The folks at Simaudio were happy to leave the frozen tundra of Canada and bring their wares to the mild climate of Las Vegas. This year they showed off their new Moon 600i integrated amplifier ($8000). The 600i is a beautifully built, dual-mono amplifier that puts out 125Wpc into 8 ohms and sounded lovely.
As I wandered the halls looking for the next audio fix, a friendly voice with a thick Swedish accent called out to me. Since I'm pretty new at the magazine, I wondered who might be calling out my name let alone who might be calling out name that's from Scandinavia. It turned out it was Timo Engstrom, the maker of The Lars two-chassis, tube integrated amplifier that Art Dudley wrote about in June 2009. Somehow Timo read my badge and knew I was covering amplification at CES for Stereophilehe must have good eyes. He invited me in to have a listen to the Lars.
Newly unveiled in the Cary Audio room was the CAD 211 Founders Edition amplifier. This fully balanced monoblock retails for $20,000/pair. The amps have taps for 4, 8 and 16 ohm speakers and specified as putting out 70W in class-A, increasing to 110W when pushed into class-AB. They also employ zero feedback so I'm not going to send them to JA's test bench (low-feedback designs seem to make him grumpy). They sounded sweet and full-bodied driving the Marten Coltrane speakers, with cabling by Tara Labs. It is ironic, however, noted JA, that Cary founder Dennis Had retired from Cary in the fall of 2009.
Mark O'Brien of Rogue Audio was showing off the new Tempest III integrated amplifier ($2999). The III (an update to the Tempest II) offers 90Wpc and comes with a remote control. It also features an optional 10dB boost of solid-state gain before the signal hits the tube section, which is selectable on the front panel. Also on the front panel is a high quality headphone output. Mark was playing the Apollo monoblock amps in the room's live system, so I did not get a chance to hear it. Hey Stephen Mejias, might this be the new amp you are looking for?
Rogue Audio was also showing off the yet-to-be-released Ares phono preamplifier. The preamp can be run in all-tube or hybrid tube/solid-state to allow it to work with any cartridge you might want to throw at it. Mark O'Brien told me he was completing the design as recently as two weeks ago. The Ares will retail for $1995 and will start shipping at the end of June 2010.
Walking into the Jeff Rowland Design Group room is like walking into a dreamscape of audio bling. To look at a Rowland faceplate is like gazing into the face of God...well, maybe that's overstating it a bit. Whoever set up the Rowland room knows how great their gear looks and even set up floor to ceiling poles full of lights, strategically aimed to heighten their hypnotic, 3-D look.
NAD is well known for its traditional, high-quality, and relatively affordable integrated amplifiers. At this year's CES, NAD introduced a revolutionary new integrated, the M2 ($5999). NAD's Stephen DeFuria (right) told me that the M2 is what NAD calls a "Direct Digital" amplifierthere is no analog circuitry!
One of my favorite sounds of the show came out of the PrimaLuna room. Their sound was full of dynamics, texture, body and balance. Kevin Deal of Prima Luna (seen here like a proud Papa) was one of the few people at CES who made sure that folks visiting his room got the right mix of information, listening time, and fun. At least that was the vibe when I visited. At Kevin's feet are the DiaLogue Seven monoblocks ($5499 per pair), which Art Dudley wrote about in the December 2009 issue of Stereophile.
One of my favorite things I experienced at CES this year was encountering new audio companies I'd never heard of, especially the ones that seem to be making high-quality components at real-world prices. One of these new surprises was Mystère Audio, distributed in the US by Kevin Deal. Made, like PrimaLuna, in China for Durob Audio, a Dutch company who has been making gear for over 30 years, Mystère showed a full line of amplification components but were playing their pa21 stereo power amplifier ($2995) and ca21 preamplifier ($2195).