When WAVAC’s North American distributor, Covenant Audio Consulting, chose to stage the world debut of WAVAC’s eye-catching, directly heated single-ended triode HE-833v2 150W monoblock amplifiers ($79,900/presumably for the pair) with the massive SoundLab Majestic 845PX electrostatic loudspeakers ($35,000/pair), no one expected that high frequencies would project mostly from the top of the speaker, above the heads of seated listeners. Thus it was only when I stood that I was able to appreciate both the beautiful top and fine midrange transmitted by the HE-833v2s in conjunction with WAVAC’s PR-T1 transformer-coupled, three-chassis preamp ($30,900) and AC02 power conditioner ($22,900). Next time, I’ll bring my elevator shoes.
Krell used CES to launch no fewer than seven iBias high-efficiency class-A amplifiers. Called, by the company, "the most revolutionary design change in its 33-year history," the amps consume far less energy than traditional class-A amplifiers. iBias technology also reputedly eliminates crossover distortion, allowing low-level details, subtleties and spatiality to emerge without restricting dynamics. It does so by operating output transistors constantly at full power, so they never shut off, and adjusts power going to them according to demands.
Given that, for the first time since the dawn of the stereo era, cables were not part of my assignment, I never expected to find anything on my beat in the MIT room. But there, virtually dwarfed between MIT's top-of-the-line Oracle MA-X cabling and Magico Q3 loudspeakers, sang one of only two Spectral DMA-300 RS stereo amplifiers ($TBD) yet in existence. The sound through this stereo version of Spectral's monoblocks and Spectral's DMC-30 SS preamp and FDR-4000 CD player was spectacular.
"It's the best amp we've ever done," said an enthusiastic Kevin Deal about the PrimaLuna DiaLogue Premium HP integrated amplifier ($3999) and power amplifier ($3899). "The bass and control will work with ribbons and electrostats." Indeed, I found the sound really nice, with very natural timbres that rival or surpass those of the high-priced spread.
"I'm a full-time music lover and a part-time audiophile," Gary Koh declared while demming his new Genesis GRA1440, class-D, truly differentially balanced monoblock amplifiers ($22,000/pair). "Music is inherently balanced," he said, as he played the stereo LP version of Al Grey and The Basie Wing's The Last of the Big Plungers, and proved that modified Hypex class-D modules, when incorporated into amplifiers that output 1440Wpc into 4 ohms and include a full Genesis power supply, can yield totally welcoming, alive and colorful sound. There was absolutely no hard edge to be heard on this system.
Crystal Cable's Gabi Rijnveld assured me that her years of ballet training had prepared her for prolonged kneeling while yours truly struggled to snap the optimal photo. The Dutch company introduced Crystal Cable's 10th Anniversary The Cube compact stereo integrated amplifier (around $15,000). Due out around Munich show time in May, this little baby attempts to incorporate all the advanced technology of Siltech's innovative three-box SAGA amplifier ($75,000) into a single box that is more financially available, designer lifestyle-friendly, and outputs 200Wpc into 4 ohms.
Resolution Audio has yet to name or price its new 100W monoblock amplifiers, due in May, but they may come in around $9000/pair. Their push-pull design is licensed from English engineer Denis Morecroft. Build is distinguished by custom T-network caps and, in the company's words, "crazy careful attention to detail."
There's a big change in the Bel Canto line, folks. It even comes with a new logo and website, belcantoblack.com. As for the sound, listening to an Elvis Presley outtake of "Peace in the Valley" on a 45rpm pressing from, I believe, Direct Grace, I loved the wonderfully clear and uncolored sound, as well as the natural "you are there" detail. To be honest, I drank it up.
Gideon Schwartz of AudioArts NYC assembled an extremely fast system that delivered maximum color without any of the harsh, irritating edge that I encountered on many systems, both tube and solid-state, at CES. On Salvatore Accardo's well-worn Diabolicus in Musica LP of Paganini's solo violin music, as well as on a CD by the Musicians of the Nile, I was deeply impressed by the upward extension of the tone and the system's willingness to bathe music with the light it deserves. If the system wanted for the last iota of bass impact and clear delineation of low-lying lines, it nonetheless handled bass with a finesse that few hotel room set-ups offered, especially in the case of large loudspeakers sandwiched into small spaces.
Due late February, the cute Monitor Audio Airstream A100 50Wpc, class-A/B, integrated amplifier ($500) is a pure analog design that can work on its own, or as part of an audio/TV-based system. It is compatible with Airplay and Airplay Direct as well as the Monitor Audio Airstream App-based controller, can navigate music collections and stream music, supports DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) streaming, has a front-panel USB input, built-in hi-res DAC, stereo RCA pre/sub outputs, and offers control via front panel or slender remote. The sound was clean, crisp, and fast through Monitor Audio's GX50 loudspeakers ($1800/pair).