The company's smiling Irv Gross was happy to show me the new, shipping within 60 days Constellation Inspiration integrated 1.0 ($13,500). "This one has it all, and it's also our most affordable product," he said. "It's an Inspiration preamp combined with one half of an Inspiration amp, and it includes a headphone jack and theater throughput for easy integration in HT set-ups. It also outputs a legitimate 100 watts."
Constellation Audio's eye-catching set-upthe first time they've shown their reference system at an audio showincluded a prototype turntable with two arms that is expected to replace the Continuum Caliburn table. (Is Michael Fremer watching? You betcha.)
15001600 parts, 14 circuit boards including six input boards . . . that's just the start of what gives Pass Labs' top-of-the-line XS Phono stage ($45,000) the right to the "excess" moniker. It's a while back that Nelson Pass told veteran preamp designer Wayne Colburn (above). . .
Constellation Audio’s impressive systemCygnus Media Server/DAC ($38,000), Altair 2 preamplifier ($78,000), and Hercules 2 monoblock amplifiers ($180,000/pair), as well as MIT cabling and Shunyata power treatmentfed the MartinLogan Neolith beauties ($80,000/pair) with enough power to make deep percussion sound real in the next room.
Now this was an interesting one. Just one room over from the expensive Constellation set-up sat extreme bargain-for-the-money Audio Alchemy, designed by the same man who oversaw Constellation's engineering, Peter Madnick. But since my beat was the high-priced spread, I turned from Audio Alchemy's great-sounding gear to the TAD CE1 loudspeakers ($24,000/pair), designed by Toru Nagatani (above).
With my assignment high-priced amps, preamps, loudspeakers, and turntables, I started off by heading to the big rooms in the Venetian Tower. First up was the EsotericCabasse room, where Esoteric was showing the latest incarnations of its “2” series, the Tokyo-made C-02X stereo line-stage preamplifier and S-02 stereo amplifier ($20,000 each). In a classic case of “trickle-down engineering” (which actually works, while trickle down economics rarely does), the preamp uses the same dual-layer supercaps as in the Grandioso ($40,000). It’s a fully balanced design, with a separate volume control for each phase of each channel. The sound is claimed to be faster, lighter, and more highly resolved, with a “big open soundstage.”
Which lines took longest to traverse, the one snaking round and round at the CES registration booth in Las Vegas’s Macallan Airport, the ridiculously long one at the lost baggage counter at Southwest Airlines, or those at hotels on the strip that were overwhelmed by late night arrivals? I certainly know which moved faster.
Which leads to this photo. As much as it may look rather placid and fantasy like, it also reveals surprisingly light evening foot traffic in front of the Venetian hotel...
Today, January 4, at "CES Unveiled" in Las Vegas, MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) launched major partnerships with Morten Lindberg's multiple Grammy Award-nominated, audiophile record label/download store 2L and playback partners Auralic, Aurender, and Bluesound. The entire 2L download catalog, starting with one of Lindberg's first recordings, made in 1993, and extending through his latest DXD (352.8kHz) recordings, has been scrubbed clean and born anew with MQA.
Slated to open in March 2016 in Nashville, TN, Thiel Audio's Aurora "Ultra-HD Streaming Studio" is positioned to merge the legacy of Thiel loudspeakers with the vibrancy and "wow factor" of Music City. Thiel's plan is to create a state-of-the-art venue where fans, specifically younger-generation fans, can unite with name musicians and emerging artists via live, interactive performances that are streamed in Ultra-HD video and lossless audio.
In a four-room, every-seat-filled extravaganza that rivaled some of the Music Matters events in the number of high-quality components simultaneously on active display, the Berkeley, CA wing of Music Lovers Audio devoted the afternoon of December 5 to showcasing components from Vivid, dCS, Wilson, Luxman, Spectral, and other companies. With Philip O'Hanlon of On A Higher Note (distributor of Vivid, Luxman, and other brands), John R. Quick (dCS), Peter McGrath (Wilson Audio), and yours truly (above) on hand to give introductions and offer guidelines on how to listen and evaluate, a large store filled with audiophiles auditioned four fine-sounding systems at four different price points.