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.
Rega had a (ta dah!) high-end integrated, the 90Wpc Elicit Mk.II ($3000). "We wanted something that was actually a step up from our separates," Steve Harris, president of The Sound Organisation, Rega's US importer confided. "The Apollo CD player was so far above its competition, we felt as though we needed to up our game with the new oneespecially since the older version was considered the finest amplifier we ever made."
Another massive integrated that impressed me was Plinius' 200Wpc Hiato ($8900), which can also include a modular phono section ($1275). It accepts RCA and XLR inputs. Weighing in at a whopping 60 lbs, the Hiato sounded sauve and unflappable, living up to its name, which means "coming together in harmony" in Maori.
ASL Group (formerly known as Audiophile Systems Ltd.) announced December 19 that it had acquired Naim North America, the US distributor of Naim Audio and NaimNet, a deal that strengthens both ASL and Naim NA. Naim Audio's CEO Paul Stephenson said, "It's like going home, since we originally were distributed by Audiophile Systems when we first moved into the US."
One might argue that Thiel Audio's 3-series loudspeakers are the audio equivalents of BMW's 3-series sports cars: relatively affordable, but 100% about performance. Thiel has made bigger, more expensive loudspeakers than the 3s, as well as smaller, less expensive modelsbut the iconic Thiels are the 3s.
Naim Audio's Naim Classics label has begun releasing recordings in Dual Pack format that contains both a Red-Book CD and 24-bit/88.2kHz audio DVD for $24.95. The exclusive US distributor of Naim's high resolution titles will be www.premieremusic.net.
Meridian Audio Ltd. announced at 4pm December 5 that it had acquired media server manufacturer Sooloos LLC. "Basically, it comes from [Meridian founder] Bob Stuart's appreciation of great industrial design and innovative technologies," said Meridian's Chief Marketing Officer Graeme Taylor. "That combination is what Meridian has always attempted to offer and when Bob saw Sooloos' products, he realized that Peter Wellikoff [COO], Enno Vandermeer [CEO], and Danny Dulai [CTO] shared those values. Over time, it became obvious that, between what we shared and what we each could offer each other, the acquisition made tremendous sense."
My favorite audio product of 2008 isn't precisely an audio productit's a home theater in a box. I'm referring to Polk's lovely SurroundBar 360, which sells for $1200 and gives you a low-profile 48" "sound bar" and a base station, which includes an optical disc player, DSP processing, and an AM/FM tuner. The base station, of course, contains all the amplification the sound bar requires. Also included is a special umbilical to connect the two piecesand, in a savvy little detail that tells you a great deal about how much thought has gone into the SurroundBar 360, the connectors on that cable cannot be connected "wrong."