Pro-Ject easily wins the competition for who can offer the greatest number and variety of little audio boxes. With their range of turntables distributed around the room, they had an entire large wall covered with their devices, DACs, CD players, preamps, mono- and stereo-amps, switches, power supplies, tuners, and phono stages. They also had boxes with combinations and permutations of these functions and most of them came in more than one of their various ranges, E, S, DS, DS+ and RS, in order of feature set and price. I was most intrigued by their Stream Box DS music streamers, all of which handle up to 24/192 via WiFi, LAN and USB and offer Internet radio via vTuner as well as Spotify and other streaming sources. A 3.5" TFT color display shows text and album art. As you go up the line, you can add iOS and Android control, ALAC support, analog and digital inputs or, even, built in power amps. Prices start at under $1000.
Korg showed a pair of DSD-capable DACs that work with their well-known AudioGate software, the DS-DAC-100 ($599) and, above, the DS-DAC-100m ($350). They are similar in technology and support up to 24/192 PCM and DSD at 2.8224 and 5.6448MHz. Using AudioGate, all audio formats, including MP3, are up-converted to 5.6448MHz DSD in the computer for transmission to the DACs. The bigger DS-DAC-100 sports RCA and XLR outputs in addition to a standard 6.3mm headphone jack while the more portable DS-DAC-100m has 3.5mm outputs for both line and headphone applications.
SOtM is a manufacturer of specialized audio devices for general and for PC applications. I am familiar with them because I am using their highly regarded tX-USBexp as the USB output for my own server/streamer. At CES, they showed a new sHP-100 headphone amp and USB DAC ($600, left) which has an analog volume control, USB, coaxial, optical, and analog inputs, a headphone output and analog line outputs, and supports 24bit/192KHz PCM, DSD playback. To its right is their neat little sMS-100 wireless streamer ($449), which supports up to 32/384kHz PCM and DSD via USB.
PSB had already shown its neat little powered desk-top speaker, the Alpha PS1 but, now, they have completed a 2.1 system by adding the Sub Series 100 Compact Powered Subwoofer, which Stephen Mejias will be reviewing in the March issue of Stereophile. The combination, placed, appropriately, on a desk top, sounded amazingly well balanced and full with good bass on several tracks that were played. It displayed none of the usual muddy bass that one usually associates with table placement and, when listened to seated or standing a few feet away, offered really big and open sound. The combination, called the Alpha-1-100, comes at a special price of only $499.
Bowers & Wilkins and Classé were showing their wares in an elegant suite in the Mirage and there I finally got to see and hear Classé's first venture into class-D amplification, the CA-D200 (above). It certainly looked worthy of the family name and, via B&W 805D speakers and driven by the latest version of the CP800, it produced a lovely sound, discernible even in this unfamiliar space.
The name Tannoy is, of course, synonymous with "Dual Concentric" and their classic designs were in full display and demonstration. Off to the side, however, they were showing their new Precision range of more affordable designs, which are based on a new implementation of the Dual Concentric concept in a 6" driver that incorporates a wide-band tweeter.
Another big name makes the move into wireless speakers with Focal's announcement of the Easya. It is a floor-standing 2½-way system which comes as a pair, with its hub/controller and remote control, for just $1799. Available colors are a snazzy gloss white or black and it sports an inverted-dome tweeter and a pair of 5" polyglass-cone drivers. Inputs are TosLink, coax and USB inputs as well as analog. Better yet, it sounded like a Focal . . . but, look Ma, no wires!
The Jade 7 from Wharfedale was very favorably reviewed by Bob Deutsch in Stereophile's May 2013 issue but at the 2014 CES I got to see and hear the new little brother, the Jade 1. Surprisingly, this smaller and stand-mounted speaker is also a 3-way with the same drivers, aperiodic loading and crossover technology. It certainly sounded similar, balanced and full down into the real bass. It also was finished just as luxuriously. Looks like a great value in a high-end speaker for $1200$1400/pair, depending on your choice of finish.
In my November 2013 column, I looked at the NuForce AVP-18 multichannel preamplifier-processor ($1095) and the exaSound e28 multichannel DAC ($3299), each of which offers fresh options in its category that break with the predictability of mainstream products. That predictability is the result of market analysis that supposedly tells manufacturers which features users want most. However, it's just as true that users can buy and choose among only those components and features already offered. Many of us are more peculiar in our demandswhat's generally offered doesn't always fit our needs. This month, I look at an unusual pre-pro and a multichannel digital equalizer at opposite ends of the price spectrum.
Make It Simple. . .
Ah, for the old mono days. I remember assembling my first audio systems in my early teens and as a novicethings were easy. My first amp had four RCA input jacks, each clearly labeled and corresponding to an identically labeled setting on the input selector switch. There were screw-down speaker connectors for 4, 8, and 16 ohms, and ground. Tape output was defaulted to whatever input I was listening to. The amp had but four knobs: Input Selection, Volume, Bass, and Treble. And although it would seem almost impossible to go wrong, I did exercise focus and care as I tended to my first setup.