An amplifier producing nearly 400Wpc, weighing close to 100 lbs...from Rotel, of all people? Don't they know their place in the audio world? Next thing you know, Krell will start making integrated amplifiers! Oops—Krell is making integrated amplifiers...
Just in case you didn't know this when you bought the Parasound HCA-3500, it says on the cover of the owner's manual: "Designed in California, USA by John Curl." Described as an "audio design legend," an appellation with which he seems quite uncomfortable, John Curl has certainly been around the audio business longer than most. He's been employed by or has consulted for some of the biggest names in consumer and professional audio—including Harman/Kardon, Ampex, and Mark Levinson—and was the designer of at least two classic products: the Mark Levinson JC-2 preamplifier and his own Vendetta Research phono stage, still considered by many people to be the best phono stage ever built.
Lovers of Italian wine, travelers to Italy, and, of course, Italians, may be familiar with this story. It seems that in the year 1111, Henry V was traveling to Rome to be crowned Holy Roman Emperor. A member of his entourage, one Giovanni Defuc, was very fond of wine, and had the practice of sending ahead one of his servants to sample the wine in each place. When the servant found a wine that he particularly liked, he would write "Est!" on the door of the establishment, which was a signal to his master that the wine is (est) good. Having arrived at Montefiascone, the servant found a wine he thought so superb that he wrote on the door of the inn "Est! Est!! Est!!!"
PS Audio's first product, back in 1973, was a standalone phono stage; more recently, their PCA-2 preamp had an optional phono board. The GCC-100 integrated amplifier that I review this month has no room inside for a phono board, so they've gone back to producing a separate phono stage: the GCPH ($995). Like the other products in PS Audio's current line, this one is based on the Gain Cell, one module on the input side connecting to the cartridge, followed by a passive RIAA curve (with a claimed accuracy of 0.1dB over the 40dB range of the curve), and another Gain Cell on the output side.
Hansen is a new line of ultra high-end speakers from Canada, using proprietary drivers and said to feature extremely dense, non-resonant enclosures. The company is headed by Lars Hansen, who, as former president of the Dahlquist Corporation, is no stranger to the world of high-end speakers. The sound of the Prince ($27,000/pair, third model from the top) was simply excellent—an auspicious debut, I felt.
Audiopax, the Brazilian manufacturer of the Model 88 single-ended tube amplifier that I reviewed most favorably three years ago, introduced the Model 55 amplifier at T.H.E. Show. Solid-state rather than tubed, the 55 is still single-ended and still features the unique "Timbre Lock" control. According to designer Eduardo De Lima, this MosFET design sounds very close to the Model 88. Price is $11,990/pair (compared to the $14,990/pair of the current Model 88 Mk.II).
I've always thought of Fujitsu-Ten as a company that manufactures car stereos. However, it turns out that they have a special division producing a line of home-audio speakers using single drivers of their own design. That's right: no woofer, no tweeter, no coaxially mounted woofer and tweeter—just a single cone driver, claimed to cover the range from 40Hz to 20kHz. In the top model, the TD712z ($7000/pair), this drive-unit is mounted in a rigid, egg-shaped enclosure. The sound of these speakers, driven by an Audion Sterling Plus Mk.II tube integrated amplifier ($2950), was simply stunning in its clarity and focus.
Sonics is the name of a new line of speakers designed by Joachim Gerhard, the founder of Audio Physic, and imported by Allen Perkins (Immedia), formerly the US importer of Audio Physic. The top-of-the-line is the PassionS, a tall, striking-looking speaker that consists of angled modules, with each driver having its own enclosure. The price is $32,000. Allen obviously loves its sound!
The fabled Threshold Stasis amplifier is back. The S/350 reissue, built in China by Threshold International Ltd., is said to have the same circuit as the original, but with updated components. The original cost $3900 in 1992, so for those who long to own this famous amplifier, the S/350 reissue at $2000 is a bargain!