Directly across the hall from the PrimaLuna exhibit, I discovered its somewhat more expensive big brother line, Mystère. While PrimaLuna amps operate in triode mode, Mystère gives you the sound of tetrode. These aren't high power babiesthe ia11 integrated amp ($1995) puts out 40Wpc watts and the ia21 integrated amp ($2995) gives you 50Wpc. The electronics are manufactured with a different partner in China, and are the dream project of their designer.
Allen Perkins' Spiral Groove has expanded beyond its excellent turntable, which has won major awards in Japan, to issue a new amp, DAC, and cabling. The patented cable line, close to final production, includes speaker cable, interconnect, and digital interconnect. Price has yet to be determined. Proof of its quality is that it used Spiral Groove's two tonearms and the entire line of Sonics speakers designed by Joachim Gerhard (formerly of Audio Physic) and now manufactured in Berkeley, CA. Having heard pre-production samples several of these products at Casa Bellecci-Serinus, I know that one of Allen's concerns is to eschew hard-edged digititis and over-hyped sound in favor of the more natural presentation of analog.
Shunyata, which first made its mark with a novel line of US-made power cables named after various snakes and using a ferrite-based powder filling to absorb RF, has come out with five new serpentine products. According to sales manager Richard Colburn, the company has learned how to put more metal inside its cables, thereby increasing their gauge. The copper used is CDA-101, the only copper certified for its purity. Proprietary connectors are unplated brass, which company founder/designer Caelin Gabriel considers to sound the best.
All the wire used in DH Labs's products is manufactured in the USA; cables are manufactured in the same facility that manufactures for NASA. At least 11 major recording studios use the company's cables, and others will soon join the list. This, along with the nice sound albeit not ultimately detailed sound they were getting from their modest display system certainly suggests that they're doing something right.
Stillpoints, a vibration-control company that has been making equipment support racks since 2003, has just introduced a 40"-wide, low mass, open-air rack that allows you to stack two components side by side on each support shelf. Each ultra long support shelf holds two 20"x16" equipment shelves, each of which can hold a separate component on the appropriate support technology. Each equipment shelf also contains six pockets of Stillpoints' multi-patented vibration damping technology, making for 12 pockets of vibration control per large support shelf. Stillpoints' Paul Wakeen claims that each time you add another layer of Stillpoint isolation, the sound of your system improves.
Tara Labs has so many levels of cables that factory manager Matthew Sellars, who assists designer Matthew Bond with cable design and oversees implementation, had to draw a four-tiered chart just to explain where the company's newest offerings fall in the Tara Labs hierarchy. That may be an exceedingly long opening sentence. But so is Tara Labs' product list.
Visiting Kara Chafee of de Havilland, whose amplifiers invariably grace music with a wonderful sense of air, enabled me to take a first listen to Cable Research Lab (CRL) cables. CRL's mid-level "Silver" line is a very recent recipient of a "Product of the Year Award" from a certain publication known for its absolutism. Another very positive publication fed CRL an award in 2007.
CES presented me with my first opportunity to make the acquaintance of Stephen Hill and Straight Wire. The Florida company has just released a "push prong" re-usable, solderless RCA plug that makes Straight Wire cable termination a snap. Especially appealing to custom installers, the termination actually leads to a higher level of performance by enabling quick silver-plated termination without piercing cable insulation.
Jim Aud of Purist Audio Design has released several new products. The diminutive Digital Isolation Adapter ($300) plugs into the S/PDIF output of a CD transport or music server with then the RCA digital cable that connects the transport and DAC plugged into it. The Adapter is claimed to electrically isolate the transport to the DAC, reduce jitter via control of the 75 ohm impedances, and reduce EMI/RF noise.
As I was heading out dazed from the Sennheiser headphone experience, Dynaudio’s Mike Manousselis invited me to briefly listen to their demo. In the middle of the Convention Center’s huge South Hall, and at a reasonable volume level that did not attempt to drown out the ubiquitous din, a very cool Patricia Barber had claimed the space as her own. Abetted by a Wadia player and Simaudio amplification, speakers that I think were the Focus 360Mike, help me out here; I hadn’t yet come down to earth from the Sennheiserswere doing a marvelous job of filling the space with inviting sound. If anything could entice me to transition from Richard Strauss’ Alpine heights to Patricia Barber’s sensual coolness, it was this speaker/electronics combo.