Back in the Audio Image room, one day later, Bob Kehn was showing the King Audio The King electrostats ($8500/pair). Before I arrived, these lovely panels were paired with VAC amplification. Unfortunately, those babies didn't have enough juice for the Kings. Upon the urging of Bob Walters, coordinator of the Bay Area Audiophile Society, the VACs that sounded so good on the Magico V-2 were traded for Aesthetix's Atlas Hybrid amp ($8000) and Janus Signature preamp/phono ($10,000).
In the middle of the King's Audio room sat the omni-directional King Tower ($4500/pair). The speaker was created specifically because, according to the distributor, there was no affordable omni on the market. Paired with same substandard cabling as was the King's Audio Prince II electrostat, a $99 Philips CD player, and the mbl Noble series 4004 preamp and 8011 monoblocks, the speakers sounded quite promising. This is a speaker that needs a better source component and better cabling to fully demonstrate what it can do.
One of the many delights of CES was running into Neil Sinclair, former owner of Theta Digital, in the hallways of the Venetian. In answer to my question, "What would you recommend I check out?" Neil led me to the King's Audio suite.
Through the excellent Kingsound KingIII electrostats ($14,995/pair), Hegel H30 350Wpc amplifier ($15,000), Purity Audio Design new Reference class-A balanced linestage preamplifier ($10,995), Purity Audio Design Harmonia 300B tube buffer ($5500), M2Tech's new Young DSD/DCD DAC ($1699), Trigon CD II ($4250), and Dana Cables, music sounded very smooth but somewhat damped on top. A tenor sax sounded especially warm and inviting.
Ever since encountering KingSound electrostatic loudspeakers at an audio show several years ago, I’ve looked forward to seeing how their line would develop. This time around, KingSound was showing its King III Full Range ESL ($12,000/pair). Driven by Bob Carver Cherry tube monoblock amplifiers ($7400/pair), Purity Audio Design Statement 2 preamplifier (approx. $12,500), and an AMR CD777 ($12,000), all hooked together by Kaplan Cables from John Atkinson’s adopted hometown of Brooklyn, the system was a joy to listen to on Chet Atkins’ recording of “Mr. Sandman.”
Klaus Heymann has some surprising news. During an in-person chat in the lobby of San Francisco's Mandarin Oriental Hotel, the founder of the label that turned the classical-music recording industry on its ear revealed that, in the US, classical-music sales for the labels that Naxos distributes are stable.
When Hong Kong–based music lover and electronics-equipment distributor Klaus Heymann (footnote 1), now 70, first began organizing classical-music concerts as a way to boost sales, he had no idea he would end up founding the world's leading classical-music label. But after starting a record-label import business and meeting his future wife, leading violinist Takako Nishizaki, the German-born entrepreneur sought a way to promote her artistry. First he founded the HK label, which specialized in Chinese symphonic music (including Nishizaki's recording of Butterfly Lovers, the famous violin concerto by Chen Gang). Next he established Marco Polo, a label devoted to symphonic rarities.
How lovely to again make the acquaintance of Eunice Kron of KR Audio and Roger DuNaier of KingSound. Driving the mighty King III full-range electrostats, with a generous assist from Clarity cable, were KR's VA910 160Wpc monoblock push-pull ultralinear, class-AB1 amplifiers ($18,000/pair). Chosen to enhance the King III at a lower cost than other KR Audio amps, they use Russian KT120s, which are more affordable than KR's own tubes, mated to a MOSFET class-A driver stage. Completing the chain was the KR P130 triode stereo line preamplifier ($4990), which comes with remote control.
Krell used CES to launch no fewer than seven iBias high-efficiency class-A amplifiers. Called, by the company, "the most revolutionary design change in its 33-year history," the amps consume far less energy than traditional class-A amplifiers. iBias technology also reputedly eliminates crossover distortion, allowing low-level details, subtleties and spatiality to emerge without restricting dynamics. It does so by operating output transistors constantly at full power, so they never shut off, and adjusts power going to them according to demands.