I walked into Audience's room expecting to see the usal assortment of cables, power conditioners, and high-quality parts, but I was confronted with an entire Audience system, from a heavily modded Denon CD player to preamplifier, power amplifiers to loudspeakers!
While I was cruising NAD's booth, I noticed the M2 Direct Digital amplifierobviously part of NAD's Masters Series. I asked one Nad rep to tell me about it. "Oh, we didn't bring itit's not going to be released until spring."
"You have got to check out Vitus," Jon Iverson enthused. When I did, I took his point. Vitus Audio is the love child of Hans-Ole Vitus, who takes a holistic approach to audio design. Vitus products are, he explains, the result of relationshipsnot just parts and circuits, but how they interact with one another. I suspect, from looking at the gear, Vitus is also concerned about beauty, too.
Music Hall was showing a new USB DAC wit a tube output stage. The Music Hall dac25.5 ($600) uses an Electro-Harmonix 6922 tube, a Texas Instruments PCM1796 24-bi/192kHz DAC chip, a TI SRC4192 Asynchronous sample-rate converter (with a high-precision active crystal oscillator master clock), and four digital inputs (S/PDIF, TOSLINK, XLR, and USB). It sports re-clocking and user-adjustable upsampling (96kHz or 192kHz). It outputs analog via XLR or RCA.
The Wavemaster monoblock power amplifiers ($9000$10,000/pair) can put out 200W into 4 ohms. They employ an Audience discrete-component front end, switching power supply, and come with an Audience Power Chord. They accommodate single-ended and balanced inputs.
The Pass SCPI phono section ("under $4000") was an awfully slick looking piece of kit. "Basically, we took everything we learned in the Aleph Ono and improved upon it," said Pass engineer Wayne Colburn. The SCPI accommodates multiple inputs and has improved circuit traces, capacitors, and toroidal power supply.
Lamm was driving the new Wilson Maxx series 3 with its 32Wpc ML3 Signature SE triode monoblocks ($139,290/pair). It was my first chance to hear either, so I can't tell you if it was the speakers or the amps that were making the magic happen, but happen it did.