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.
Tenor's promised Tenor Pre preamplifier ($40,000) is a hybrid, using tubes for the input stage and MOSFETs for the output. It should be available in two months. As a whole, the Tenor system (fleshed out with Hansen Emperors and Kubala-Sosna cables) was outstanding.
Ypsilon was showing a monster of an amplifierthe 120W SE-100 Mk. II($70,000/each). A single-ended hybrid, it uses a 5842 input tube and a row of MOSFET output devices. It's entirely wired point-to-point and sports custom power transformers. Of course, it's stuffed with boutique components.
Nagra's new 60Wpc MSA stereo power amp ($8000) is loosely based on its older "pyramid" PSA amp. This MOSFET stereo amplifier (geddit?) sounds far better than the older one, IMHO. Verity's John Quick played some tracks from Manu Katches stunning Neighborhood and the new guy had better pacing and, more importantly, far better timbre. I heard deeper into the soundstage, especially hearing more of Katche's superlative stick work.
Luxman is another old-school, technology-driven Japanese company. Looking at the 250Wpc B-100F (80th Anniversary Commemoration) ($55,000/pair) is a reminder of the days when the great Asian manufacturers fought for the title "best." The B100F is huge and can deliver 2000W into 1 ohm.
Also on display at Esoteric was the nifty E-03 phono section ($5500). It has two phono inputsMC and one that can play either MC or MM cartridges. It also sports a demagnetizing function, which takes a scant 30 second. It has externally selected impedance and capacitance for each input. The E-03 also has a high-voltage custom power supply. It should be available in March.
Triode Corporation Ltd of Japan had a room full of equipment featuringyou guessed ittriodes! The TRV-4SE($2800)) preamplifier has an S/N ratio of 96dB and has an internal MM phono section, Its frequency response is 10Hz-100kHz. The TRV-4SE uses Mundorf and Nichicon capacitors, kiwame precise resistors, and an exclusive Triode Corpration stepped attenuator.
Mutoaki Ohmachi, Esoteric's founder and resident genius, is a man full of passion. At CES2009, he spoke about the importance of music in his life and how hewing true to he sound of music had always been the motivation for Esoteric products.