...and 3.6kW into 2 ohms! All in a day's work for Krell's $40,000/pair, Krell Evolution 900 monoblock amplifier. On passive display with its top off, you can see that the amplifier has three output modules, each containing a pair of driver stages, 28 bipolar output devices, and a massive heatsink that vents heat in chimney fashion through vents in the top and bottom of the chassis. The power supply features two 3kVA toroidal transformers, 52 electrolytic capacitors, each rated at 1800µF, 900watt, and 105°F. Weight? Again I didn't want to know, but was told it was a mere 175 lbs!
Friday was the busiest day I and other Stereophile writers found at the CES venues. Pictured here is a lull in the traffic taken from a window at the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) near the press room, where the line for the free press lunch stretched hundreds of feet. Later that day, the bus and cab lines at the LVCC stretched half a mile as evening approached and the temperature outside dropped from mid 60s to temperatures in the 40s (Fahrenheit). Little evidence of a recession was visible in pure crowd count, but I ran into many more Asian and European attendees, while missing some friends in the audio high end community who skipped CES this year.
Mark Levinson showed a design study for its Reference No.53 monoblock amplifier in its Hilton suite, which will replace the previous flagship, the No.33. Although details are not finalized, Levinson's Walter Schofield suggested that each monoblock chassis will be rated in the neighborhood of 500W into 8 ohms, and will be priced at approximately $20,000.
Andrew Watson proudly discussed the latest iteration of KEF's reference floorstanding speaker, the $20,000/pair 207 Mark 2. This new version features a new UNI-Q array that no longer needs the hypertweeter found in the Mark 1 version. The new tweeter has a vented magnetic assembly to provide more air volume behind the dome to smooth the sonic response. The manufacturer has to drill through the magnet assembly, thereby reducing its sensitivity. As a result, two additional neodymium rings were added to the usal magnet. The new tweeter's design has the voice-coil former touching the dome at two points to lend additional support and prevent breakup at high frequencies.
Jon Iverson, our magazine group's self-proclaimed “Web Monkey”—that’s how his business card describes his role—mentioned that a reader, now living in Dubai, wrote him Tuesday night about Gallo Loudspeakers. "I'm hoping your CES 2008 show blog will bring me up to speed on the latest loudspeaker from Anthony Gallo," he wrote.
Experienced reviewers know that shows are the wrong environments for critical audiophile listening. Convention centers—especially the one at Las Vegas—are huge, cavernous airplane hangers, not the intimate listening rooms reviewers thrive in. Extraneous sounds from subwoofer blasts and the constantly milling crowds leak in to sully the music. Booths set up by manufacturers on the show floor have very thin, flexible walls, and no bass treatment.
AIX Records' Mark Waldrep, see here with Mona Waldrep, was promoting their latest DVD-Video and DVD-Audio, surround-sound release, Ernest Ranglin, Order of Distinction. Featured performers included Robbie Krieger from the Doors, Phil Chen and Laurence Juber from Paul McCartney's Wings group, and Elan Atias from the Caars. Mark reminded me that his website, Itrax.com, will go operational in June, providing one of the only sites where high-quality, lossless-compressed, surround-sound music files will be available for purchase and downloading.
Pass Labs’ engineer Wayne Colburn insisted that the name of their latest amplifier, the Xs, was not a pun. He spent over an hour detailing the 3-year design project that culminated in the company's $85,000/pair, solid-state, two-chassis-per-channel, class-A amplifier. Leaning on the 4.5-foot stack of the amplifier's stereo configuration, Wayne spoke about how the design was based on the results of an examination of transfer characteristics of a diverse set of gain devices, including tubes and SITs (silicon-carbide devices that are exclusive, we believe, to Pass Labs for use in audio). The output stage was designed to reproduce the transfer characteristics preferred by a panel of listeners, who lived with a variety of different output stages for a lengthy period of time.
Andrew and Lukas Lipinski, manufacturers of the L-707 monitor I reviewed in December, were fed up with poor room acoustics and slow foot traffic at trade shows. So they eliminated the room! Ray Kimber urged them to take the empty spot in the Alexis Park lunchroom for their demo setup. Andrew set up one of the few multi-channel demo systems at the Show using six L-707s, including the one for rear height information seen in the photo. Despite the din of the lunch crowd, all I had to do was sit in the nearfield, and I was bathed in sound from Andrew's multi-channel recordings, such as his new Republique SACD. For the photo, however, they kicked back with Telarc's recording of Ladysmith Black Mambazo singing "Diamonds in the Soles of Her Shoes." It definitely rocked the lunchroom!
"It's the finest two-way loudspeaker we've built to date, "said B&W's Chris Smith," as he stood next to the short white tubular Signature Diamond. "We've decided to make it a special edition of just 500 pairs, each pair numbered." I was very interested because the previous two-way model, the John Bowers Silver Signature, was very well-reviewed by Stereophile back in 1994 and became John Atkinson’s reference for many years.