Bel Canto is moving decidedly upmarket with the new Black system. Jason will cover the amps, so I'll stick to the pre/DAC here. The ASC1 will interface specifically with the MPS1 monobloc amps via custom LightLink ST fiber interfaces and cables. There are nine inputs, and capabilities include analog sources, AES, SPDIF, Toslink and UPnP/DLNA streaming up to 24/384 PCM as well as DSD64 and 128.
The ASC1 retails for $20,000. When you add the amps, the entire system is $50k.
Project is adding some more midi-size products to its line. In addition to the STREAM BOX noted by Kal, a new product this year is the Class-A tube balanced output DAC BOX RS (pictured at the bottom right), which should be available now for around $1,000 or so. Users can switch between tube and solid state output and the DAC accepts all the usual inputs at PCM rates up to 24/192. Digital processing is built around two BurrBrown 1792 chips.
Above the DAC is the new PRE BOX RS Digital preamp/DAC also available shortly for $1,500. This one also had a headphone amp built in with switchable impedance and damping factor from the front panel.
Kalman Rubinson mentions the big news from Cambridge Audio earlier in this report: the Minx Xi streaming device. Also worth mentioning is that the company announced the $1,649 851D DAC/Pre, which in addition to normal DAC functions, can accept a stream from your phone or other Bluetooth device. Available now.
Sim Audio's Lionel Goodfield notes that CDs are still major parts of most audiophile music collections, so he wanted to develop a player to maximize the format's potential while keeping costs under control. The result is the Neo 2600 for $2,000 that features a floating transport and borrows much of its technology from the company's more expensive 650D from the Evolution Series.
The 2600 also has SPDIF and AES/EBU inputs and can be upgraded for $1,000 with an internal 32 bit DAC that also adds a USB input. Available in black, silver and 2-tone.
This year has seen Ayre add DSD capability to both the QB-9 DAC ($3250) and QA-9 ADC ($3950). Older QB-9s can be upgraded for $500 (makes everything sound better they say), and the QA-9 gets a free firmware update.
Jason mentions the new NAD Master Series below, but it's worth fleshing out the M12 DAC/Pre. Inside is basically the same DAC as the M51 which has been updated it a bit. The M12 also features NAD's MDC or Modular Design Construction chassis, meaning there are several card slots on the back for a variety of inputs including their new BluOS on a card to tie it in with the new Bluesound products from parent company Lenbrook Industries
The M12 (which NAD calls a Host component) will be available in May for $3,499.
Nagra is not a company known to throw a few products together each year, and instead create their precision-machined wonders at a glacial pace befitting their Swiss heritage. As their press release states: "Introduction of new models follows a strict procedure at Nagra. A new product is considered worthy of appearing in the catalog once it brings a true improvement in sonic reproduction." More than one person asked if I had been up to the Nagra suite near the top of the Mirage hotel to see the new DAC.
Why have both a music server at a home and a portable one in your pocket when one machine can do both? At least that is the pitch I was given in the Astell&Kern room in the Venetian. The story is that the AK240 is good enough to compete with many larger systems and function as a high performance USB DAC as well (via the Micro-B USB input). Pricing hasn't been set yet, but I was told would be under $3k when it is available in March.
Highlights for the new AK240 include 384GB total memory for music storage (internal and additional microSD card slot), which would translate to around 800 albums (CD quality FLAC) and ability to connect directly to HD download sites via WiFi for music purchase (vendors TBD). On the front is a 800x480 resolution color touch screen set into a body made of "Duralumin", described as an aircraft grade aluminum alloy. The unit indeed feels quite solid in the hand.
Another portable announced at CES is HiFiMAN's new player featuring a clever modular design demonstrated by company founder, Fang Bian. He opened the player and popped out several pieces including the amplifier section, which can be customized by the owner to better match their listening needs. A half dozen modules will be available, ranging from $100-600, offering different output options tuned for different kinds of headphones.
Inside is a 16V Li-ion battery. Bian says that the higher voltage allows better grade op-amps in addition to 2 Wolfson DACs per channel. The HM-802 can handle both HD PCM and DSD files, has up to 128GB storage capability, and should hit stores this month starting at $699.
As I walked into "The Hi-Res Audio Experience" ballroom, I scanned the room and noted several high resolution audio vendors along the walls. Then I noticed an odd symmetry to the arrangement: the PCM distributors and labels were lined up on the left, while all of the DSD folks were lined up on the right.
I was wishing this wasn't symptomatic of greater divisions between the two HD audio worlds, but when someone in a DSD booth asked if I'd be back for the big PCM vs DSD battle the next day, with a gleeful glint in his eye, I realized this might be shaping up as a format war after all. I sure hope not.