The are small amps, there are large amps, there are stereo amps, there are mono amps, and then there are Vladimir Lamm's ML3 Signature two-chassis monoblocks, demmed at FSI with Verity Lohengrin speakers, a Lamm L2 Reference preamplifier, LP2 phono preamp, NeoDio CD transport and DAC, and Kubala-Sosna cables, and Critical Mass Systems racks.
In the second Kyomi Audio room, E.A.R. USA's Dan Meinwald was doing an effective dem of the Marten Django XL speakers ($15,000/pair) that Erick Lichte favorably reviewed in September 2012. He used a prototype CAT tube amplifier, a CAT SL1 Renaissance tube preamplifier, and an Esoteric K-1 DAC with standalone clock fed audio data from Amarra. Cabling appeared to be all Magnan. With the Swedish speakers set up firing along the room's diagonal, low-frequency room modes were tamed and vocal music blossomed, whether it was Peggy Lee singing "Fever," Paul McCartney singing a demo of "Mother Nature's Son," or Neil Young live from Massey Hall.
...use a unique drive-unit concept that provides breathtakingly realistic, silky-smooth treble reproduction. I always try to visit the German manufacturer's room at the end of the Show, to savor the sound of their 101E speakers. Driven by MBL's own amps and digital front-end, with Tara Labs "Zero" vacuum-dielectric cables, these lived up to my expectation, though the Show room was not completely sympatico with the bandpass-loaded woofers, which need a relatively well-damped acoustic to work at their best.
Driving Von Schweikert VR-3S speakers ($7995/pair) in Room 8032 was the awesome-looking Kronzilla SXI Mk.II monoblock, featuring the largest tubes I have seen in an audio amplifier. Source was the French EEra CD player, and there my handwritten notes become illegible. Apologies :-(
RMAF was my first chance to hear the new McIntosh MT10 turntable ($9500) that had starred in our 2008 CES blog. But after I had listened to vinyl on the McIntosh system for a whileand very good it sounded, tooRon Cornelius drew my attention to the MCD500 SACD/CD player ($6500) at the top left of the stack shown in the photograph.
Costing $165,000/pair, Magico's new Q7shown here with AudioStream.com editor Michael Lavorgna for scaleembodies everything the Californian company knows about speaker design: a proprietary beryllium-dome tweeter, nano-fibersandwich-cone midrange unit and woofers, housed in a sealed all-aluminum enclosure weighing 750 lbs! With the prototype Audeeva music server, Pacific Microsonics DAC, a Spectral preamp, MIT cables, and unidentified amplifiers hidden behind a curtain, the Q7s threw an enormous soundstage on a 176.4kHz/24-bit file of a Reference Recordings orchestral recording, with bass-drum blows that pressurized the room without obscuring a low-level bassoon that was playing at the same timemacro and micro-dynamics.
It’s been a long time since I listened to a pair of Sound Lab electrostatic speakers, but the gigantic A-1Xes ($28,270/pair), powered by MSB M203 monoblocks in the room Sound Lab was sharing with San Diego dealer Blue Skies Audio, sounded as awesome as I remembered from when Dick Olsher reviewed the A-1 in the 1990s. (Review to be posted in Stereophile's free on-line archives in late June.)
The YG Anat III Professional Signature speakers ($119,000/pair) in the GTT room had an attractive titanium finish. I thought a 45rpm test pressing of the Doors' "Riders on the Storm" sounding astonishing, especially John Densmore's drums, which, although recorded in mono in the right channel, had a combination of weight, realistic highs, and authority that I hadn't heard before from this over-familiar track.
For the past few years, Colorado company YG Acoustics has been exhibiting in a large "air-wall" space in the Sands Convention Center. Their reason for doing so was that it was a great place for a new company to get foot traffic, but the downside was that it took heroic efforts to get sound quality that would indicate what YG speakers were capable of. For the 2012 Show, they had moved to a large suite in the Venetian Tower, and finally they were showing what their $119,000/pair flagship, the Anat III Signature, was capable of.
Distributed in the US by Colleen Cardas Imports, the new Moos Mini Aero speakers ($2499/pair) represent a serious attempt to get good sound from powered wireless speakers. Founder of the Australian company, Tom Celinski, shown in the photo and once with Linn, told me that the two drive-units are ScanSpeak Revelators and, in fact, the speakers are assembled by ScanSpeak. A USB2.0 interface guarantees bit-accurate transmission of digital audio at up to 24bit/96kHz. The wireless data are fed to a DSP-based digital crossover running on Analog Devices SHARC floating-point chips. Thee crossover in turn feeds the data for each drive-unit to a quad mono differential Wolfson DAC which drives a Hypex 200W class-D amplifier module. The sound was open and spacious. The speaker, which was honored with an International CES Innovations 2013 Design and Engineering Award, is scheduled to start shipping in April.