Anthony Gallo has long had a reputation for wresting top dollar performance from small packages, but we've always wondered if he secretly hankered to go big. Anthony Gallo Acoustics' $15,000/pair Reference 5LS certainly answered that question.
No, that's not another Vandersteen sock—it's the carbon fiber plinth of the Vandersteen 5As in Audio Research's room. "Richard [Vandersteen] isn't really offering the 5s in carbon fiber," Audio Research's Terry Dorn told us. "He just wanted to explore the material, so he did these."
Behold bills itself as "true digital audio" since it maintains audio as a digital signal up to the amplifier stage. The 600Wpc BPA768 (US price TBD) incorporates 768kHz/24-bit signal processing, a switch-mode power supply, an analog output stage, and an integrated power conditioner.
Many of the best-sounding rooms at the show employed Ayre's $16,500/pair 300W MX-R monoblock amplifiers. Yes, they look small enough to be class-D amplifiers, but they're pure analog. How'd they do it? The entire enclosure is the heatsink and Ayre's Charlie Hansen designed a special low-rise transformer, used in pairs, to keep the chassis so compact.
"Check this out!" Boulder's Richard Maez palmed the remote that accompanies Boulder's 865 integrated amp and 810 preamplifier. "It really fits in your hand—and unlike most remotes, it fits whether you're using your right or your left hand."
We were once again impressed by how un-hi-fi the sound in the deHavilland room was, this time in conjunction with a pair of Tannoy Prestiges. The $10,000/pair 50W deHavilland GM-70 single-ended triode is pure class-A, with zero negative feedback. The GM-70's directly-heated triode vacuum tube is said to be the largest output triode available today. We found the sound sweet, but surprisingly detailed and dynamic. Fit'n'finish were superb.
After admiring the Redpoint Model A's blueness, we turned our beady gaze to ModWright's blue $3995 LS-36.5 line stage preamplifier. It employs 6H30 tubes, with a 5AR4 tube rectifier. "We've added a phase inversion switch and balanced inputs and outputs," distributor Frank L. Kraus said.
The 150Wpc Boulder 865 integrated amplifier (approximately $10,000) is only four days old, so we tiptoed into the room in order not to wake it up. Richard Maez (seen here at the back of the photo) was elated that the 865 had actually made it to the show, but he was even happier to run down the details.
"Recent advances in solid-state output devices and other components have opened up design possibilities never previously available," Audio Research's Terry Dorn explained. "And that led to our developing the Hybrid Drive HD220 stereo power amplifier ($8995)."