All the Harman boys were over at the Hard Rock Hotel rather than the official CES sites, but I was able to swing by on my way to the airport to see the new statement amp from Mark Levinson, the No.536.
The new Jadis JA120 monoblock amplifierss ($27,900/pair) were driving a pair of Estelon XA speakers to lusty levels at the Bluebird Music room. The design uses the newish KT120 output tubes, six per amp, and, with an additional front-end tube and a higher-gain driver stage, each JA-120 is claimed to be capable of 100W of pure class-A output.
Possibly, the most beautiful design I saw CES was the new Absolare Passion 845 push-pull amplifier ($40,000/pair) and they were handily driving a pair of Rockport Avior speakers. As with the earlier Passion 845 single-ended amp, the push-pull amp sports a pair of glowing 845 power tubes but by adding a pair of EL-34 drivers after the input 12AT7, Absolare is able to increase the output palpably from 45W to 85W of zero-feedback power while remaining substantially in class-A operating mode.
I visited the Kevro room to get another listen to the Monitor Audio Silver 8 speakers that I reviewed in January. However, I found that Kevro was bringing Cyrus electronics back to the US. The offerings were all in the tidy and familiar half-shoebox format that permits Cyrus devices to stack so neatly.
One of the trends in amplification this year is the large number of stereo integrated amplifiers with digital inputs. Among these, the Parasound Halo Integrated stands out for its impressive feature set.
For years, I have greeted Rogue's Mark O'Brien with the question, "Anything new in digital?" fully knowing that Rogue Audio is committed to vacuum tube-based analog. This time I asked "Anything new that is not digital?" and Mark beamed. Finally, I had asked the right question...
At Musical Surroundings, the Metis line-stage preamp from Aesthetix, first seen at the 2014 RMAF, was running the big demo system. This new 4-tube preamp replaces the multi-chassis Callisto at about $25,000.
I remember reading about Monitor Audio speakers as I pored over British audio mags in the 1970s, before the economy was globalized. They were among the many worthy UK brands whose cachet was amplified by their unavailability in the US. This venerable brand has survived and flourished, while many others from the 1970s have disappeared, or become mere labels under the aegis of multinational corporations. The reasons for this success seem to be that Monitor has evolved their metal-cone driver technology, kept the focus on their core market, and continued to provide high-quality construction and finishes. So I was not surprised to read, at the back of the Silver 8's multi-language owner's manual, that the speaker was "Designed and Engineered in the United Kingdom, made in China."
A decade or two ago, I stumbled on a surprising demo room at an audio show. I don't recall most of the equipment, but I do remember a pair of Paradigm Studio 20 speakers at one end, their crossover entrails dangling free, connected to the rest of the system by a multiplicity of wires. At the other end, among the usual electronics, was a PC whose screen was a crazy quilt of graphs and menus that constantly twinkled in response to the ministrations of DEQX's Kim Ryrie. He seemed totally absorbed, but looked up and proudly offered to show me what he was doing. When I told him that I was familiar with the Paradigms, he played some music that sounded just fine. Then he clicked his mouse. The sound was transformed from the familiar to the fabulous. I was dumbfounded. "What have you done?"