Possibly the most visually striking product I've seen at the show so far is the 20Wpc dual-mono integrated the LARS ($100,000). Designed by Lars Engstrom and hand-built in Sweden, the LARS has two separate chassis, one for each channelwith inputs also on each channel. An umbilical transmits control commands from the right channel to the left.
Immedia's Allen Perkins was showing his 60Wpc class-A Spiral Groove E60A stereo power amplifier ("around" $15,000). "That's 'e' for Equinox, which is what I call Sonic Groove's spiral logo, "said Perkins. "Sixty, of course, is its output, and A is for class-A." It's a slick unit, hewn from a solid block of aluminum and employing an extremely low-noise fan to keep operating temperatures low. "For a class-A design, it's pretty energy efficient," Perkins added.
Simaudio's 100Wpc Moon i3.3 ($3300) is a very flexible component. In its stock version, it's an integrated amplifier with five single-ended line-level inputs, an RS 232 communication port, and a headphone jack. However, users can add a phono section module ($300), a balanced input module ($200), and a DAC module ($400) that accepts USB2, S/PDIF, and Toslink. In fact, buy all three modules when you buy the i3.3 and you get the whole package for $4000.
Formally, the limited-edition GAT components from Conrad-Johnson are the Great Anniversary Triodes, but longtime C-J enthusiasts will recognize the tribute to Carwell Gatling, who used to run the service/customer satisfaction department at CJactually, I've always thought that Gat's real job was to be the soul of CJ.
McCormack rolled out a complete line overhaul down to the cosmetics. About the only thing the company retained was its distributed node architecture (DNA) technology for its amplifiers. There are two new amps: the 250Wpc DBA-250 ($3995) and a 750W monoblock, the DNA-750 ($4750/each). Both amplifiers feature completely re-engineered voltage gain and driver circuits.
A different take on an integrated is the two-chassis 1000Wpc Uniwave Tek Digital Anaco 2 stereo amplifiers ($6800). The switch-mode power supply is in a separate chassis from the signal-carrying elements. That 1000Wpc rating, by the way, is at 4 ohms. Bandwidth is claimed to be 250kHz.
Rega had a (ta dah!) high-end integrated, the 90Wpc Elicit Mk.II ($3000). "We wanted something that was actually a step up from our separates," Steve Harris, president of The Sound Organisation, Rega's US importer confided. "The Apollo CD player was so far above its competition, we felt as though we needed to up our game with the new oneespecially since the older version was considered the finest amplifier we ever made."
Another company new to meanother high-end integrated. Actually, I'm in favor of both. I think HE integrateds make a lot of sense and new blood is always good for the breed. Actually, Mike Bladelius is not a new name in audio, having designed for Threshold in the early 1990s, but Bladelius Design Group certainly seemed like a new kid on the block.
Vincent was showing a room full of well-built, good-sounding, surprisingly affordable tube gear.The first thing that caught my eye (ear) was the 60Wpc V-60 ($3995). The V-60 sports four EL-34s per channel for that classic themionic caramel color (but just the teensiest bit). Pairs of 69273 and 6FQ7s complete the complement. Another sweet spot I never wanted to leave.
Another massive integrated that impressed me was Plinius' 200Wpc Hiato ($8900), which can also include a modular phono section ($1275). It accepts RCA and XLR inputs. Weighing in at a whopping 60 lbs, the Hiato sounded sauve and unflappable, living up to its name, which means "coming together in harmony" in Maori.