Darren Censullo of Avatar Acoustics always puts on a good show, but with his wife, Bonnie, was eager at CES to introduce Canadian company Tri-Art Audio, whose founder, Steve Ginsberg, has returned to his audio roots after a detour in the artistic acrylic paints industry. Tri-Art's "The Block" 50W monoblock amplifiers (price TBD, probably around $2500$2600), "The Bam Bam" turntable and tonearm (again probably around $2600), and "The Block" 24V DC battery power supply (price TBD) include new digital chips, are voiced with natural materials, and boast a very simple single-ended signal path.
Audioquest has filled out its series of ethernet cables. In the photo, the company's Shane Buettner holds the top of the line Diamond ($1095/1.5 meter) ethernet cable, which features 100% PSS (pure silver) and Audioquest's DBS dielectric bio-system, whose battery pack puts a DC bias on the cable's insulation. Also new is the cable right beneath it, the Vodka ($249/1.5 meter), composed of silver-plated copper. The cable's extremely solid connectors are a major step above the plastic terminations found on stock ethernet cables.
At a show in which far too many of the rooms on my beatrooms showing new amps or preamps in the $2500$15,000 range, new cables, or new power products or accessoriessounded hard, harsh, and hi-fi, VTL's new S-200 Stereo Signature amplifier ($10,000) and TL6.5 Series II Signature line preamplifier ($13,000) stood out for their welcoming warmth, relaxed flow, and unfailing musicality. The S-200 is a fully balanced stereo amp with a class-A/B output stage that is said to remain in class-A up to 70 watts. In development for close to six years, it arrives equipped with VTL's familiar auto-biasing and fault sensor.
With Jon Iverson covering digital products for Stereophile, and me covering preamps and amps in the $2500$15,000 range, I tossed a virtual coin and went for the new Vitus RD-100 ($13,000). Billed as "Reference Digital to Analog Converter," it is 50% DAC, and 50% preamp. Hans-Ole Vitus himself displays the product, which includes a full-blown relay volume control with a single resistor in series to ensure a very short signal path and a consistent sonic signature at all volume levels. Built with separate internal modulesfour for the DAC, and four for the preampit is said to be fully upgradeable. The DAC handles files up to 32/192 via USB and has a total of four RCA and XLR inputs, while the preamp also includes two XLR and two RCA inputs and both XLR and RCA outputs.
Daddy Vitus, watch out! Your equipment designer son Alexander, whose relatively young company you've helped bankroll, is hot on your heels. On display were the new Alluxity Pre ONE preamplifier ($8000) and Power ONE amplifier ($11,000). Not yet available in the US, though that may change shortly, the chassis are milled from a single aluminum block. A brief listen to Billie Holiday revealed a nice three-dimensionality, as well as the hard edge that plagued numerous systems on the 29th floor of the Venetian.
I had a quick look in Nola's room, and as soon as I saw their giant speakers, I knew that these were not going to be in my designated "Under $15k" price range. Indeed, the speakers (whose name escapes me, but it has something to do with boxing) were just under $200k/pair. They sounded great, with tremendous dynamics, but I have trouble relating to speakers in that price range. "Do you have anything new and relatively affordable?" Yes, said Nola's Marilyn Marchisotto. The $9998/pair KO (another boxing reference) was being used in another room in demos by Nordost.
After a few years absence from the U.S. market, France's oldest loudspeaker company, Cabasse, has signed a distribution agreement with Esoteric and Teac. In the next few months, many of Teac-Esoteric's 125 US dealers will begin distributing the Cabasse line.
Robert Deutsch had yet to make his appearance, fresh from performing in two musicals in Canada, when I snapped this photo of some of Stereophile's CES team stressing the show account and plotting our on-line coverage at the Mirage's classy BLT Burger. Pictured, LR, are John Atkinson, Jon Iverson, Stephen Mejias, and Audiostream.com's Michael Lavorgna.
For many years, when the Stereophile crew journeyed to Las Vegas to cover the Consumer Electronics Show, we stayed at what eventually became the Hyatt Place. Not only was it smoke and slot machine-free, quiet, and equipped to serve breakfast gratis, but it was also located just a block from the CES "high performance" exhibits in the Alexis Park and the "alternative" T.H.E. Show in the St. Tropez, and a shuttle bus ride from the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC). It was an ideal place to sleep, work, and recoup in... until CES shifted its "high performance" exhibits to the Venetian Hotel on the Strip, and T.H.E. SHOW moved nearby.
At last, Stereophile has caught up with the shows, and made the move to the Mirage. Located just across the street from the Venetian, and down the block from T.H.E. SHOW at the Flamingo, it's a massive hotel whose interior is dominated by a huge, multi-story arboretum complete with towering plants and waterfalls. Behind the registration desk is a huge aquarium, packed with an impressive collection of exotic looking fish whose blank-eyed stares are mirrored in the faces of many of Las Vegas' veteran gamblers. To get to the room elevators, you must walk through the gambling area, with all the smoke, noise, and looks of desperation that are the mark of one side of Las Vegas. Pictured is the alternate reality view from my 5th floor hotel window. Treasure Island is on your left, and the Venetian on your right. Don't even think about what lies in between.
David Manley, 73, founder of VTL, Manley Laboratories, and the ViTaL record label, died of a heart attack on December 26, 2012, at a hospital near his home in Varrennes-Jarcy, France. Famously described in the pages of Stereophile by Robert Harley in a 1991 interview as expressing "his strongly held beliefs with a passion and conviction that the printed word does not adequately convey," Manley leaves behind a rich legacy that continues to grow under the leadership of, for VTL, his son Luke Manley and daughter-in-law Beatrice Lam, and for Manley Labs, his fifth wife, EveAnna Manley.