Luke Manley was muttering about the problems he was having naming the latest iteration of the VTL TL-5.5 line preamplifier ($6000). "I've already done a signature version and I don't want to confuse peopleit really does represent major improvements in sound."
Immedia's Allen Perkins was showing his 60Wpc class-A Spiral Groove E60A stereo power amplifier ("around" $15,000). "That's 'e' for Equinox, which is what I call Sonic Groove's spiral logo, "said Perkins. "Sixty, of course, is its output, and A is for class-A." It's a slick unit, hewn from a solid block of aluminum and employing an extremely low-noise fan to keep operating temperatures low. "For a class-A design, it's pretty energy efficient," Perkins added.
Peachtree Audio has declared that "Computer Audio is here to stayso let's make it sound right." The 80Wpc Nova ($1199) includes an ESS 9006 Sabre DAc, which has a jitter reduction circuit and a 24-bit/96kHz upsampler. It employs a 6922 tube tas the driver for its class-A/B output stage. It decodes MP3, MP4, FLAC, AIFF, ALC, "plus all others. It even has a slot in the back to accommodate a Sonos ZP80/90. And did I mention that it has an HT pass-through? Or 11 regulated power supplies? That last is to isolate separate sections from digitally generated noise.
Possibly the most visually striking product I've seen at the show so far is the 20Wpc dual-mono integrated the LARS ($100,000). Designed by Lars Engstrom and hand-built in Sweden, the LARS has two separate chassis, one for each channelwith inputs also on each channel. An umbilical transmits control commands from the right channel to the left.
Simaudio's 100Wpc Moon i3.3 ($3300) is a very flexible component. In its stock version, it's an integrated amplifier with five single-ended line-level inputs, an RS 232 communication port, and a headphone jack. However, users can add a phono section module ($300), a balanced input module ($200), and a DAC module ($400) that accepts USB2, S/PDIF, and Toslink. In fact, buy all three modules when you buy the i3.3 and you get the whole package for $4000.
McCormack rolled out a complete line overhaul down to the cosmetics. About the only thing the company retained was its distributed node architecture (DNA) technology for its amplifiers. There are two new amps: the 250Wpc DBA-250 ($3995) and a 750W monoblock, the DNA-750 ($4750/each). Both amplifiers feature completely re-engineered voltage gain and driver circuits.
Another company new to meanother high-end integrated. Actually, I'm in favor of both. I think HE integrateds make a lot of sense and new blood is always good for the breed. Actually, Mike Bladelius is not a new name in audio, having designed for Threshold in the early 1990s, but Bladelius Design Group certainly seemed like a new kid on the block.
Kevin Halverson was excited about the latest version of the Model 200 integrated amplifier ($3750), which has a larger display than the older version, as well as an active front panel optional module ($50), which allows yu to control the 200 with any Muse remote control. Additional Modular Audio/Video Platform modules (MAPs) accommodate analog or digital inputs ($750/ea).
Formally, the limited-edition GAT components from Conrad-Johnson are the Great Anniversary Triodes, but longtime C-J enthusiasts will recognize the tribute to Carwell Gatling, who used to run the service/customer satisfaction department at CJactually, I've always thought that Gat's real job was to be the soul of CJ.