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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 16, 2014 1 comments
The Polar Vortex weather and its associated flight cancellations prevented Convergent Audio Technology’s Ken Stevens from reaching Las Vegas until the third day of the show. However, once he arrived, he set up a system featuring Vandersteen 5A Carbon speakers, connected by Stealth cables to his new JL5 Triode "Baby CAT" stereo power amplifier. This 100Wpc (8 ohms) amplifier costs $12,000 with amorphous core transformers and Black Gate capacitors, $10,000 with silicon-steel transformers. The circuit features what Ken calls "OptiBias"—Ken describes this as "somewhere between constant current and constant power"—which keeps the bias current of the output-stage KT120 tubes independent of fluctuations in the AC supply voltage. Those who feel tube amplifiers can’t rock hard in the bass should have experienced the Led Zeppelin track I auditioned in Ken’s room.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 16, 2014 2 comments
Shown in Tom Norton’s photo are the Platinum versions of Dynaudio’s Confidence C2 floorstander ($15,000, left) and C1 stand-mount (middle)loudspeakers in the new Platinum trim, which I had seen and heard at 2013 shows. But I was more interested in the news that the Excite 12 loudspeaker, which has been a reference for Bob Reina since he reviewed it in March 2010, has been replaced by the Excite X14 ($1500/pair). My photo wasn’t usable, unfortunately, but I auditioned the X14s in a system comprising the Octave V40 SE 45Wpc, tube integrated amplifier ($5300), T+A DAC S8 ($3250), with Amarra running on a MacBook, Dynaudio Stand 3X stands ($350/pair), and in-akustik Reference interconnects and speaker cables, and was impressed by what I heard.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 15, 2014 1 comments
I’ve had a couple of conversations the past couple of years with mastering engineer Dave Collins about the D/A processor he was designing for Manley Labs, the company run by his wife EveAnna Manley. The 2014 CES saw the consumer debut of the Heart Monitor Controller 24/192 DSP ΔΣ [Delta-Sigma] DAC, which was being demmed in a system featuring Manley’s 25th Anniversary monoblocks, which use KT120 tubes. There are four digital inputs and Dave has kept the fully differential signal path as short as possible. Silicon includes a SHARC DSP and AD1955 DAC chips and harmonic distortion has been kept to a superbly low –120dB, and even that is the subjectively benign second. Price has yet to be decided.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 15, 2014 0 comments
Like Stephen Mejias at the 2013 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, I have been impressed by the German Zellaton speakers when I have heard them, both at shows, and at a dealer event I attended in 2012 at Fidelis Audio in New Hampshire. With foil-covered drive-units, a crossover from Duelund Coherent Audio, and driven by Trinity balanced phono and line preamps and 200Wpc CH M1 amplification from Switzerland, the three-way Reference speakers sounded forceful and detailed.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 15, 2014 0 comments
Jon Iverson already reported on the Antelope DAC, but as I have just favorably reviewed their SCM 7 v.3 minimonitor for the forthcoming April issue of Stereophile, I was more interested in the active ATC SCM100SL Towers in the room. This speaker combines ATC's proprietary soft-dome midrange driver with a 1" tweeter and 12" woofer, tri-amped by ATC's Anniversary amplification. With a laptop running JRiver Media Center feeding data to the Antelope Zodiac-Platinum DAC with its Voltikus power supply, the 24/96 transfer of Steely Dan's "Babylon Sisters" was reproduced with tight, well-controlled low frequencies.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 15, 2014 Published: Dec 31, 1969 2 comments
Loudspeaker manufacturer Angel Sound from Las Vegas was a new name to me, but I was drawn into their room at CES by this striking-looking speaker, which resembles a flame. Called, according to my notes, the S8, the speaker uses ScanSpeak drivers, can be supplied in custom colors, and costs $180,000/pair. The system in use featured Angel Sound DAC, amplifier, and cables, with a C.E.C transport, but the adverse room acoustics prevented me from forming any real opinion of the speakers' sound quality.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 15, 2014 0 comments
"One touch," that’s all it takes for you to enjoy your music, said B&O CEO Teo Mantoni, introducing the Danish company’s BeoSound Essence music-streaming system to the press at CES, and compared that one-touch solution to the current compendium of 10 swipes and presses that you need to playback a Spotify playlist from your smartphone. Mr. Mantoni is holding the elegant Essence Remote in his hand; a ring around the small aluminum puck controls volume and play/pause, forward and backward buttons are embedded on the top. The circular puck is available as wall-mount and desktop versions, and a remote box both connects to the playback system and is the center for AirPlay streaming, DLNA streaming, Spotify Connect, QPlay and Internet radio stations.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 14, 2014 7 comments
Jon Iverson reports elsewhere on Light Harmonic's cost-no-object Sire DAC. But the bigger buzz at the 2014 CES was the LH Labs Geek Pulse, a desktop DAC and headphone amplifier. Except that this product does not yet exist!
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 12, 2014 0 comments
The CES is traditionally where we give awardees their well-deserved Products of the Year awards. Here is the complete line-up for 2013, waiting in the Stereophile room at the Venetian, just before the show started on Tuesday January 7.
John Atkinson Posted: Dec 30, 2013 Published: Jan 01, 2014 12 comments
Whereas the Pass Labs preamplifiers are designed by Wayne Colburn, the power amplifiers are the work of company founder and high-end audio veteran Nelson Pass, who even lays out his own circuit boards. The X-model amplifiers, beginning with the X1000 in 1998, were the first implementation of Nelson Pass's patented Supersymmetry topology (see "Nelson Pass on the Patents of Pass"). The XA series, which debuted in 2002, combined Supersymmetry with the single-ended class-A operation of the Aleph series. The XA.5 models offer detail improvements over the XAs.

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