GamuT designer Benno Baun Meldgaard, whose 41 years give the lie to those who suggest that the High End is populated solely by old fart engineers, joined Audio Skies distributor Michael Vamos (left in photo) for the press launch of GamuT's new "no-compromise" loudspeaker, the Zodiac ($139,000/pair). Featuring a cabinet composed of 27 layers of wood of different thicknesses, a new tweeter and companion drivers, and phase alignment between the crucial frequencies of 200 Hz15 kHz, the Zodiac comes with a massive spiked stand adjustable according to listening distance. It is designed to have the agility and speed of a stand-mount. Only 12 pairs will be built a year, which to my way of thinking makes the point-to-point wired speaker an instant collector's item, and each pair will be fine-tuned at the buyer's home by Meldgaard.
Roger Gibboni of Rogers High Fidelity unveiled the Rogers 34S-1 integrated amplifier ($19,900, top on rack in photo). A dual-mono class-A amplifier with eight EL-34 power tubes, this baby, set to ship in March, has a unique, dedicated iOS platform (visible on Gibboni's iPad) which allows for complete functionality including bad tube indicators. Apple and Android smartphone operation via Bluetooth is included, and auto-bias circuitry and a lifetime warranty are other pluses. On a scale of 1 to 10, this product's cool factor is very, very high.
The tube warmth of the aluminum-chassis, leather-clad Absolare Passion integrated amplifier ($24,750), a hybrid SET design with a tube preamplifier section and solid-state dual mono amplifier section that aims for a "tube sound," was a touch of heaven amidst a limbo of grayness. How lovely, after encountering a number of gray-tinged presentations in other rooms, to again hear lots of enjoyable, warm color.
If my title lacks poetry, my notes are worse: they inexplicably lack any record of the sound in this room! With apologies to all, what I can tell you is that the Soulution 755 phono preamplifier ($72,000) is now available. Complete with an analog, passive volume/balance control that uses low-noise, metal-foil resistors, the 755 can be connected to an amplifier without need of a separate line stage.
"Our goal is to build a reference monitor, rather than to produce the new flavor of the day," Westlake Audio's Glenn R. Phoenix told Stereophile. "Rather than boosting the bass or using multiple tweeters, we strive for reference neutrality." Hence the LC8.1 speaker system, which includes two top modules ($8000/pair) and two Lc8.1sw subwoofers with polypropylene drivers ($12,699/pair).
Audio Note Japan, the company whose expensive gear was designed by the late Hiroyasu Kondo, is poised to replace its M Series with the new G Series in the 2nd or 3rd quarter of 2016. Among the new products playing was the forthcoming flagship preamplifier, the G-1000 ($100,000 approx.). With the former 37-step attenuator replaced by a quieter 57-step attenuator, bigger and better proprietary silver capacitors, and an expanded power supply, the preamp reportedly retains the same tonal character as its predecessor.
Raidho principals Lars Kristensen, whose surname, thanks to his business card, I've finally spelled correctly after all these years; Mikkel Simonsen, who specializes in digital circuits, software, and PCB work; and Michael Børresen, the speaker designer/chief engineer who is responsible for overall concepts, visual and functional design, and analog circuitry; showed off the great, full-range sound of Raidho's new D-3.1 loudspeakers ($65,500/pair). Not the least bit shy at frequency extremes, the D-3.1 loudspeaker topped off a system that was equally at ease with fast, slamming percussion and naturally zingy piccolo.
The well-known German company, Burmester, has introduced the Burmester Ambience BA 31 loudspeaker ($25,000/pair). Derived from its larger BA 71 sibling, this 2½-way system includes an AMT Mundorf tweeter in front, and an identical "continuously adjustable" one in back to maximize omnidirectional effects.
Although the Valve Amplification Company (VAC) system at CES 2016 was virtually identical to the one I blogged at RMAF last October, save for the shrouded TV or mirror, there was a world of difference in the sound. VAC's Kevin Hayes attributed the improvement to a change in tubes in the VAC Phi 170 IQ master preamplifiers ($9900). While the tubes at the earlier show were Russian Gold Lion KT-88, here they were Chinese Shuguang KT-88SC. The sound on the Mahler 9 SACD I played at CES was very, very beautiful.
Monitor Audio has now moved to its second-generation Platinum series loudspeakers, which Monitor presents as "most accurate and beautiful loudspeakers" the company has ever made. Shown was the top-of-the-line, towering PL500 II ($28,995/pair), whose front baffles are hand-upholstered in the same Ingleston leather used in many luxury British brands.