CES 2013

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Stephen Mejias  |  Jan 15, 2013  |  1 comments
I’m a big fan of Thinksound’s in-ear designs, but lately I’ve been listening more to on-ear and over-the-ear headphones—I find them more attractive, much more comfortable, and far easier to enjoy overall. So I was happy to learn that Thinksound is now working on its own on-ear design. The yet-to-be-named headphone will cost somewhere between $200 and $300, and should be available sometime this spring. Here we see an early prototype—Thinksound is still working to perfect the overall ergonomics.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jan 15, 2013  |  0 comments
New for 2013, and due this summer, is Playback Designs' IMS-3 ($13,000). IMS stands for Integrated Music System, as in a one-piece unit housing DAC, preamp, and amp. The DAC is the same as in the excellent NPS-3 one-piece player, and the amp a class-A/B design that outputs 130W into 8 ohm and 260 into 4. A digitally controlled analog volume control, three analog inputs, and four digital inputs are among the features of a unit that will also support multi-channel playback.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jan 15, 2013  |  0 comments
The synergy is palpable between Triode Corporation's Japanese-made electronics, distributed by Santo Oropel's Twin Audio•Video, and Acoustic Zen's loudspeakers and cables, masterminded by Robert Lee. At CES, Triode premiered the imminently available TRX-M300 8W into 8 ohms triode monoblocks (approx. $14,000–$15,000/pair). Built around a 300B tube driven by a 91A tube—there are one 300B, two 91As, and one 274B—the 60 lb monoblock includes auto-bias, and has a frequency response of 10Hz–50kHz, +0, –3dB.
Jon Iverson  |  Jan 15, 2013  |  0 comments
NAD greatly impressed me with their M51 bitstream DAC. Next, they've taken on the streamer/music server market with the M50 ($2499) and M52 Digital Music Vault (1999), both available now.

The M50 has WiFi, ethernet, USB and HDMI to handle PCM files up to 24/192 and has a CD slot for ripping discs and retrieving metadata. Streaming services should be available as options in about six months. For storing files, the M52 connects via USB and runs a 3TB RAID 5 Array. All functions can then be controlled via NAD's iPad app.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jan 15, 2013  |  0 comments
Knowing something about race car driving won't get you a good system in and of itself, but it will help you understand the genesis of the names of Alvin Lloyd's Grand Prix Audio's attractive equipment isolation racks. New is their Woodcote line, the company's first line of wooden racks. Made of true hardwood—no MDF here—the four-shelf cherry model with decoupled shelves costs $4495, and walnut, curly maple, and custom woods are also available.
Larry Greenhill  |  Jan 15, 2013  |  0 comments
At the 2012 CES, Soulution Audio's Cyrill Hamer introduced me to the Swiss company's reference line of 700 monoblock amplifier ($130,000/pair) and the dual-mono, dual-differential 710 stereo (now $55,000) amplifier Michael Fremer reviewed and liked so much in August 2011. At this year's CES, Soulution presented its less-expensive 500 line. While keeping the same appearance as the Reference line, the 500 line features different internal designs, including the company's first integrated amplifier, the 530 integrated preamplifier/amplifier ($49,000).
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jan 15, 2013  |  0 comments
For those of us in search of the best bang-for-the-buck enhancements to our systems, and the cables that best complement our components, Ultra Systems and the Cable Company are a favored one-stop gold mine. At his table at T.H.E. Show, the company’s Robert Stein (pictured above) spread the word that the excellent HiFi Tuning Supreme fuses he markets now incorporate Quantum level treatment from WA-Quantum. These are the folks who also make the Quantum chips that you put on components and speakers. I need to play with the latter some more before I get a handle on what they do or don’t do to the sound of the Wilson Audio Sashas currently in my reference system.
Stephen Mejias  |  Jan 15, 2013  |  0 comments
Pro-Ject’s Media Box S ($359) is “basically a mini-computer,” Sumiko’s Norbert Schmied told me. It accepts a USB thumb drive (as shown), hard drive, or SD card containing MP3, WMA, AAC, or variable-bit-rate files up to 384kbps compression. It uses a 24-bit/96kHz upsampling D/A converter, and album metadata can be displayed and navigated via the front-panel display. Here we see it partnered with Pro-Ject’s Head Box S ($159) and the extremely lightweight and comfortable Hear It Two headphones ($79).

