Monitor Audio has now moved to its second-generation Platinum series loudspeakers, which Monitor presents as "most accurate and beautiful loudspeakers" the company has ever made. Shown was the top-of-the-line, towering PL500 II ($28,995/pair), whose front baffles are hand-upholstered in the same Ingleston leather used in many luxury British brands.
The tube warmth of the aluminum-chassis, leather-clad Absolare Passion integrated amplifier ($24,750), a hybrid SET design with a tube preamplifier section and solid-state dual mono amplifier section that aims for a "tube sound," was a touch of heaven amidst a limbo of grayness. How lovely, after encountering a number of gray-tinged presentations in other rooms, to again hear lots of enjoyable, warm color.
Audio Note Japan, the company whose expensive gear was designed by the late Hiroyasu Kondo, is poised to replace its M Series with the new G Series in the 2nd or 3rd quarter of 2016. Among the new products playing was the forthcoming flagship preamplifier, the G-1000 ($100,000 approx.). With the former 37-step attenuator replaced by a quieter 57-step attenuator, bigger and better proprietary silver capacitors, and an expanded power supply, the preamp reportedly retains the same tonal character as its predecessor.
Although the Valve Amplification Company (VAC) system at CES 2016 was virtually identical to the one I blogged at RMAF last October, save for the shrouded TV or mirror, there was a world of difference in the sound. VAC's Kevin Hayes attributed the improvement to a change in tubes in the VAC Phi 170 IQ master preamplifiers ($9900). While the tubes at the earlier show were Russian Gold Lion KT-88, here they were Chinese Shuguang KT-88SC. The sound on the Mahler 9 SACD I played at CES was very, very beautiful.
Good sound was a notable achievement given that the new Genesis Forte loudspeakers ($140,000/pair) had been shipped to Las Vegas a mere two days after assembly, and had only three days of break-in on them.
Jeff Rowland's Model 725 S2 monoblocks ($34,000/pair) have been out maybe four years, but now include new error-correction circuitry originally developed for the Jeff Rowland 625 S2. Also of import are ceramic circuit boards, 4-pole Jensen capacitors, and virtually immeasurable distortion from 20Hz20kHz. The class-A/B amps deliver 330Wpc into 8 ohms, and have fully balanced transformer coupled inputs as well as switch-mode power supplies with power-factor correction. The display was passive, with Rowland's active system, complete with Nordost cabling, showcasing other products.
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!
Even though Robert Deutsch has blogged about Magico's new S1, Alon Wolf (right) prevailed upon me to take a (brief) listen. Paired with Convergent Audio Technology (CAT) monoblock amplifiers, the sound was lovely and warm. I did catch a bit of distortion on the right channel at one point, cause unknown, but Joni Mitchell's aging, low voice was maximally evocative, with an extra kiss of tube warmth.