To anyone who has committed my blogs to memory, or treated them with the same reverence as passages from the Bible, my love for mbl speakers and electronics will come as no surprise. Listens at CES 2010, RMAF 2009, and CES 2009 left me in awe. If only the newest mbl speakers on the market had been on active rather than static display, I expect I'd be waxing ecstatic once again.
Mystère hosted a sneak preview of its forthcoming ma21 power amplifier ($TBD). Available in March, this mono version of the pa21 ($2995) boasts automatic bias, and can work with EL-34, KT-88, or KT-120 power tubes.
PMC’s Fact.12 loudspeaker ($19,500/pair), the English company’s new reference 3-way floorstander, includes two 6” coated aluminum-cone woofers, a 2” hand-built soft-dome midrange, and 0.75” soft-dome SONOMEX tweeter co-developed with SEAS. With a somewhat low 84dB sensitivity and 8 ohm impedance, the speaker claims a 26Hz30kHz frequency response. Paired with four new Rega componentsthe Rega Elicit-R 105Wpc integrated amplifier ($2995), Saturn-R DAC + CD transport ($2995), RP8 turntable with Apheta MC cartridge ($3995 w./cartridge), and Aria MC/MM phonostage ($1495)the system sounded quite solid playing Kraftwerk's “Autobahn.”
Now this was an interesting one. Just one room over from the expensive Constellation set-up sat extreme bargain-for-the-money Audio Alchemy, designed by the same man who oversaw Constellation's engineering, Peter Madnick. But since my beat was the high-priced spread, I turned from Audio Alchemy's great-sounding gear to the TAD CE1 loudspeakers ($24,000/pair), designed by Toru Nagatani (above).
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 Acoustique Quality Passion loudspeakers ($20,000/pair) made their way to Las Vegas from the Czech Republic, courtesy of Vladimir Sapara. The flagship loudspeaker in the Acoustique line, it is based on 25 years of loudspeaker design, and features a cabinet by Novague Design.
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.