While Dolby Atmos, which adds height information to both cinema soundtracks and domestic surround-sound reproduction has created a strong buzz in the mainstream market for home-theater A/V receivers and preamplifier-processors, it's too early to know what, if any, impact it will have on music-only recordings. I'm not sanguine about the prospectsas impressive as I've found Atmos to be for movies, the expansion of sources to the vertical plane would seem to be of little value for music performed on acoustic instruments. Moreover, it seems unlikely that mainstream record labels will adopt this format any more than they have embraced multichannel or even high-resolution audio. Sound of CD quality or below still dominates the recording industry, even if hi-rez downloads are a bright but tiny point of light.
While his multipurpose integrated amp lurked in the background, I took immediate notice of Dan D'Agostino's hulky 6U form-factor multichannel amplifier, the Cinema Standard. Available with two ($12,000) and three ($15,000) channels, it offers 250Wpc into 8ohms and doubles down to 500 into 4 and 1000 into 2, at 0.1% total harmonic distortion! Now that's dynamic headroom.
Manley Labs' Evanna Manley was deeply involved in discussion so I asked around about what new amps/preamps are showing. The answer was that, since there were no new products being introduced, they decided to present their current offerings to emphasize their aesthetics by having them framed and hung. Point taken. Picture taken.
Kevin Deal was so proud of his new DiaLogue Premium HP power amplifier ($3899 stereo or monoblock) that he insisted on showing off its underside so that we can all appreciate the quality of the components and the fastidious wiring.
I visited the Burson room because I retain a strange interest in this Australian company’s innovative discrete op-amp modules even though I am long past my DIY years. (JA has a pair of Burson's op-amp modules in for evaluation.)
Dynaudio North America's Michael Manousselis was proudly demonstrating the Danish parent company's Contour S 3.4 LE speakers with the new Octave V 110 integrated amplifier ($8000), a fixed-bias pentode design that has been optimized specifically for the KT120 tube. Features include wideband output transformers while utilizing soft-start circuitry, extensive monitoring and protection circuitry, as well as an energy-saving EcoMode feature.
T+A's entire HV range was the epitome of sleek and sexy. I was particularly impressed with physical architecture, even beneath the skin, as there is a casework frame of solid aluminum plates, screwed together. The plates form sealed chambers to de-couple and shield all sub-assemblies from each other. External case parts are up to 40mm thick!
The big news at Ayre is that the standing range of "5"-series components is being upgraded to "The Twenty Editions," which incorporate the circuit and performance facilities of the well-received flagship KX-R Twenty, MX-R Twenty and VX-R Twenty.
All the Harman boys were over at the Hard Rock Hotel rather than the official CES sites, but I was able to swing by on my way to the airport to see the new statement amp from Mark Levinson, the No.536.
Nelson Pass's introductory claim was modest: "Pass simply added some input selection and level control to the front end to turn these amplifiers into new integrated models." What I saw were two impressive integrated amps that are clearly derived from the larger Point 8 amps.