Nothing convinces more than a fabulous recording wonderfully reproduced. Wilson Audio scored big time when it engaged recording engineer Peter McGrath as its marketing VP. McGrath's recordings are legendary. When sourced from master hi-res computer files, played back using the superior Amarra Music Server software, they're pretty riveting.
Directly across the hall from the PrimaLuna exhibit, I discovered its somewhat more expensive big brother line, Mystère. While PrimaLuna amps operate in triode mode, Mystère gives you the sound of tetrode. These aren't high power babiesthe ia11 integrated amp ($1995) puts out 40Wpc watts and the ia21 integrated amp ($2995) gives you 50Wpc. The electronics are manufactured with a different partner in China, and are the dream project of their designer.
NAD has refreshed its top-of-the-line Master Series. Due out the end of the second quarter is the NAD Master Series M12 ($3499), a 2-channel audio hub that contains both preamp and DAC. Below it in the photo sits the M22 ($2499), a 2-channel class-D, dual-mono hybrid digital amplifier with an analog input stage and Encore Hypex digital module output stage. In a system that included Dynaudio's excellent C4 Signature and AudioQuest Rock series cabling, Esperanza Spalding's voice on her recording of "Little Fly" was flattered by the system's warm sweet sound. I wouldn't be surprised if Stephen Mejias, who speaks often of NAD's reliability and good sound, has his eyes on these babies.
Okay, I'm running out of clever titles, but NAD had no problem producing beautifully controlled, welcomingly sweet sound from its all-new Masters Digital Suite. The M50 Digital Music Player ($2500) and M52 Digital Music Vault ($2000), a combo that can stream, store and manage your digital music collection, was performing wonderfully with the M2 Direct Digital 250W digital-input amplifier ($6000 and a John Atkinson favorite), Tannoy Glenaire 10 loudspeakers ($7500/pair), and Synergistic Acoustic ART resonance control system.
ProMusica Audio Specialists of Chicago demmed a Naim/Dynaudio system that was initially hard to hear over all the shouting. When things settled down, I enjoyed the lovely warmth and excellent midrange on a bit of the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra's recording of Schubert's Symphony 5.
The big news from UK-based Naim is the arrival of the company’s first asynchronous USB DAC, the DAC-VI ($2395). Its companion in size is the new NAP 100 discrete-transistor, compact power amplifier ($1295). Production on both begins in February. To focus first on the amp, which is in my CES blogging territory of amps and preamps in the $2500$15,000 price range, the NAP 100 is a dual-mono design that outputs 50Wpc into 8 ohms and 100 into 4, and is said to incorporate a linear power supply with a “large toroidal transformer and audiophile grade selected components” into a non-magnetic, low resonance, compact chassis and sleeve.
Naim Audio has just introduced three new great-sounding products in its NAIT (Naim Audio Integrated Series). The entry-level NAIT 5si Integrated amplifier ($1800) outputs 60Wpc into 8 ohms, and has four analog inputs (including DIN, which they think sounds best), a headphone output, and unity gain inputs for AV pre/pro or receiver. Climbing up the ladder gets you the 70Wpc Naim NAIT XS 2 integrated ($2900) and "audiophile version" 80Wpc Naim SuperNAIT 2 integrated ($4900). In addition to more inputs and features, these higher-level products include upgradeable external power supplies, which counts for a lot in Naimland.
The Sound Organisation’s Naim system inspired me to jot “very musical and complete” in my notes. On active duty were Naim’s NDS reference network player equipped with their top DAC ($10,995) with separate 555PS power supply ($9645), NAC202 upgradable preamp ($3295) with separate power supply ($2195), NAP250-2 80Wpc stereo amplifier ($5995), and S400 loudspeaker ($6495/pair in the finish shown).
How can you not love these adorable little components with the lovely little sound? With tube holders that glow in the dark, these cuties are manufactured and designed for Fremont, CA-based Napa Acoustic by Mistral in China.
When I judged a whistling contest in China a few years back, I got severely criticized by an unsmiling judge for favoring one little girl because she was so damn cute. I wonder what he would have thought about my reaction to the adorable little components from Napa Acoustics. You’ll have to check previous show blogs for their pictures, because this time, I focused on some of Napa Acoustics’ Chinese-manufactured larger offerings. The MT-34 35Wpc integrated amp ($1199), Bow-A3 loudspeakers ($1699/pair), and NA-208 CD player ($399), powered and connected with stock cables, did a fine job of depicting the organ on Ray Charles and Norah Jones’ “Here We Go Again.”