in Rowland's previous top preamp—and, of course, the design of the Criterion features a number of improvements from its predecessor. Rowland also introduced the new Continuum integrated amp, available in two version: 350Wpc ($7200) or 500Wpc
($8800), the latter featuring power-factor correction.
Although the term "professional" is often used as part of model designations in consumer electronics, the actual overlap between the audiophile consumer market and the real pro market is quite small. There are speakers in common use as studio monitors that no self-respecting audiophile would want to be caught dead listening to, and the typical audiophile loudspeaker would go up in smoke if asked to pump out the kind of volume that pro application routinely demands. To a lesser extent, the same applies to amplifiers: pro is pro and consumer is consumer, and ne'er the twain shall meet.
Esoteric's two-box (transport plus D/A converter) SACD player, feeding A70 amps (not sold in the US), an Audio Research Reference 3 preamp, and a pair of Aerial Acoustics 20T speakers combined to produce one of the smoothest, most musical sounds I heard at the show.
Remember the name: Salagar Sonics. It's the name of a new American speaker company, whose first product, the Salagar S210 ($7500/pair), still in prototype form, made a strong impression at HE 2007. It's an active two-way—digital crossover; the amp uses the latest B&O ICE module—with a Scanspeak AirCirc tweeter and a 10" Peerless VIFA mid-bass driver, in an unusually-shaped (and highly inert) enclosure. I thought these speakers sounded terrific: lively, low in coloration, and with excellent imaging.
Canada Hi-Fi, a print and internet magazine, is one of the sponsors of TAVES (editor Suave Kajko is President of TAVES), and had a booth at the show. Canada Hi-Fi is distributed free to audio and video stores in Canada, but if they decided to charge for their issues, with such charming representatives as Sarah Ferguson and Margaret Waymark, they would be signing up subscribers in no time.
Here's a photo of SSI's Sarah Tremblay and Stereophile's John Atkinson, who is covering the Show with Art Dudley and yours truly. JA will be presenting a seminar on how to understand loudspeaker measurements tomorrow (Sunday) at 2pm.