Theta Digital, the pioneer of digital separates, announces the mighty Prometheus monoblocks ($12,000/pair). Heard in pre-production mode, with bass so strong and tight that it sent me into the hallway to discuss the product, the 200Wpc into 8 ohms monoblock is due out "within 90 days" (to quote a mantra oft-repeated at CES 2013).
Harman International’s High-Performance Group’s exhibit featured a live demonstration of its most expensive equipment, including two Revel Rhythm 2 18" subwoofers ($10,000 each); two Revel Ultima2 Salons ($22,000/pair); a Macintosh MacBook Pro running Amarra software driving a Mark Levinson No.502 Sound Processor; a No.52 preamplifier ($30,000); two No.53 Reference monoblock amplifiers ($25,000 each); and Transparent power conditioners for the digital equipment and for the amplifiers. The rack also included a No.512 SACD player. The Revel Ultima2 Salons were crossed over to the subs at 80Hz with 4th-order slopes for both high-pass and low-pass filters. Listening to Diana Krall singing "I Used to Love You," I was struck by how all the loudspeakers and electronics disappeared leaving a holographic image of her voice, with a wide and deep soundstage.
Revel’s new Rhythm 2 subwoofer ($10,000) contains a pair of 2000W class-D amplifiers (said to offer 4kW on peaks); an 18" driver with a 4” voice-coil; over 114dB maximum acoustic output; high-resolution DSP room equalization; fully configurable electronic crossover; and PC or Mac setup via USB. Kevin Voecks, its designer, described how the subwoofer's highly sophisticated DSP engine can equalize both the subwoofer and the satellite speakers. The DSP-driven room equalization generates adjustments from one set of room measurements, correcting for as many as 10 modes in the frequency range of 20400Hz.
Axiss Audio’s attractive setup at the Venetian highlighted AirTight's huge ATM-3011 monoblock amplifiers ($50,000/pair). The amps were part of a system that included the Focal Scala loudspeakers ($30,000), Transrotor Rondino turntable ($14,000), SME V tonearm ($5,000), AirTight PC-1 moving-coil cartridge ($11,000), AirTight ATC-2 line preamplifier ($11,000), AirTight ATE-2 phono stage ($15,000), and ATH02 step-up transformer ($5,000). The sound was involving and dynamic.
Cary Audio demonstrated its CAD-211 ($20,000/pair) 150W tube amplifiers, two-chassis piece SLP-05 tube preamplifier ($8500), and CD-303T SACD player ($6500), with Tannoy's flagship floorstander, the Kingdom Royal ($55,000/pair). All cabling was by WyWires. The Tannoy is a four-way speaker design, with a 15" woofer handling music below 150Hz, the midrange handling up to 700Hz, the tweeter up to 17kHz, and the super-tweeter up to 65kHz. The Kingdom Royal is very sensitive at 94dB/W/m the resulting sonics were clear, delicate, and musically involving. And as John Atkinson said when he listened to this system, “there’s no substitute for horsepower.”
Lamm Industries introduced the new LP-1 Signature dual-mono phono preamplifier ($32,790), with two separate chassis power supplies. Each channel uses two high-transconductance triodes without feedback. The new phono preamplifier was used in a system with Lamm ML-3 amplifers ($159,490), an LL-1 preamplifier ($42,790), connected to a pair of Wilson Audio MAXX3 speakers ($69,500/pair) with Kubala-Sosna cables throughout. Music was played on a Kronos turntable ($32,000) fitted with a Graham Phantom II Supreme tonearm ($6000) and a ZYX Universal II cartridge ($8,495). Vladimir Lamm was also using two pairs of his ML2.2 monoblocks ($37,290/pair) to drive a pair of Verity Audio Lohengrin loudspeakers ($120,000/pair) in an adjoining room. The sound in both rooms was spacious, smooth, dynamic, and full.
MBL’s Corona Line C-15 class-D monoblock amplifiers ($12,500 each) are rated at 500W into 4 ohms with low distortion, and none of the rising distortion with frequency found in other class-D designs. In addition, the distortion is load independent. This is a result of the circuit design MBL calls a "Linear Analog Switching Amplifier Design” (LASA). MBL designer Jurgen Reis was proud that the amplifier had been designed to meet the stringent South Korean "KT" consumer standard regulations, and "was on the way" to meeting the even more stringent "CCC" Chinese consumer requirements. Although the switching occurs at 300kHz, the amplifier is free of RF emissions up through several MHz because of extensive mu-metal shielding. The amplifier and preamplifier are available in several different cosmetics including a white or black chassis with center section in gold or chassis color. Matching C-11 preamplifier and C31 CD player, with price points are also available.
Pass Laboratories, who introduced the Xs line of flagship 150W and 300W amplifiers at last year's CES, brought out a new preamplifier, the Pass Labs Xs preamplifier (price to be determined). It features a single control chassis that carries the line level audio signal and an external power supply. The Xs preamplifier was used to drive a pair of Pass Labs Xs300 ($85,000/pair) power amps connected to a pair of Sony SS-ARI ($27,000/pair) loudspeakers. The Pass Lab team obliged me by playing a fresh vinyl pressing from Japan of the Proprius Cantate Domino recording. The dynamic range and control of the pipe organ pedal notes was remarkable, making the Pass Labs one of the best-sounding setups I heard at the show the first day.
Peter Madnick's latest design for Constellation is the Virgo 2 preamplifier ($24,000), which uses an outboard power supply. It was shown with a Cygnus non-streaming Digital File Player ($24,000); Constellation's Centaur stereo amplifier ($28,000), Constellation's Centaur monoblocks ($56,000/pair). The Constellation amplifiers shown in the photo were driving the Magico Q7 loudspeakers ($165,000/pair) in biamped fashion, with a pair of Centaur monoblocks for the woofers, and a stereo Centaur for the midrange and tweeters. The resulting sound was smooth and very well controlled.
Boulder Amplifiers, Inc., introduced its new Model 3060 Stereo balanced, class-A amplifier ($114,000), a huge, 900Wpc, solid-state amplifier that weighs 450 lbs! Sitting nearby was the company's flagship monoblock, the silver 3060 ($205,000/pair), a class-A 1500W power amplifier shown in my photograph. A large cylindrical tube, containing 4 large mineral-potted toroidal power transformers, runs down the inside middle of the chassis. This is said to dampen any transformer-induced vibration. The mono amplifier uses 120 high-temperature rated bipolar transistors and 48, 160V, high-temperature rated, 4700µuF electrolytic capacitors for energy storage. Large circuit boards slide into frames at the top of the chassis, each board containing hundreds of discrete parts. With a pair of these amplifiers weighing 440 lbs, Boulder does not want this amplifier to require service, and its build quality signifies that.