After Long Absence, Threshold Will Return to CES

After three years in limbo, Threshold will make an official return to the audio market at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show. The new company's initial emphasis will be on professional equipment with crossover appeal for audiophiles, according to Threshold's former national sales manager Chris English, a principal in the new venture. A name for the new company has yet to be decided.

English has been quietly but diligently working to revive Threshold since financial problems scuttled the company in late 1997. A service center—which will be folded in with Threshold's new manufacturing business—was established last winter to repair and maintain existing Threshold equipment, but CES 2001 will be the first time in many years that new equipment will appear bearing the name. "We are especially proud of having built the 'backpack' for the Nova Audio Applause S, which will be on display in the Nova/Threshold suite," English said.

The Applause S is a $15,000/pair self-powered monitor with an extruded-and-milled aluminum front baffle and sporting twin 7" carbon fiber mid-woofers and a 1" dome tweeter. The "backpack" to which English referred is a power amplifier based on Threshold's highly-regarded T200, with a massive toroidal power transformer, 100,000µF of filter capacitance, and hand-selected bipolar output devices. Threshold has partnered with Nova Audio to make "high resolution reference tools for the recording industry," according to English, but products like the Applause S can also work well in multi-channel audio and home theater systems. "The line between professional and consumer audio grows more indistinct every year," he said, noting the popularity of the Pass X-1000 amplifier among both recording engineers and audiophiles.

Other Threshold products to be introduced later next year include a stand-alone power amplifier (also based on the T200) and a preamplifier based on the T3, both of which will be aimed at the pro market, but will be suitable for audiophile use. An updated output stage for original T200 and T400 amplifiers is in the works, featuring discrete IGBT (insulated gate bipolar transistor) output devices. The new output stage will be a "drop-in replacement" for failed outputs in older amplifiers.

English is also excited about a new AC noise filter called the SineLock, which he claims achieves an 80dB reduction in line-borne noise. (Not a Threshold product, SineLock is a property of Chris English Consulting.) Several of the devices will be on display at CES at the Nova/Threshold suite, as well as in use by other manufacturers at the show. A SineLock intended for line-level and front-end equipment will retail at $2500; a larger version that will handle sufficient wattage "to power a 200W class-A amplifier" will carry an anticipated price tag of $5000. The SineLock eliminates noise without affecting voltage and without consuming power on its own, English stated. "One of the most dramatic effects of the SineLock is an apparent increase in low-level detail and dynamics," he said, mentioning that a prototype version of the filter has been tested by mastering engineer Denny Purcell, who noted differences in mastered playback with and without it. English plans to make a studio version of the SineLock with separate outputs for digital and analog electronics.

After a long trek in the wilderness, English says it is "tremendously exciting to be back in business making real products." At CES, the Nova/Threshold venue will be Suite 1358 at the Alexis Park, where showgoers will be able to hear a 24-bit working master of Mark Knopfler's new Warner Brothers recording Sailing To Philadelphia, played back from the same sources used at Georgetown Masters.