After three years off the market, Meridian has re-introduced its G57 two-channel amplifier ($6000), pictured on the left in the photo. Originally introduced seven years ago, then withdrawn, it was re-introduced due to dealer demand. The G57 outputs 200Wpc, and converts all signals to balanced. The amp boasts dual-mono construction, and, when bridged to mono, outputs 600Wpc into 8 ohms.
NAD has refreshed its top-of-the-line Master Series. Due out the end of the second quarter is the NAD Master Series M12 ($3499), a 2-channel audio hub that contains both preamp and DAC. Below it in the photo sits the M22 ($2499), a 2-channel class-D, dual-mono hybrid digital amplifier with an analog input stage and Encore Hypex digital module output stage. In a system that included Dynaudio's excellent C4 Signature and AudioQuest Rock series cabling, Esperanza Spalding's voice on her recording of "Little Fly" was flattered by the system's warm sweet sound. I wouldn't be surprised if Stephen Mejias, who speaks often of NAD's reliability and good sound, has his eyes on these babies.
The $12,000 price tag for Burmester's first "entry-level" foray into class-D amplification, the 101 integrated amplifier, may not be cheap, but the unit certainly produced smooth and eminently listenable sound on a certain track by Chris Jones that offers no sanctuary for reviewers who encounter it at least once on every show floor. The 101, which pairs nicely with Burmester's 102 CD player seated above it in the photo, boasts five inputs, remote control, a headphone output, the company's XM layout design, and a "special" low volume setting that offers richer sound (and, for all I know, is comparable to the "loudness" function on the receivers of my youth).
After years of thoroughly enjoying the sound of lower-priced electronics from Tri (Triode Corporation LtdJapan), always in pairings with Acoustic Zen loudspeakers, I was surprised to encounter the price of Tri's prototype Junone Ultinate [sic] reference preamplifier ($15,000). Due the first week of March, the Junone boasts outboard dual-mono power supplies, one for each channel, with separate volume controls for each channel that are connected to a center knob.
Although several of the biggest high-end PR firms didn't make it to CES 2014, Lucette and John Nicoll of Nicoll Public Relations were very much in evidence. Virtually every member of the press knows Lucette, because she's the person in the press office at T.H.E. Show Newport Beach. Given that her company also represents 14 brands, including Bowers & Wilkins, Classé, Clarus, Meridian, and Rotel, it's no wonder the couple was smiling.
In all my years of evaluating audio systems, I have never heard a more mesmerizing, realistically air-filled soundstage than that created by pairing VTL electronics with the recently reviewed Wilson Audio Alexia loudspeaker ($48,500/pair). Wishing to start my CES adventures on a positive note, I thus headed to the VTL room on the Venetian's 30th floor, where VTL's TP-6.5 Signature phono preamplifier MC Step Up ($10,500), new TL-6.5 Series II Signature line preamplifier ($13,500), and S-400 Series II Reference stereo amplifier ($33,500) sang with the Alexias, Transparent Opus MM interconnects and speaker cables, and Nordost Odin power cables. With the sources the superb Spiral Groove SG1.1 turntable with Centroid tonearm ($31,000) outfitted with Lyra Etna cartridge ($6995), a MacBook Pro running Audirvana, and dCS Puccini and U-Clock ($24,498), I was greeted by beautiful, extremely liquid, transparent, and, yes, remarkably airy sound that drew me deep into the music.
It's "T plus A," not "T and A," I was told of the 35-year old German company whose products Dynaudio first began importing into the US three years ago. Supplying bright, incise sound, great bass, and really impressive dynamics was a full HV (High Voltage) Series Reference System that paired T+A's new A 3000 HV Reference power amplifiers ($37,000/pair), complete with new PS 3000 HV power supply upgrades for the A 3000 HV ($25,000/pair), with the new P 3000 HV Reference preamplifier ($15,000), MP 3000 HV CD transport/DAC/streaming client ($13,500), and new Solitaire CWT 1000 SE loudspeakers ($50,000/pair). Transparent Audio cabling enabled the system to deliver all it can.
Primare may be known for "affordable products," but the wonderful inner warmth and superb, large images the new Primare PRE60 fully differential network preamplifier/streaming DAC ($10,000) and Primare A60, 300Wpc, fully balanced, class-D stereo amplifier ($10,000) produced on a 24/96 HDTracks download of the third movement of Mahler's Symphony 2 convinced the company to issue its first products at this price point. Of the brief time I had for auditioning, I loved every second of what I heard.
Beautiful, airy, and colorful sound distinguished the forthcoming Peachtree Nova 220 SE ($1999), an all-in-one class-D baby that produces 220Wpc into 8 ohms and 440Wpc into 4 ohms. Cribbing from our sister site, Audiostream.comthe pre-show press release cannot be found in my mailboxI see that it accepts up to 24/192 data through its USB and coaxial S/PDIF inputs. Its new discrete class-A preamplifier stage offers improved micro-detail over old Peachtree models, and its S/N ratio has improved 12 dB over the Nova 125 (Stereophile's 2009 Budget Product of the Year). Paired with Martin Logan Summit X loudspeakers ($14,000/pair), this baby acquitted itself with honors on Reference Recordings' version of Tchaikovsky's Hopak from Mazeppa.
Excellent bass, speed, and a distinctly solid-state signature of high-end three-dimensionality were the hallmarks of a Sony system that paired the TA-A1ES 80Wpc integrated amplifier ($2000) with the new HAP-Z1ES hi-res music player with 1TB HDD ($2000), SS-NA2ES loudspeakers ($10,000/pair), and Kimber Select copper speaker cables and copper power cables. This was my first opportunity to experience the much heralded "audiophile grade" HAP-Z1ES, which plays back a full range of file formats, including DSD; includes a 1TB hard drive for playback and storage; has built-in Wi-Fi for app control and music transfer; and, shades of far more expensive dCS, includes a DSD re-mastering engine that converts all signals to DSD.