I was not previously aware of Vexo, a Milan-based manufacturer of tube amps, but I was very impressed by the 15Wpc VXSE-KT88/C ($3900). I asked Koetsu USA's Hiram Toro if that price meant the amps were designed in Milan but built in Asia. "Oh no," he said. "Vexo is designed and built in Italy and it is stuffed with European components.
Over at the Boing Boing blog, it is customary to run a "unicorn chaser," an overly cute picture of a unicorn after posting a post that makes you go "eeeew." German Physiks Unicorn mk II ($21,500/pair) were sort of like that, only for show sound. Ahh, that's better.
Scaena is a modular speaker design that combines multiple small midrange drivers, each mounted in a pod affixed to a rigid stand, with subwoofers placed elsewhere.The speakers come with digital crossover and high-current amplification for the subs. The speakers come as 24, 30, or 36 pod units and you can add as many subs as you require.
Ron Sutherland had a new battery powered phono section, the Hubble ($3800). The batteries come in a special battery compartment, so that there is only a single point of contact at each pole. He reckons the batteries are good for 800 hours of use and he has incorporated at clock in the unit so you can keep track. Each time you fire it up, program in you anticipated listening session and it will count it down and turn off the power at the assigned timethe same LEDs that serve as the timer also indicate battery strength as well.
I once spoke to a blacksmith (named Smith, actually) about the wonderfully patterned bowie knives he made of Damascus steel. Struck by the contrast between the massive brutality of the knives themselves and the delicate beauty of the steel from which they were wrought, I asked Smith why he worked in Damascus, expecting him to extol its legendary temper or its aggressive cutting edge. After all, he was a pretty macho guy with a physique like, well, the village blacksmith's (Google it, young 'uns). He thought for a minute before responding, quietly, "Beauty is its own reward."
JA caught up with me at the Blue Light Audio room and suggested we saunter down to hear the 25Wpc Audio Note Ongaku integrated amplifier ($95,000) featured in his photograph above. Yes that's a jaw-dropping price, even after four days of CES. The Ongaku has five line level inputs. It employs two NOS VT4-C (211) tubes, an original NOS Telefunken 6463, and two NOS 5R4WGB rectifiers. Audio Note builds it own silver-wired driver transformer on a double AN-Perma nickel C-core. AN tantalum resistors, Black Gate electrolytics, and another silver wired transformer (output this time) complete the innards.
I walked into Balanced Audio Technology's room and almost couldn't leave. Geoff Poor was driving a pair of WATT/Puppy 8s wth an all BAT system consisting of a VK-D5SE/Superpack CD player ($9500), VK-32SE preamplifier ($8000), and the new 55Wpc VK-55SE amplifier ($5995).
While I was basking in the sound of Richard Vandersteen's stunning new Model 7s ($45,000/pair), I asked about the tube amps he was using. "Those are Jim White's Atlasesand I think they're damn good." Richard never minces words, so a "damn good" from him is almost as high praise as a "doesn't suck too bad" from JA.