In his entry on Pro-Ject’s impressive DAC Box DS, Jon Iverson noted that the Sumiko suite showed an entire wall of the company’s cute but powerful Box components. Schmied gave me a detailed tour of the offerings. I’ve got three pages of notes on these nearly bite-sized components and every scribble is interesting, but here are the main points:

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jan 15, 2013  |  0 comments
Sharing the room with Cayin was cable manufacturer Tara Labs. No one from Tara Labs was present when I was in the room, but I did learn that the rectangular solid-core RSC Air series has been redesigned with new red sleeving. Look for the new Air 1EX interconnects with anti-corrosion coated copper braid shield, as well as other new products.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jan 15, 2013  |  0 comments
Zanden displayed their prototype 3100 preamplifier (est. $12,500). Projected to ship in March, this one-piece unit uses one 5687 tube for amplification, and another 5687 for rectification. An output transformer design, it has one balanced and three single-ended inputs, and a unity-gain option for home theater set-ups. Keeping it company were the Zanden Audio KT-120 stereo amplifier ($20,990), prototype solid-sate phono stage with five selectable equalization curves (est. $7500), Signature CD player ($22,000), and the company's handmade cables. The room set-up was one of many to feature TAD loudspeakers, here the Ref.1 ($78,000/pair).
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jan 14, 2013  |  0 comments
The earth's ecology may be upside down, but Kevin Deal of Upscale Audio displayed PrimaLuna's new DiaLogue Premium integrated amplifier ($3299) that way for a positive reason. "It has a laundry list of the best parts," he declared, handing me a sheet that touts oxygen-free continuous-crystal copper, silver-plated, Teflon-dielectric point-to-point wiring; Takman audiophile grade resistors, and SRC tinfoil capacitors in critical signal paths; and an Alps potentiometer. The DiaLogue Premium is claimed to have such a good auto-biasing mechanism that you can mix and match 6L6GC/KT66, EL-34/KT77, 6550/KT88, and KT120 power tubes in any combination or permutation you so choose, and a bad tube indicator in case your sonic Devil's Brew won't cut it on the particular day that you hope to impress your mother-in-law. "Call it 40Wpc," said Kevin, "but it's not underpowered; it's huge power." There's only one way to find out what that means.
Larry Greenhill, Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jan 14, 2013  |  0 comments
English manufacturer Chord Electronics is known for its sophisticated CD players, which use sophisticated DACs. Indeed there was a huge picture denoting Chord's latest-generation DAC, the QBD 76, at the center of the back wall. As my beat was amplifiers, Chord's designer, John Franks (pictured above), spent the next 30 minutes walking me through the design of Chord's latest amplifier, the SPM 1200 Mk.II ($14,000), a solid-state, 350Wpc stereo mode. The amplifier sits at the bottom of the short stack of audio equipment John is leaning on. He explained that the amplifier has a high-frequency, 2kW, switch-mode power supply, and uses an output stage based on dual-die, lateral-structure MOSFETs with a soft turn/on-turn/off characteristic. This allowed John to use a sliding class-AB design.
Jon Iverson  |  Jan 14, 2013  |  0 comments
JA noted the new Weiss network player at Rocky Mountain, but this was the first time I had seen the production version. There are two options available: with DAC for $12,262 or without for $9,083. Either way the MAN301 uses an iPad app for remote control, has a CD slot on the front for ripping your discs, and the need for external storage.

Since this is a network player and not just a music server, the Weiss can handle internet radio and podcasts and has a variety of digital inputs. Both balanced and unbalanced analog outputs as well as digital complete the back panel.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jan 14, 2013  |  0 comments
Lew Johnson of Conrad-Johnson announced a new stereo amplifier, which he considers priced in "the sweet spot for sound per dollar." The CP125sa ($8250 in base version, $10,000 upgraded) outputs "roughly" 125Wpc, and uses the same circuit as the top-of-the-line ART, albeit with less expensive parts in all but the most critical places.
Stephen Mejias  |  Jan 14, 2013  |  1 comments
Distributed in the US by April Music, the 50Wpc Aura Vita receiver ($1245) was mated with Aura’s matching Vivid CD player ($995).

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