Alvin Lloyd has just introduced the handsome new Grand Prix Audio Monaco V2.0 turntable (price somewhere between $35,000 and $38,000). Set to ship in February, the turntable offers multiple advancements that can be added to existing Monaco models. "The plinth is the same, but virtually everything else is new," Alvin explained. "You can even request a platter color to match your speakers." In this case, the color of your hat or gloves really can match your shoes or, to honor the speaker analogy, your lipstick, should you so indulge.
The latest version of the VK-655SE monoblock amplifiers ($33,000/pair) from BAT (Balanced Audio Technology) may have been out for awhile, but CES marked their first appearance at any show. A dual-mono design available in both stereo and monoblock configurations, the amp exuded beautiful tube-like warmth (without the use of tubes) on a recording of Tchaikovsky's Symphony 6, with TAD loudspeakers.
As with Wilson Audio, Magico presented its latest S5 Mk.II loudspeaker ($38,000/pair in M-Cast finish, $42,750/pair in M-Coat finish) in static display. The only element of the original S5 design retained in the Mk.II is the identical extruded aluminum cabinet. All drivers, distilled from the research that culminated in the S7 loudspeaker, are new. The tweeter is a 1" MB7 beryllium dome, and the midrange unit a 6" Graphene NanoTec carbon. This midrange is claimed to have a stronger molecular structure than standard carbon, but is 20% lighter and 30% stiffer than its predecessor.
I find it hard to believe, but only in the last 5 or 10 years did the museum in Cremona, Italy, where famed violinmaker Antonio Stradivari was born in 1644, receive the first violin that Stradivari ever made. To honor the occasion, Sonus Faber loudspeakers has issued Il Cremonese ($45,000/pair), whose price is far lower than that violin. An extension of Sonus Faber's Cremona and Stradivarius series, Il Cremonese incorporates technology from the company's higher-level models. Paolo Tezzon custom-designed all drivers to achieve greater accuracy and coherency.
Stunning to behold, eh? Cast your eyes on the US debut of Aries Cerat's new line of equipment from Cyprus, imported by Joshua Masongsong of Texas-based Believe High Fidelity. In the middle of crazy, crazy Las Vegas, I felt as though I was immersed in a nice warm bath as I listened to Aries Cerat's Symphonia Aries Limited Edition 3-way horn loudspeakers ($125,000/pair gets you 101dB sensitivity and only one of five pairs in existence), Concero 65 SET class-A monoblocks ($35,000/pair), Impera Signature Edition Mk.II preamp ($82,500), and Kassandra Reference Mk II PCM DAC ($35,000).
Far more sonically successful was the larger Lamm room. There, $266,950 worth of Lamm components, including the new LL 1.1 Signature line level preamplifier ($45,390/pair) and ML3 Signature SET mono power amplifiers ($139,490/pair), joined the big Kharma Exquisite Midi Grand speakers with F-drivers ($225,000/pair), a mostly not-in-production EMT/SME/ZYX turntable set-up, inexpensive Sanus racks ($840 total), and Kubala-Sosna Elation series cabling ($130,600 total) to draw sweeter, warmer, and more accurate sound from the same LP tracks.
With an older Grand Prix Audio Monaco 1.5 turntable ($23,500) outfitted with a Tri-Planar Ultimate 12" tonearm ($9800) and PC-1S cartridge ($8500) as source, Japanese manufactured Zanden Audio Systems electronics, cables, and room treatment allied with Canadian sourced Verity Audio Sarastro IIS 3-way loudspeakers in custom finish ($55,195/pair) to produce great soundstaging on a Bach LP. Equally wining was the enticing sound on an LP from Ray Brown.
Pass Labs may laugh a bit at its excess, as in the XS series, but Vladimir Lamm saves his smiles for the sounds of his brand-new, four-box LL 1.1 Signature line level preamplifier ($45,390/pair). That "pair" in the price is not a typo. This baby consists of two mono preamps plus two separate power supplies!
Luxman's L-590 integrated amplifier features amplifier circuitry with Darlington-connected devices and the company's proprietary distortion-reducing ODNF (Only Distortion Negative Feedback), which isolates noise and distortion at the output of the music signal, and uses only a touch of negative feedback to suppress them.
While I left coverage of the newly upgraded dCS Vivaldi stack and the recently released Rossini player (which John Atkinson will review) for Jon Iverson's time in the dCS suite with Graham Nash, I will note that its new filters and upgraded Ring DAC software algorithm (which includes the ability of the original dCS mapper to run at two different speeds), together with advanced word-clock management and signal processing, produce a readily noticeable improvement in sound.