Music Lovers Audio of Berkeley and San Francisco had the big and small of the Wadia line on display. When I entered the room, the Wadia 571 CD/digital preamp/DAC ($13,950) was on standby, and Wadia's diminutive 170 Transport iPod dock ($379) and 151 PowerDACMini ($1195) were doing the iPhone.
My photo fails to do justice to the eye-catching aesthetics of the Wadia Intuition 01 ($7500) on the stand. You can catch much better views of the modern digital integrated amplifier/DAC/preamp combo here. Offering 350Wpc into 4 ohms (190Wpc into 8 ohms), 192/24 resolution via coax, optical, and AES/EBU, and 384/32 and native DSD playback via USB, this beaut mated with Sonus faber’s equally handsome Olympica I loudspeakers ($6500/pair + $1200 optional stands) and Nordost Tyr 2 cabling to produce very mellow sounds on a track by Bill Callahan, and captivate me with the voice of Lucrecia Dalt.
Kevin Wolff of VANA Ltd., the US distributors of Vienna Acoustics and Primare products (left) joined Sunil Merchant (right) in his second Sunny Components room to show off the absolutely brand new, impressively slim and stylish Wadia Intuition 01 ($8500) shown atop the equipment rack. This new all-purpose baby combines 350 watts of class-D+ amplification with a 32-bit AD/DA digital preamp that, on USB, can decode both 384/32 and DSD files.
Gideon Schwartz of Audioarts NYC had assembled quite an impressive system, most of whose components I had never heard before. Given the system’s price, one would reasonably expect something wonderful, if not extraordinary from Zellaton Studio Reference One loudspeakers ($52,750/pair); Nagra’s new Jazz preamplifier ($12,250, with the input and output jacks now on the back instead of the sides), 300B power amplifier ($16,950), and VPS phono preamplifier ($6850); Metronome’s C8 Reference Asymmetrical USB DAC ($22,750) and Calypso Reference transport ($43,750); Holborne’s Analog 2 Mk.2 turntable ($7495), Dualpivot tonearm ($3475, MC1 cartridge ($1975), and rack ($3975); Van Den Hul’s Cumulus 3T speaker wire ($6995/pair) and The Cloud 3T interconnects ($695/set); and a Schopper Thorens fully restored 124 Mk.2 (“priceless”).
Lovely, warm and delicate sound, unmistakable tube bloom, and fantastic percussive impact distinguished my brief time in this room. Danny Richie of GR-Research’s open-baffle, line-source LS-X loudspeaker system ($39,000/pair), which includes two integrated servo-controlled subwoofer towers, mated extremely well with Dodd Audio’s battery-powered 34Wpc monoblock power amplifiers ($2900/pair plus battery and charger) and tube amplifier ($1199 plus battery, charger, and tweaks), and a Mac-based computer source feeding a not-yet-released dB Audio Labs Evolution DAC ($1495 or higher). Cabling was from three companies (Triode Wire Labs, PI Audio, and Electra Cable), and power conditioning from PI Audio.
I'm afraid the companies exhibiting in this room will not be adequately served by this blog entry. David Salz of Wireworld was not available, and I never got details on his cabling other than word that his new, top-of-the-line USB cable got caught up in FedEx drama and didn't make it to the show on time. All I know is that the big speaker was the eye-catching, glass-enclosured Waterfall Niagara from France ($54,000/pair), which has 89dB sensitivity and a frequency response of 36Hz28kHz ±3dB, and a Cary 300T SACD player ($6500) and Cary monoblocks ($10,000) were called into action. Power was conditioned by the APC units that Kal Rubinson recommends. I don't know much more, unfortunately. As I just explained to the man who just answered the phone at Waterfall Audio USA, I owe them and Wireworld one.
Unexpected amusement greeted me in the small Covenant Audio & Aaudio Imports room. As soon as I entered, an overgrown post-adolescent seated himself in the sweet spot, took one look at the visually stunning Wavac HE-833v1.3 tube monoblocks ($69,000/pair), Wavac PR-T1 tube preamp (a mere $30K), Acapella High Violin MK 888 horn speakers ($48,000/pair—where do they get these names?), and Accustic Arts Drive and DAC ($12,800 together), all held together and powered by assorted cables and power products from PranaWire, Stealth and Isoclean, and blurted out, "This looks like super-high end."
“It’s all on this USB stick,” declared digital genius and Wavelength mastermind Gordon Rankin, as he pressed lots of data into my hand. Once accessed, I learned that I had enjoyed a MacBook Pro Retina 15 16G-RAM/480G-SSD connected via Thunderbolt to a 4T library; Wavelength’s battery-powered Crimson + Denominator DAC ($9000) connected to the computer via an AudioQuest Diamond USB; Wavelength’s new Europa analog/digital preamplifier ($7500) with ESS ES9018 DAC chip, network support, three analog inputs, and either Ethernet or WiFi remote; Wavelength’s new all-silver Napoleon 300B amplifiers; Vaughn’s new Plasma loudspeakers ($15,000/pair, or $20,000/pair for the signature series w/upgraded power and MagneQuest custom modulation transformers); and Audioquest’s Sky interconnects and Redwood speaker cables.
J. Gordon Rankin, always at the forefront at computer audio technology, had paired Wavelength's beautiful-sounding electronics with Vaughn Zinfandel loudspeakers and AudioQuest top-of-the-line Sky interconnects and Meteor speaker cables to create a system with an absolutely gorgeous midrange. That is no small accomplishment, folks.
For those of us with DACs that lack USB and/or FireWire inputs, getting uncompromised, full-range sound out of our computers is a bit of a challenge. There are a number of interfaces on the market, but most are slaved to the computer's inferior clock. I've tried one of these, and it conveys neither the bass nor the clarity of my transport.