Gato, a young Danish company whose products are distributed in the US by Aerial Acoustics, made its debut at CES 2013 with the handsome Gato integrated stereo Amp-150 ($7990 with remote). Outputting 150Wpc into 8 ohms, and 250 into 4, the integrated has 1 XLR input, 4 RCA inputs, and both XLR and RCA outputs. Frequency response is 20Hz20kHz ±0.5 dB, and 2Hz100 kHz ±3dB. The meter's needle shows the volume control setting. The choice of high gloss black, high gloss white, and or high gloss walnut veneer covers makes this 30.4 lb. integrated even more attractive.
For many years, Edge Electronics were inseparable from the electrifying presence of the company's publicist, Denver's Steve Norber. Now Norber has come out with his own line, whose initial offerings include the PranaFidelity Purna amplifier ($8950) and PranaFidelity model Fifty90 loudspeakers ($3950). The amplifier, shown beneath a prototype preamp, outputs 400 W into 8 ohms (700 into 4 and 1200 into 2), and accepts both balanced and single-ended inputs. The loudspeakers in the system were a two-way symmetrical array with dual 15" woofers, a 30mm tweeter, and a frequency range of 39Hz22 kHz. In my brief listen, I found the sound amazingly coherent, controlled, and convincing for a small room. Major thumbs up to this one.
The fourth floor of the Flamingo offered my second opportunity to experience Bully Sound Company electronics and my first to hear Bricasti Design's MI dual-mono DAC. Paired with Vivid B-1 loudspeakers, the system produced an absolutely astounding sense of air on John Atkinson's recording of male vocal ensemble Cantus' performance of Eric Whitacre's Lux Aurumque. The acoustic was so much more air-filled than I'd ever heard it before that I realized that either the DAC added air to recordings, or I had never heard this recording as JA intended it to be heard. The timbre of individual voices, and the clarity of presentation were also spot on. Wow!
New for 2013, and due this summer, is Playback Designs' IMS-3 ($13,000). IMS stands for Integrated Music System, as in a one-piece unit housing DAC, preamp, and amp. The DAC is the same as in the excellent NPS-3 one-piece player, and the amp a class-A/B design that outputs 130W into 8 ohm and 260 into 4. A digitally controlled analog volume control, three analog inputs, and four digital inputs are among the features of a unit that will also support multi-channel playback.
Lew Johnson of Conrad-Johnson announced a new stereo amplifier, which he considers priced in "the sweet spot for sound per dollar." The CP125sa ($8250 in base version, $10,000 upgraded) outputs "roughly" 125Wpc, and uses the same circuit as the top-of-the-line ART, albeit with less expensive parts in all but the most critical places.
Will the Deity ($5900/8 ft pair), DH Labs' new top-of-the-line speaker cable, deliver the heavenly sounds its name implies? Only those who listen will know for sure. Not yet listed on the Florida-based company's website, the US-made cable contains twelve 20-awg solid-core silver conductors, each in a tape-wrapped Teflon-foam dielectric. There are also two 14-awg silver coated OFHC copper conductors running down the center of the cable. Overall, the Deity is an impressively attractive and substantial 9-awg cable.
Given that the folks at Pass Labs have never made a big deal about cabling, it's significant that they've given a major thumbs up to Silent Source Audio cables. Calling them "the best cables you've never heard," they use these hand-built-in-Texas cables to voice their products.
Not yet released is Ayre’s 175Wpc VX-5 amplifier (price TBD, in the $8000 "neighborhood"), which uses the same circuit as in the AX-5, but with a larger power supply and higher voltage rails. The VX-5 was demmed with Vivid G2Giya speakers and the K-5xeMP preamplifier that John Atkinson reviewed in June 2011.
In one of the 14 rooms at CES using Kubala-Sosna cabling, Joe Kubala showed me one of his three forthcoming Distribution Instrument boxes ($TBD). Variously named Quartet, Sextet, or Octet for the number of outlets, this high-end power distribution system is, in Joe's words, "the most neutral way we know to distribute power to our cables." The case is Corian, and each outlet boasts a direct path back to the 20 amp IEC connector. Expect an official unveiling at AXPONA Chicago in early March, which Stereophile will cover room-to-room.
Many, many moons ago, in the days when Stereophile was a small digest rather than a full-sized magazine and lively website, I owned an Aragon 4004 dual-monoblock amplifier. Oh how I wish I had never sold my 4004, with circuitry designed by Dan d'Agostino, and instead mated it with a front end, speakers, and cabling that could have revealed all that it had to offer.
You, thankfully, have an opportunity to find out just how good the circuitry is. The just-introduced Aragon 8008, a software-upgradable, 200Wpc dual monoblock amplifier ($4999) with dual, symmetrical power supply and ethernet-based control and status monitoring, is now produced by Indy Audio Labs, who bought the brand from Klipsch in 2009.