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.
English manufacturer Chord Electronics is known for its sophisticated CD players, which use sophisticated DACs. Indeed there was a huge picture denoting Chord's latest-generation DAC, the QBD 76, at the center of the back wall. As my beat was amplifiers, Chord's designer, John Franks (pictured above), spent the next 30 minutes walking me through the design of Chord's latest amplifier, the SPM 1200 Mk.II ($14,000), a solid-state, 350Wpc stereo mode. The amplifier sits at the bottom of the short stack of audio equipment John is leaning on. He explained that the amplifier has a high-frequency, 2kW, switch-mode power supply, and uses an output stage based on dual-die, lateral-structure MOSFETs with a soft turn/on-turn/off characteristic. This allowed John to use a sliding class-AB design.
Opening the top of Ayre's new AX-5 integrated amplifier ($9950) revealed an impressive layout, with transformers so big that they extend down through the bottom of the chassis. Rated at 125Wpc into 8 ohms, or 250 into 4, the AX-5 uses the same volume control as in the KX-R, and a diamond buffer circuit in the output stage. The amp, driving TAD CR-1 stand-mounted monitors, sounded eminently smooth on a track by Ella Fitzgerald, and did a fine job communicating the smile in her voice.
Not yet released is Ayre’s 175Wpc VX-5 amplifier (price TBD, in the $8000 "neighborhood"), which uses the same circuit as in the AX-5, but with a larger power supply and higher voltage rails. The VX-5 was demmed with Vivid G2Giya speakers and the K-5xeMP preamplifier that John Atkinson reviewed in June 2011.
On January 10, the third day of CES, Michael Lavorgna, Jon Iverson, Stephen Mejias and I flocked to the Flamingo, home of the T.H.E. Show. There I made a first acquaintance with Coda Technologies, a company based 90 or so minutes from me in Sacramento, California. All Coda products are designed, manufactured, and assembled in the good ole USA, and come with a 10 year warranty, transferrable for 5 years.
Importer Charles Harrison had arranged four distinct systems in an air-walled ballroom at THE Show. The room's boundaries were so porous that I was able to hear the sounds of a competing Mahler symphony playing so loudly in an adjacent room that I thought they were coming from one of the four systems in the room I was in. The system I was actually trying to listen to featured the new Ayon Audio Triton III integrated stereo amplifier ($12,500), which can output 125Wpc of pure class A power, as well as Ayon's Ortho II XS flagship preamplifier. Witht eh room
S sub-optimal acoustics, the chain produced a very bottom-heavy snippet of Mahler's Symphony No.2, capped by bright highs.
Many, many moons ago, in the days when Stereophile was a small digest rather than a full-sized magazine and lively website, I owned an Aragon 4004 dual-monoblock amplifier. Oh how I wish I had never sold my 4004, with circuitry designed by Dan d'Agostino, and instead mated it with a front end, speakers, and cabling that could have revealed all that it had to offer.
You, thankfully, have an opportunity to find out just how good the circuitry is. The just-introduced Aragon 8008, a software-upgradable, 200Wpc dual monoblock amplifier ($4999) with dual, symmetrical power supply and ethernet-based control and status monitoring, is now produced by Indy Audio Labs, who bought the brand from Klipsch in 2009.