Meridian has completely redone its Signature Reference 808 CD player, now the 808.2 ($14,995). "We've changed its drive, drive navigation software, power supply, DSP, and clocking and buffering. I'd like to say that the only thing we've retained is the case, but we've improved that, too," said Bob Stuart.
Bel Canto's John Stronczer made a bold decision to demonstrate exclusively with a music server streaming Music Giants. He ran the output from his laptop to the $2495 e.One DAC3 digital-to-analog processor and then directly to a pair of e.One REF1000 1000W monoblocks ($1995 each).
Behold bills itself as "true digital audio" since it maintains audio as a digital signal up to the amplifier stage. The 600Wpc BPA768 (US price TBD) incorporates 768kHz/24-bit signal processing, a switch-mode power supply, an analog output stage, and an integrated power conditioner.
"You know," Alon Wolf told us. A lot of what you liked about the sound of my music server was the Pacific Microsonics Model Two DAC I was using. But that's no longer manufactured, this is even better and only $5000."
We'd been told to check out Boulder's new music server, but that's not exactly what the $24,000 1021 Disc Player is. It's a CD player (with a few other formats "to be announced") that uses a computer disc drive to feed a one-minute buffer to "preserve the integrity of the audio signal delivered from the drive. "Also," confided Steve Rockwell, "the clock is about this far [pinches fingers together], so jitter is phenomenally low."
"I'm not done," Lew Johnson said. "I showed you our high-aspiration products, now here's one more from the heart: the ET250S is a more realistically priced product at $7500 for 250Wpc. At the heart of the amp is a single-ended triode amplifier that supplies the voltage gain. A high-current buffer stage couples that to the speaker load. That architecture gives you tube grace and finesse, but deliver all the brute force you need for any loudspeaker. We'll ship them in February."
VAS Audio's Sze Leung is the most consistently up audiophile we know—he's always raving about his latest listening session or discovery. "This one's incredible," he exclaimed, pointing to the 80Wpc Cayin H-80A Class-A tube hybrid integrated amplifier (approximately $4000)."
Lew Johnson pointed at the LP275M ($12,500). "This is something CJ hasn't done in a while: a high output tube monoblock. We use four pairs of 6550s to obtain 275W with our proprietary translinear transformers. We can configure it for 2, 4, 8, or 16 Ohm loads (standard is 4 Ohm). Like our most recent designs, we're using metal foil resistors and Teflon CJD capacitors. We'll be shipping them by February."
Hansen Audio needed a speaker that wasn't quite as, um, lordly as its $65,000/pair King floorstanders, so Lars Hansen designed the $49,000/pair Emperors. The four driver three-ways are constructed of Hansen's composite matrix material in an enclosure that employs Sound Wave Refraction Distortion Elimination technology. The midrange (7.2") and bass (10.6") drivers are all multilayer composite sandwiches.