At a show in which far too many of the rooms on my beatrooms showing new amps or preamps in the $2500$15,000 range, new cables, or new power products or accessoriessounded hard, harsh, and hi-fi, VTL's new S-200 Stereo Signature amplifier ($10,000) and TL6.5 Series II Signature line preamplifier ($13,000) stood out for their welcoming warmth, relaxed flow, and unfailing musicality. The S-200 is a fully balanced stereo amp with a class-A/B output stage that is said to remain in class-A up to 70 watts. In development for close to six years, it arrives equipped with VTL's familiar auto-biasing and fault sensor.
Among Cardas' new goodies at CES was the 3455R IEC plug ($49.95), with pins of solid ultra-pure copper with silver/rhodium plating, and the 3455R-US wall plug ($49.95), whose pins are made of the same material. Cardas is now substituting these for Furutech terminations on their power cables. National Sales Director Brian Von Bork reports that they're also re-launching the Cardas Ear Speaker 5813 ($425), aka ear buds with bloom.
I was real excited to hear the advanced prototype of the new the SMC-1, a fully balanced linestage preamp collaboration between Steve McCormack and Gary Koh of Genesis. The preamp will come in two versions, the higher-priced of the two probably coming in around $8000. For the extra money, you get higher quality parts and a different sonic signature, which amounts to quite a lot.
There's nothing like being greeted as the audiophile equivalent of the Messiah to either make your day or impel you to run for cover. In the case of Peigen Jiang's Eficion speakers, I'm glad I got over my embarassment and stayed.
The first hybrid SACDs produced and recorded in Russia have made their way to North America. The new Russian company responsible for the recordings, Essential Music, issues them on the Caro Mitis label, whose name is Latin for "succulent fruit." All are recorded in multichannel DSD and released as hybrid SACD/CDs. Caro Mitis releases are imported by Todd Garfinkle of M•A Recordings. Garfinkle himself has been responsible for some of the most enjoyable audiophile recordings of unusual performers and repertoire in the catalog.
Look out Audiogon. Your latest competition in the online marketplace department, AudioMart, launched this week. The company's Mark Mawhinney, who owns a retail store and is also responsible for the Spin-Clean Record Washer, says AudioMart lists both used and new equipment. "It's quicker, faster, more socially integrated, and much more mobile friendly," he proclaims. "Images are posted for free, and we're offering free dealer storefronts through September 1."
After several years without distribution in the US, Peder Beckman of Norway's Electrocompaniet (kneeling on the left, next to company head Mikal Dreggevik) has quickly established a revitalized US dealer network that should number a good 10 by CES 2010. Without a long-standing reputation for affordable excellence, this would have been next to impossible to achieve in the current climate.
Lew Johnson of Conrad-Johnson announced a new stereo amplifier, which he considers priced in "the sweet spot for sound per dollar." The CP125sa ($8250 in base version, $10,000 upgraded) outputs "roughly" 125Wpc, and uses the same circuit as the top-of-the-line ART, albeit with less expensive parts in all but the most critical places.
My photo of the system in the Acoustic Sounds room featured the Manley Labs Snapper monoblock amplifiers. This was the system front-end, comprising (from top to bottom): Funk Firm Vector Turntable with MK3 tonearm and Lyra Dorian phono cartridge; Sutherland Direct Line Stage; Sutherland's new battery-powered Ph3D phono preamp; and Silver Circle Audio Pure Power One 5.0 power transformer. Rack is the Symposium Acoustics Isis.
"New York, New York, It's an Audio Town!" After far too many years without a large-scale audio show, New York City is about to get a taste of what regularly enriches the lives of audiophiles in other major centers around the world. The first, hopefully annual New York Audio and AV Show, brought to you by the same Chester Group that mounts audio shows in the UK, Australia, and Sweden, and by T.H.E. Show USA, takes place in Park Avenue's grand Waldorf=Astoria Hotel at 301 Park Avenue on Friday April 13Sunday, April 15.