Analog stalwart Naim is now heavily into computer audio; new at SSI 2012 was their NDS streamer/DAC, which is to start shipping in May. This is their reference-level network player, which does all the things you expect a product like this to do, including Internet radio. The price of $13,000 does not include a power supply. In true Naim fashion, the NDS offers a choice of three power supplies, which range in price from $3k to $10k.
Atoll is a French company that I think of as offering affordably-priced equipment, and I suppose that's still where most of their market is, but they've also moved upmarket with the new CD400 CD player ($6800), IN400 integrated amp ($6000), PR400 preamp ($5600), and AM400 ($4000). (If there was a prize for the most sensible model names given to audio products, I would nominate Atoll for these new offerings.) The product literature is in French only, but the technical language of audio to a large extent transcends borders. I was amused by part of the description of the AM400, which said that it was "Amplificateur bridgeable en bloc mono." I doubt if you'd find "bridgeable" in your Larousse French dictionary.
I know that Sennheiser has an ever-expanding line of wireless headphones, and I've seen these at CES. Something I haven't seen before, was a package labeled Duo Cinema. This is a kit that includes two sets of HDR 170 wireless headphones and a base unit, for $599.95. These are intended to be used for home theater; the base unit can accommodate two more sets of headphones. The Duo Cinema package is available only in Canadaso no wonder I didn't see it at CES. It's shown here by Nadine Girard- Business Director, Retail Strategy of Sennheiser Canada.
Sonor-Filtronique is a Montreal dealer whose product lines are some of the most prestigious available, including Audio Research, Ayre, Boulder, Sonus Faber, and VPI. They had samples from all these at SSI 2012, but the once that caught my eye was a turntable: the Kronos, a $30,000 high-tech wonder, designed in Quebec by Louis Desjardin, in collaboration with Fidelio Audio. Its major design claim to fame is the secondary platter (below the one that the record is placed on), which rotates in the opposite direction, an approach that is said to cancel unwanted vibrations. The unit on demo had an SME tonearm mounted.
Another high-end turntable that impressed me was the Dr. Feickert Analogue Firebird. This is a new model, with new bearing, new platter, new motors (three of them), and all kinds of other refinements. The price is a relatively-affordableby ultra high end turntable standards$12,995. The tonearm mounted was a Dr. Feickert Analogue DFA 12.0, the number in the model name referring to the length in inches. The turntable can accommodate two tonearms, of various lengths.
Michel Plante, President of SSI, can usually been seen rushing around, dealing with one crisis or another. He somehow injured himself the day before the show's opening (he doesn't know how) to the point that he was on crutches, but this hardly seems to have slowed him down. He took in stridewell, so to speakjibes about "break a leg" not meant to be taken literally.
The female staff members of Salon Son & Image are easily recognizable by the blue wigs they wear. I don't know whose idea this representsMichel Plante or Sarah Tremblay would be my guessbut it's a great way of signalling that the show is going to be FUN. The charming Claudia L'Ecuyer (pictured) prepared my badge. In the background, getting his badge is Jim Griffin of Griffin Audio, Canadian distributor of ProAc loudspeakers.
Erick Lichte mentioned Totem Acoustic's Beak, which costs $125/pair, in his follow-up review of the Totem Forest loudspeaker in January 2010. The Beak is a bullet-shaped device, about 2" high by 1.5" in diameter, that's intended to be placed atop a speaker to control "parasitic resonances." I was given a pair of these more than 10 years ago, and have tried them with various speakers. While Erick didn't find the Beaks to make any difference to the sound of the Forests or any of the other speakers he had to hand, my experience was different.
Gross is about to play an excerpt from a recording of John Rutter's Requiem. It's a piece that challenges just about every aspect of sound reproduction: there's an orchestra, a soprano soloist, a chorus, a pipe organ, and the acoustics of a large concert hall. Wimpy speakers need not apply. I listen, expecting to be underwhelmed.
Whoa! The low bass of the organ so fills the room that I look for subwoofers in the corners. The orchestra and chorus have great presence. There's a believable sense of space. These are some speakers! How much?
The Threshold FET nine/e ($2595) is the junior sibling of the FET ten/e, a solid-state preamp that has earned a rave review in March 1991 from noted tubeophile Dick Olsher (Vol.14 No.3), itself a development of the FET ten that J. Gordon Holt reviewed in September 1987 (Vol.10 No.6). Would my ears, accustomed as they are to the pitter-patter of electrons traveling through a vacuum, have a similarly positive response to the FET nine/e?