Silverline Audio's new Prelude is a slim floorstander combining an aluminum-dome tweeter with two 3.5" aluminum/magnesium-alloy mid/woofers. Designer Alan Yun was running the speakers with a pair of Pass X600s (600Wpc), an unusual combination intended to show the speaker's potential for dynamics and bass extension—and it certainly did that. Nice, smooth sound, too. The Prelude seems like a real bargain at $1200/pair.
The Audio Refinement brand of affordable components from France's YBA is no more—problems with their Asian manufacturing partner, I understand. But there’s good news: Audio Refinement has been reborn as YBA Design, with a new Asian manufacturing facility that promises to be more reliable. The first two products in the line—designed by Yves-Bernard André, Mr. YBA himself—are the YA201 integrated amp and YC201 CD player, each priced at $1499. The industrial design is stunning in its elegance and simplicity, and, judging by the sound of a pair of Focal-JMlab 1007Be loudspeakers driven by the YBA Design combo, the performance is up to YBA's usual high standards.
Some think that the high-end audio business is a competitive, cut-throat endeavor, leading to animosities, but this picture of (l–r): EveAnna Manley (Manley Labs), Dennis Had (Cary Audio) and Kevin Deal (Prima Luna) shows that it isn't always that way, at least for purveyors of tube equipment.
Esoteric's two-box (transport plus D/A converter) SACD player, feeding A70 amps (not sold in the US), an Audio Research Reference 3 preamp, and a pair of Aerial Acoustics 20T speakers combined to produce one of the smoothest, most musical sounds I heard at the show.
I think it's fair to say that Bryston is one of the more conservative manufacturers of audio electronics, with solid engineering and avoidance of anything that smacks of fads or esoteric tweaks. It then comes as a convincing endorsement of power-line conditioners as a product category that the Canadian company now distributes the new Torus power-line conditioners. Based on hefty toroidal transformers from Plitron, these are aimed at the pro as much as the audiophile market; the top-of-the-line A5AB delivers up to 100 amps and weighs 220 lbs. Bryston’s James Tanner seems quite pleased with it.
Final Sound, the Dutch maker of electrostatic speakers, has been revamping their entire line, with increased sensitivity and reliability being among the claimed results. I was quite taken with sound of the top-of-the-line Model 1000i ($10,000/pair).
Prima Luna, Dutch maker of affordable tube electronics, had two new monoblock amplifiers: the EL34-equipped Model 6 and the KT88'd Model 7. What's particularly interesting is that the Model 7 can also be used with EL34s, so the indecisive audiophile can get a Model 7 with an extra set of EL34s, and, voilà! For the tube cost of $160 you effectively have a different amplifier.
Gingko Audio is a manufacturer I'm familiar with as a maker of component supports, but they also make a loudspeaker: the unusually named and unusual-looking Tubulous ($2450/pair). The enclosure consists of a pressed-paper tube, and there are three midrange/woofers inside, with a tweeter mounted on top. Very clean, transparent sound.
Sony's pre-Show press conference made little reference to sound quality, and SACD did not get even a mention. However, Sony's display did show their latest SACD player and the new MDR-V900HD headphones ($249), which have claimed frequency response extending to 80kHz. These 'phones sounded exceptionally smooth and well-balanced. Comfortable, too.