Luxman's L-590 integrated amplifier features amplifier circuitry with Darlington-connected devices and the company's proprietary distortion-reducing ODNF (Only Distortion Negative Feedback), which isolates noise and distortion at the output of the music signal, and uses only a touch of negative feedback to suppress them.
It's unfair to judge the scale of Wilson Audio's forthcoming Alexx loudspeaker ($109,000/pair) from the height of the two gentlemen flanking it, because main designer Daryl Wilson and inspiration/father Dave Wilson are ridiculously tall. But despite the fact that Alexx is 4" shorter than the older MAXX3, his 65" height means he's a foot taller than his not-so-little sister Alexia...
Dan D'Agostino Master Audio Systems' newly upgraded Momentum monoblocks, now called the Momentum M400 monoblocks ($65,000/pair, and shipping now), sounded fantastic in the dCS Suite in the Mirage. The photo is slightly deceptive, because this early-issue pair is housed in the slightly different, original Momentum chassis, but who cares? The mating of D'Agostino Momentum400 monoblocks with Wilson Audio Alexia loudspeakers, Transparent Audio Generation V cabling, HRS SXR isolation system with new Vortex isolators, Meletzsky Stromtank power supply system, and the newly upgraded dCS Vivaldi DAC system delivered the most color-saturated, full-range, impactful, emotionally satisfying and frankly wondrous sound of any room I visited at CES.
While I left coverage of the newly upgraded dCS Vivaldi stack and the recently released Rossini player (which John Atkinson will review) for Jon Iverson's time in the dCS suite with Graham Nash, I will note that its new filters and upgraded Ring DAC software algorithm (which includes the ability of the original dCS mapper to run at two different speeds), together with advanced word-clock management and signal processing, produce a readily noticeable improvement in sound.
Constellation Audio’s impressive systemCygnus Media Server/DAC ($38,000), Altair 2 preamplifier ($78,000), and Hercules 2 monoblock amplifiers ($180,000/pair), as well as MIT cabling and Shunyata power treatmentfed the MartinLogan Neolith beauties ($80,000/pair) with enough power to make deep percussion sound real in the next room.
Constellation Audio's eye-catching set-upthe first time they've shown their reference system at an audio showincluded a prototype turntable with two arms that is expected to replace the Continuum Caliburn table. (Is Michael Fremer watching? You betcha.)
The company's smiling Irv Gross was happy to show me the new, shipping within 60 days Constellation Inspiration integrated 1.0 ($13,500). "This one has it all, and it's also our most affordable product," he said. "It's an Inspiration preamp combined with one half of an Inspiration amp, and it includes a headphone jack and theater throughput for easy integration in HT set-ups. It also outputs a legitimate 100 watts."
Now this was an interesting one. Just one room over from the expensive Constellation set-up sat extreme bargain-for-the-money Audio Alchemy, designed by the same man who oversaw Constellation's engineering, Peter Madnick. But since my beat was the high-priced spread, I turned from Audio Alchemy's great-sounding gear to the TAD CE1 loudspeakers ($24,000/pair), designed by Toru Nagatani (above).
15001600 parts, 14 circuit boards including six input boards . . . that's just the start of what gives Pass Labs' top-of-the-line XS Phono stage ($45,000) the right to the "excess" moniker. It's a while back that Nelson Pass told veteran preamp designer Wayne Colburn (above). . .
With my assignment high-priced amps, preamps, loudspeakers, and turntables, I started off by heading to the big rooms in the Venetian Tower. First up was the EsotericCabasse room, where Esoteric was showing the latest incarnations of its “2” series, the Tokyo-made C-02X stereo line-stage preamplifier and S-02 stereo amplifier ($20,000 each). In a classic case of “trickle-down engineering” (which actually works, while trickle down economics rarely does), the preamp uses the same dual-layer supercaps as in the Grandioso ($40,000). It’s a fully balanced design, with a separate volume control for each phase of each channel. The sound is claimed to be faster, lighter, and more highly resolved, with a “big open soundstage.”