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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 16, 2012 0 comments
Ron Sutherland had a rack of his components at CES to drive Vandersteen Quatro floorstanding loudspeakers. The rack consisted of the two monophonic Phono Block phono preamplifiers, recently reviewed by Brian Damkroger in Stereophile; the $15,000 Destination Line Stage (one non-audio signal carrying control unit with Nixie tubes, and one audio chassis for each channel); and the $10,000/pair, 200W monoblock power amplifiers. Except for the amplifier and control chassis, most of these units are configured into two side-by-side subunits—one for power supply and one for audio signal—attached only by front and rear panels.
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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 16, 2012 0 comments
Ron Sutherland of Sutherland Engineering taught me all I need to know about Nixie tubes at CES. Used as the main visual display device used in his Reference N-1 preamplifier and in his Destination Line-Stage preamplifier's control unit shown in the photo, the Nixie tube was invented in 1955 as the first electronic display tool for reading out the numbers 0–9. The Nixie's designers fashioned a wire mesh into 9 layers, each layer in the shape of a number, resulting in a tidy small stack. This tiny wire stack was inserted into a small glass envelope, filled with neon gas, and then sealed. When any of the separate metal layers was charged with 175 volts, the neon gas around the wire ionized, and lit up. When plugged into a circuit board, the tube would read out the numbers, with each number appearing at a different depth. Paul was fascinated with the retro look of this type of readout, so he has installed it in his $15,000, three-chassis Destination line stage, and into his new $10,000 reference N-1 preamplifier.
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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 16, 2012 1 comments
The Audio Power Labs exhibit took my breath away, Imagine, a huge, beautiful $175,000 per pair, 200Wpc monoblock tube amplifier using 833C, graphite-plate, radio-frequency transmitter tubes that have a bandwidth of 30MHz and run with 1500V on the plates! These tubes were used in the output stage of BCF-1 radio transmitters. Now imagine that the amplifier's designers are named Squeek Rieker (right) and Peeya Iwagoshi (left), and you know why I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming.
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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 16, 2012 1 comments
The $25,000, 500W Mark Levinson No.53 digital-switching reference monoblock amplifier made its regular non-playing appearance at CES 2012 but this time with an illuminated cutaway display, allowing its lead design engineer, Mark Seiber, to walk me through its circuitry. The transparent panel, which the display used in place of heatsinks allowed me to easily see the No.53's four major subsections (analog input stage, modulation, amplifier output stage with its eight air-core inductors, and power supply section, which is at the bottom of the chassis.
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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 16, 2012 1 comments
In response to Mark Levinson Audio Systems' 40th Anniversary, the company has announced a new line of products for the two-channel audiophile, the 40th Anniversary Collection at CES 2012, which includes the $25,000 No.52 Reference dual-mono preamplifier, the $10,000 No.585 integrated amplifier, the $6000 No.519 SACD player and the $6000 No.560 digital processor. I was most intrigued by the $10,000 No.585 integrated amplifier shown in the photo, which is rated at 225Wpc into 8 ohms, and provides a dedicated subwoofer output.
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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 16, 2012 1 comments
Soulution Audio's Cyrill Hammer was on hand to discuss the company's "small" Soulution 501 mono Amplifier ($55,000/pair). Similar in design to the Soulution 710 stereo amplifier that had so impressed Michael Fremer in the August 2012 issue of Stereophile, the more diminutive 501 monoblock amplifier is rated at 125W into 8 ohms, utilizes six switching-mode power supplies, and features a high-bandwidth, zero-feedback voltage-amplification input stage. Unlike the 176 lb Soulution 710 stereo amplifier that required three good men to move into Mikey's listening room, the 501 weighs in at a "mere" 80 lbs per chassis.
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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 16, 2012 0 comments
Harman Specialty Audio introduced the new Revel Performa 3 series of loudspeakers at the 2012 CES. Kevin Voecks, lead audio engineer in the design, was delighted at the increased performance of Performa 3 series, including the $4500/pair, three-way, F208 full-range floorstander and the $1750/pair M106 two-way bookshelf. The F208 replaces the more expensive, $7500 F32 Performa in the previous series.
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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 16, 2012 0 comments
Harman Specialty Audio's Kevin Voecks demonstrated his latest portable room-response testing system, an iPad 2 running Studio Six Digital's "Audio Tools" iTunes app. (A favorite of JA’s.) The iPad 2 plus a $50 external mike and an accessory box from Studio Six becomes a portable audio test system with up to 1/48-octave resolution. Kevin used this tool to set up Revel's new M106 and F208 loudspeakers on the 35th Floor of the Venetian Hotel. He demonstrated frequency response graphs and a virtual SPL meter—seen in detail as a graphic representation of a huge analog SPL meter on the iPad screen.
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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 16, 2012 0 comments
Luke Manley and Bea Lam of VTL were on hand as host and hostess at the VTL exhibit suite at the Venetian Hotel to present their two new stereo tube amplifiers, the $33,500, 400Wpc S400 Series II amplifier, and the $10,000, 200Wpc S200 Stereo Signature amplifier shown in the photo. Although the S400 was configured into a floorstanding tower and the S200 in the rack-mounted chassis used for their MB-450 monoblock amplifier, both new products feature VTL's latest tube technology, including fully balanced, differential input stage, VTL's SmartTube technology with automatic bias and screen supply adjustments and fault sensing, and a new user-adjustable damping factor feedback control. The feedback loop amount can be precisely set to suite the listener's taste via three-position switches located between the input tubes on the top of the chassis.
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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jan 16, 2012 0 comments
Brent Hefley, Marketing Manager of Ayre, walked me through the circuit layout of Ayre's newest amplifier, the $14,950, dual-mono, 200Wpc (8 ohms) VX-R. Based on the well-regarded and long-established MX-R monoblock and introduced at the 2011 CES, the VX-R uses Ayre's ultra-fast printed circuit board materials. Ayre is expecting great things, Brent told JA, from its recent hiring of ex-Classé and Linn engineer Alan Clark, who joins Charlie Hansen and Ariel Brown as the Colorado company's creative engine.

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