Dieter Burmester, president of Berlin-based Burmester Electronics, beamed as we listened to Madeleine Peyroux's Billy-Holiday-like rendition of "Dance
Me to the End of Love" (CD, Careless Love, Rounder, 1161-3192-2) being played over his new full-range loudspeaker, the B-100. I felt that it was the most holographic, three-dimensional reproduction of this song (a personal favorite of both mine and Dieter B.'s) that I have yet heard. Although the price has not been announced, the B-100 is taller and 40kg heavier than its predecessor, the B-99 and should exceed, by a proportional amount, that speaker's $49k/pair price. The B-100 features a new double-ribbon tweeter/horn arrangement that I feel accounts at least in part for the new speaker's jaw-dropping transparency and effortless highs.
California Audio Technology showed their new 300.2 FD (Fully Differential) solid-state, 300Wpc, amplifier ($8800) that utilizes a bridged output stage. Like Theta Digital, the CAT 300.2 amplifier is another product designed and manufactured by Morris Kessler's ATI company in California.
Skullcandy, a manufacturer of trendy headphones, put up a huge multi-level exhibit in CES's Las Vegas Convention Center South Hall. In general, I was surprised at the large amount of exhibit area purchased at the Las Vegas Convention Center South Hall by headphone manufacturers this year at the CES. It dwarfed the spaced occupied by audio manufacturers of home quality equipment, taking many times the space occupied by home audio amplifiers and loudspeakers.
Cary Audio demonstrated its CAD-211 ($20,000/pair) 150W tube amplifiers, two-chassis piece SLP-05 tube preamplifier ($8500), and CD-303T SACD player ($6500), with Tannoy's flagship floorstander, the Kingdom Royal ($55,000/pair). All cabling was by WyWires. The Tannoy is a four-way speaker design, with a 15" woofer handling music below 150Hz, the midrange handling up to 700Hz, the tweeter up to 17kHz, and the super-tweeter up to 65kHz. The Kingdom Royal is very sensitive at 94dB/W/m the resulting sonics were clear, delicate, and musically involving. And as John Atkinson said when he listened to this system, “there’s no substitute for horsepower.”
I first auditioned a pair of Chario Academy One minimonitors five years ago, but the review was aborted when the Italian Chario company lost its US distribution. When I reheard the Chario Academy Ones at the 1997 WCES, I found their elegant cabinetwork appealing and their sound listenable and involving. I therefore requested a pair for review from the new US importers.
I think every audio reviewer hopes for a surprise—when a good, but not outstanding, product is refined by the manufacturer into something special. The review then becomes an exciting discovery, reaffirming the pleasure one takes in good audio, and in listening to music being reproduced as it should be. It makes the listening exciting and the writing easier. The Classé Fifteen solid-state stereo amplifier is just such a surprise.
The German Clearaudio company, ever-reverent of James Bond's lineage of luxury philosophy, introduced the $17,000 Goldfinger cartridge. Magnets have been doubled up to eight pieces, and a dynamic range of an extraordinary 100dB is claimed. Eric Clapton's "Layla" on vinyl (Reprise 9362-4502-1) never sounded better, I thought.
Recording artists can reinvent themselves by crossing over into another style of music. Gloria Estefan, who started with Latin music, crossed over into mainstream pop with great success. Doug Sax, who reinvented the direct-to-vinyl disc and produced outstanding LPs for Sheffield Lab, eventually transferred all of his music to compact discs. Ivor Tiefenbrun, designer of the Linn Sondek turntable, now makes CD players.
Peter Madnick's latest design for Constellation is the Virgo 2 preamplifier ($24,000), which uses an outboard power supply. It was shown with a Cygnus non-streaming Digital File Player ($24,000); Constellation's Centaur stereo amplifier ($28,000), Constellation's Centaur monoblocks ($56,000/pair). The Constellation amplifiers shown in the photo were driving the Magico Q7 loudspeakers ($165,000/pair) in biamped fashion, with a pair of Centaur monoblocks for the woofers, and a stereo Centaur for the midrange and tweeters. The resulting sound was smooth and very well controlled.