PS Audio's first product, back in 1973, was a standalone phono stage; more recently, their PCA-2 preamp had an optional phono board. The GCC-100 integrated amplifier that I review this month has no room inside for a phono board, so they've gone back to producing a separate phono stage: the GCPH ($995). Like the other products in PS Audio's current line, this one is based on the Gain Cell, one module on the input side connecting to the cartridge, followed by a passive RIAA curve (with a claimed accuracy of 0.1dB over the 40dB range of the curve), and another Gain Cell on the output side.
Lovers of Italian wine, travelers to Italy, and, of course, Italians, may be familiar with this story. It seems that in the year 1111, Henry V was traveling to Rome to be crowned Holy Roman Emperor. A member of his entourage, one Giovanni Defuc, was very fond of wine, and had the practice of sending ahead one of his servants to sample the wine in each place. When the servant found a wine that he particularly liked, he would write "Est!" on the door of the establishment, which was a signal to his master that the wine is (est) good. Having arrived at Montefiascone, the servant found a wine he thought so superb that he wrote on the door of the inn "Est! Est!! Est!!!"
Sonics is the name of a new line of speakers designed by Joachim Gerhard, the founder of Audio Physic, and imported by Allen Perkins (Immedia), formerly the US importer of Audio Physic. The top-of-the-line is the PassionS, a tall, striking-looking speaker that consists of angled modules, with each driver having its own enclosure. The price is $32,000. Allen obviously loves its sound!
I've always thought of Fujitsu-Ten as a company that manufactures car stereos. However, it turns out that they have a special division producing a line of home-audio speakers using single drivers of their own design. That's right: no woofer, no tweeter, no coaxially mounted woofer and tweeter—just a single cone driver, claimed to cover the range from 40Hz to 20kHz. In the top model, the TD712z ($7000/pair), this drive-unit is mounted in a rigid, egg-shaped enclosure. The sound of these speakers, driven by an Audion Sterling Plus Mk.II tube integrated amplifier ($2950), was simply stunning in its clarity and focus.
Audiopax, the Brazilian manufacturer of the Model 88 single-ended tube amplifier that I reviewed most favorably three years ago, introduced the Model 55 amplifier at T.H.E. Show. Solid-state rather than tubed, the 55 is still single-ended and still features the unique "Timbre Lock" control. According to designer Eduardo De Lima, this MosFET design sounds very close to the Model 88. Price is $11,990/pair (compared to the $14,990/pair of the current Model 88 Mk.II).
Hansen is a new line of ultra high-end speakers from Canada, using proprietary drivers and said to feature extremely dense, non-resonant enclosures. The company is headed by Lars Hansen, who, as former president of the Dahlquist Corporation, is no stranger to the world of high-end speakers. The sound of the Prince ($27,000/pair, third model from the top) was simply excellent—an auspicious debut, I felt.
Silverline Audio's new Prelude is a slim floorstander combining an aluminum-dome tweeter with two 3.5" aluminum/magnesium-alloy mid/woofers. Designer Alan Yun was running the speakers with a pair of Pass X600s (600Wpc), an unusual combination intended to show the speaker's potential for dynamics and bass extension—and it certainly did that. Nice, smooth sound, too. The Prelude seems like a real bargain at $1200/pair.
The fabled Threshold Stasis amplifier is back. The S/350 reissue, built in China by Threshold International Ltd., is said to have the same circuit as the original, but with updated components. The original cost $3900 in 1992, so for those who long to own this famous amplifier, the S/350 reissue at $2000 is a bargain!
The Audio Refinement brand of affordable components from France's YBA is no more—problems with their Asian manufacturing partner, I understand. But there’s good news: Audio Refinement has been reborn as YBA Design, with a new Asian manufacturing facility that promises to be more reliable. The first two products in the line—designed by Yves-Bernard André, Mr. YBA himself—are the YA201 integrated amp and YC201 CD player, each priced at $1499. The industrial design is stunning in its elegance and simplicity, and, judging by the sound of a pair of Focal-JMlab 1007Be loudspeakers driven by the YBA Design combo, the performance is up to YBA's usual high standards.