I was as surprised as everyone else who walked into the MSB room to find the company’s Universal Media Transport Plus ($5995), Diamond DAC Plus with Diamond Base ($34,000), and 200Wpc Platinum Stereo S201 amplifier ($17,995) driving the enormous SoundLab M1PX loudspeakers.
I first met Gary Gesellchen and Rick Kernen, the duo behind Vanatoo, at the 2012 Music Matters event, held at Definitive Audio in Seattle. At the time, Gesellchen and Kernen, who, through prior business relationships and active participation in the Pacific North West Audio Society, have known each other for 28 years, were just bringing their design to market. Now, the Vanatoo Transparent One powered loudspeaker ($499/pair) seems fully realized.
The Antelope Audio Zodiac Platinum DAC ($5500, including Voltikus power supply and remote control), seen here in the shadow of the wild Rubicon, utilizes the company’s 64-bit clocking technology, supports sampling rates up to 768kHz, and plays DSD files. It offers both analog and digital inputs, including balanced analog XLRs, unbalanced analog RCAs, AES/EBU, two coaxial, two Toslink, USB, and a 10MHz input for Antelope’s Rubidium Atomic Clock. Dual front-panel 1/4" headphone jacks, an analog volume control, and a spiffy app for PC, Mac, and mobile devices add to the fun.
The UK’s Neat Acoustics is distributed in the US by High Fidelity Services in Braintree, Massachusetts. Here we see the company’s Motive SX2, in sassy pink ($2395/pair), driven by a Sonneteer Orton integrated amplifier ($3795). The digital source was Sonneteer’s Byron CD player ($2795), while vinyl was being spun on a VPI Scout 2 ($2400) with a Dynavector 20-2 XL cartridge ($850). The attractive rack is the Custom Design Ikon 750 Reference ($1475). Neat, indeed.
Astell&Kern’s AK10 portable DAC ($299) measures 2.1 ” W x 2.1 ” H x 0.5 ” D, weighs just 1.8oz, and comes with an attractive leather case. It uses a Wolfson WM8740 DAC, capable of handling 24-bit/96kHz data, and is compatible with iOs (iPhone 5 and 5th generation iPod Touch) and Android (Galaxy S3, S4, Note2, Note3) operating systems. Its USB 2.0 input means it can also be used to improve the sound of music files stored on your Mac or PCjust send the output to your headphones or stereo. Inspired by turntable design, the silver circle atop the AK10 is actually a volume control: spin it to raise or lower the volume. Sweet.
One of our favorite small desktop loudspeakers has been significantly revised. Audioengine’s new A2+ powered loudspeaker ($249/pair) is scheduled to ship on November 1. Upgrades include a built-in 16-bit Burr-Brown DAC; variable subwoofer output; and improved binding posts, AC connection, and power supply.
M•A Recordings' Todd Garfinkle is proud to now offer Sera Una Noche’s beautiful La Segundaon vinyl. Garfinkle explained that the source was upsampled to 5.6MHz and that the record was then cut "on the fly." The result is "a double-DSDmastered LP."
It’s no exaggeration to say that I love Harbeth’s Monitor 30.1 loudspeakers ($5995/pair). No matter where I hear them, regardless of music or associated gear, I’m always impressed by the warm, full-bodied, detailed sound. In Sam Tellig’s December 2012 review, he wrote of the Harbeths, “Whatever amp I used, the tonality was superb. Never, ever fatiguing.” My thoughts, exactly.
Founded in 2006, the Devon, UKbased Puresound audio company is distributed in the US by NYC’s High Water Sound. Puresound’s compact M845 monoblocks ($10,000/pair) were partnered with the company’s L300 line-level preamp ($8000) to drive a pair of Horning Aristotle loudspeakers ($15,000/pair). The source was a TW-Acustic Raven turntable with a Miyajima Shilabe phono cartridge going through Puresound's P10 phono preamp ($1000) and T10 MC step-up trannie ($500).
I walked away from Diana Krall only to run into Elvis Costello, this time thanks to T+A's new MP3000 HV digital media player ($12,500). (A couple of weeks ago, I saw the couple walking along Prince Street in SoHo. Apparently, they’re stalking me.)
In addition to the MP3000, this small, attractive system was made of Dynaudio’s Confidence C1 loudspeakers ($9000/pair), driven by T+A’s new PA3000 HV integrated amplifier ($16,500).