VAS Audio's Sze Leung is the most consistently up audiophile we know—he's always raving about his latest listening session or discovery. "This one's incredible," he exclaimed, pointing to the 80Wpc Cayin H-80A Class-A tube hybrid integrated amplifier (approximately $4000)."
Zanden's Kazutoshi Yamada builds amplifiers like Medieval villages built cathedrals: To glorify the quintessence. Jon Iverson and I were lured into his room because his Model 9600s were so . . . shiny (hey, we're guys, we're not complicated). Then we heard 'em driving the Ascendo System Z-F3 loudspeakers. Wowsers.
Bel Canto's John Stronczer made a bold decision to demonstrate exclusively with a music server streaming Music Giants. He ran the output from his laptop to the $2495 e.One DAC3 digital-to-analog processor and then directly to a pair of e.One REF1000 1000W monoblocks ($1995 each).
Lew Johnson pointed at the LP275M ($12,500). "This is something CJ hasn't done in a while: a high output tube monoblock. We use four pairs of 6550s to obtain 275W with our proprietary translinear transformers. We can configure it for 2, 4, 8, or 16 Ohm loads (standard is 4 Ohm). Like our most recent designs, we're using metal foil resistors and Teflon CJD capacitors. We'll be shipping them by February."
"Here's something a little different for us," CJ's Lew Johnson continued his tour. "The $10,000 TEA1 triode equalization amplifier embodies our current understanding of the state-of-the-art in phono stage design. It's a zero loop feedback design with two tube gain stages and a passive equalization network. We put a high-current buffer stage isolates the unit from cable and other loading elements."
"I'm not done," Lew Johnson said. "I showed you our high-aspiration products, now here's one more from the heart: the ET250S is a more realistically priced product at $7500 for 250Wpc. At the heart of the amp is a single-ended triode amplifier that supplies the voltage gain. A high-current buffer stage couples that to the speaker load. That architecture gives you tube grace and finesse, but deliver all the brute force you need for any loudspeaker. We'll ship them in February."