The fourth floor of the Flamingo offered my second opportunity to experience Bully Sound Company electronics and my first to hear Bricasti Design's MI dual-mono DAC. Paired with Vivid B-1 loudspeakers, the system produced an absolutely astounding sense of air on John Atkinson's recording of male vocal ensemble Cantus' performance of Eric Whitacre's Lux Aurumque. The acoustic was so much more air-filled than I'd ever heard it before that I realized that either the DAC added air to recordings, or I had never heard this recording as JA intended it to be heard. The timbre of individual voices, and the clarity of presentation were also spot on. Wow!
"For those who want the Burmester signature sound at a relatively reasonable price," declared Burmester General Manager Robert Hagemann, Burmester Audiosysteme Berlin will issue the Burmester 101 integrated amplifier (projected price under $10,000) at the end of February. Outputting 120 Wpc into 4 ohms, and equipped with three XLR inputs and two RCAs, this is the first integrated amplifier from the company to sell for less than $17,000. Frequency range is 3Hz45 kHz, and the preamplifier outputs are balanced only.
Krell released the Phantom III ($5500), a dual-mono design stereo preamp with a dedicated headphone amp and option for an internal DAC ($1500 extra). Fully balanced, the DAC portion, based around the ESS Sabre 32 DAC, handles files up to 24/192, and includes an asynchronous USB input.
New for 2013, and due this summer, is Playback Designs' IMS-3 ($13,000). IMS stands for Integrated Music System, as in a one-piece unit housing DAC, preamp, and amp. The DAC is the same as in the excellent NPS-3 one-piece player, and the amp a class-A/B design that outputs 130W into 8 ohm and 260 into 4. A digitally controlled analog volume control, three analog inputs, and four digital inputs are among the features of a unit that will also support multi-channel playback.
"I am a substantial amp, and I deserve your attention," Accustic Arts' new, pure class-A AMP IIMk.2 dual-mono power amplifier ($11,000) seems to declare. Its aesthetics certainly got me to take notice. The 121 lb amplifier includes 24 MOSFETs, and both balanced and single-ended inputs and bi-wire/bi-amping speaker terminals. It outputs 250Wpc into 8 ohms, and 500 into 4. Also available, albeit not pictured, is Accustic Arts' fully balanced, tube hybrid TUBE-PREAMP II ($6500), with 3 XLR and two RCA inputs, and 2 XLR and 1 RCA outputs. The company also makes a transport, DAC, streamer, cables and accessories. While these products, handmade in Germany, have been out for a while, this appears to be the first time they've become available in the US.
AVM Audio of Germany introduced its 425Wpc MA 3.2 monoblock amplifiers ($5500/pair) and PA5.2 analog tube preamp ($6600). The latter is an extremely versatile, fully balanced design with tube output stage, home theater bypass, and the ability to add additional DAC, phono preamplifier, tuner, and streamer modules.
For those of us in search of the best bang-for-the-buck enhancements to our systems, and the cables that best complement our components, Ultra Systems and the Cable Company are a favored one-stop gold mine. At his table at T.H.E. Show, the company’s Robert Stein (pictured above) spread the word that the excellent HiFi Tuning Supreme fuses he markets now incorporate Quantum level treatment from WA-Quantum. These are the folks who also make the Quantum chips that you put on components and speakers. I need to play with the latter some more before I get a handle on what they do or don’t do to the sound of the Wilson Audio Sashas currently in my reference system.
Centrally located between exhibits and near the lunch area in T.H.E. Show’s downstairs area of the Flamingo Hotel, a host of exhibitors had set up displays. Here, the folks at Elusive Disk take a breather before helping yet another vinyl and CD enthusiast explore recordings new, old, and remastered. Among other vendors was Todd Garfinkle of MA Recordings, with whom I discussed holding a listening discovery party at Casa Bellecci-Serinus for members of the Bay Area Audiophile Society.
Sharing the room with Cayin was cable manufacturer Tara Labs. No one from Tara Labs was present when I was in the room, but I did learn that the rectangular solid-core RSC Air series has been redesigned with new red sleeving. Look for the new Air 1EX interconnects with anti-corrosion coated copper braid shield, as well as other new products.
With his Renaissance Edition components, Red Wine Audio’s Vinnie Rossi says he aimed to fuse traditional and modern design elements. The battery-powered Signature 16 integrated amplifier ($1995) has a beautiful real wood chassis and a chrome top plate held in place with simple thumbscrews for easy access to the tubes inside. The amp is rated to deliver 16Wpc into 8 ohms.