Daddy Vitus, watch out! Your equipment designer son Alexander, whose relatively young company you've helped bankroll, is hot on your heels. On display were the new Alluxity Pre ONE preamplifier ($8000) and Power ONE amplifier ($11,000). Not yet available in the US, though that may change shortly, the chassis are milled from a single aluminum block. A brief listen to Billie Holiday revealed a nice three-dimensionality, as well as the hard edge that plagued numerous systems on the 29th floor of the Venetian.
Think this is a photo of the forthcoming Convergent Audio Technology JL-5 power amplifier ($TBD, perhaps 10,000-12,000)? Think again. The new amp, still in prototype form, will have the same cosmetics but be ¾ the size. What is important, for those who love CAT's wonderful sound, is that it will be half the price of the company's former entry-level amp. A triode design using four KT120s per channel to output 100 Wpc, it paired beautifully with Wilson Audio Sashas and Stealth cables to produce gorgeous tonality on piano.
Go forth and find ye cables, tweaks, power products, and low-cost amplification, saith the Lord of Atkinson. Little did I realize how much fun my assignment would be. While I didn't run across any low-cost amplification on my first day at CES, there were cables and tweaks galore.
Mark Schifter is well on his way to becoming a legendary figure in high-end audio. From his small-box, low–price-point Audio Alchemy and Perpetual Technology components, Mark has gone on to found one of the first genuine bargain high-end websites, AV123, and build speaker cabinets for many major players. Here he stands next to one of his extremely fine-sounding, amazingly low-priced speakers and subs, all sourced from renewable forests and finished with eco-friendly veneers.
The view from the 16th floor of the Omni Jacksonville may look a bit bleak, but AXPONA was anything but. Initial disappointment at the number of exhibits, which diminished to 28 or so when three parties who had contracted for multiple rooms were forced to cancel due to illness, was replaced by delight as I kept encountering enthusiastic attendees hungry for good sound.
Talks with several exhibitors, including Dick Diamond of YG Acoustics and Rob Robinson of Channel D, revealed their delight at meeting a goodly number of knowledgeable audiophiles who were as educated and committed as they were eager to explore. Hey, Jacksonville may not have a reputation as a capital of cultural sophistication, but I could play Schubert and Mahler as well as Rosa Passos and Charles Lloyd without everyone running for cover.
Not yet released is Ayre’s 175Wpc VX-5 amplifier (price TBD, in the $8000 "neighborhood"), which uses the same circuit as in the AX-5, but with a larger power supply and higher voltage rails. The VX-5 was demmed with Vivid G2Giya speakers and the K-5xeMP preamplifier that John Atkinson reviewed in June 2011.
If there's anything I expect from Dynaudio, it's superb bass. Dynaudio's 30th-anniversary Sapphire ($16,500/pair) certainly produced copious amounts of bass. But the speaker gave me far more than sheer volume. In combination with the Wadia 781i transport/DAC ($15,000), Pass Labs XA100.5A monoblocks ($16,000/pair), Grand Priz Monaco Amplifier Stand, and XLO Signature 3 SE-1 power cords ($1100/8'), S3-2.2 balanced interconnect ($900/m), and S3-4.2 digital cable ($455/m), the system delivered some of the most well-proportioned, beautifully delineated bass I've ever heard. The opening of Mahler's Symphony 2 is rich with the sound of cellos, violas, and basses, and this system nailed each and every line with rare beauty. On the other end of the spectrum, soprano Elly Ameling's voice radiated angelic sweetness. Pictured with the equipment they represent are Dynaudio's Michael Manousselis (l) and Wadia's Martin E. Cooper (r).
First introduced at RMAF 2008, where their ability to fill a HUGE (and I do mean HUGE) conference room in the Hyatt with a full Mahler orchestra blew everyone away, the Kaiser Kawero speakers ($55,000/pair), sound better than ever. And for good reason. Newly revised, and slated for import into the US, the speakers boast the marvelous, some would say incomparable Raal 7020XR double-ribbon tweeter. With 14 sq. cm of area, this tweeter seems to have no boundaries. The cabinet is of so-called bulletproof tankwood, and the special tuning feet contain more than their fair share of ebony.
"Daedalus Audio and ModWright Instruments have teamed up to show how good a sound you can get for close to $15k," Daedalus' Lou Hinkley explained as I entered the room. Indeed, for as much as I could hear over a very loud conversation, the sound of a track from River, Herbie Hancock's Tribute to Joni Mitchell, and another from a Norah Jones album was very, very nice.
Ayre and Vandersteen are two companies whose products have achieved an enviable reputation for excellence. I was, in fact, blown away by my listening experience in the Ayre room at RMAF 2006, and looked forward to an equally enveloping experience this year.