Anthony Gallo's new Reference 3.1 loudspeaker ($2995/pair) proved that it's better to set up a room properly than it is to try to beat it into submission with expensive components. Not to take anything away from Gallo's Ref 3.1, which sounded fantastic, but his demo proved that God truly is in the details, sounding bigger, realer, richer, and more dynamic than most of the googolbuck systems we heard today. In fact, one importer, who shall remain nameless, confessed that he had a pair in his living room rather than the costly lines he brings into the country.
We'd heard a lot about Raidho's Eben X-3 loudspeakers ($16,500/pair), so we dropped by T.H.E. Show to check out these dynamic three-way floorstanders. When we arrived, Art Audio's Kevin Carter was listening to the X-3s driven by Art's Vivo 25Wpc 300B push/pull stereo power amplifier ($13,000). It sure was purty.
Leave it to a bass player. John Atkinson sidled up to Jon Iverson and me last night and said, "Have you heard Ascendo's room yet? It has a bandpass woofer that doesn't sound like a bandpass woofer at all—it sounds good."
Balanced Audio Technology's Geoffrey Poor proudly showed off BAT's new Solid-state preamp, the VK42SE ($5995). Those ominous looking black cans are brand new state-of-the-art oil-filled capacitors, which will sport a different livery in the production model, by the way. The 42SE features BAT's power supply bypass, dual mono, zero feedback circuitry and it sounds "more tubelike than some of our tubed designs," Poor proclaimed. "It's like a VK42 on steroids! It has more air, more liquidity, and more testicular fortitude. I don't know why we don't have it in the system."
Cayin's American distributor Sze Leung had three new units on display at the Acoustic Sounds booth: the Phono One ("under $2000"), a tube driven phono section, Citation Sound 1 ($3500) full-function preamplifier (phono section included), and the HA-1 ($700) tubed headphone amp/integrated amp (3Wpc). Jackson Mar and Anna Gao of Cayin's parent company, Zhuhai Spark Electronic Equipment Co., Ltd., came over for CES and couldn't resist grinning when the price of the HA-1 caused bystanders to whistle in admiration.
Dusty Vawter's Channel Island Audio has made its reputation building high-performance audio components in extremely small packages, but we were still surprised to see how tiny CIA's new VDA-2 DAC ($599)is. How small? Try 4.4" W by 2.65" H by 4.4" D.
Chinese OEM manufacturer Dissun was sharing a room with Tetra, so when we stopped by to see what Adrian Butts had wrought, we were pleasantly surprised to see the suite filled with interesting components—all of them looking well built and beautifully turned out.