Each year at this time, audio “loonies” from around the World head for the deserts of Nevada and a rendezvous extraordinaire. Otherwise known as the Winter Consumer Electronics Show, it’s THE place to be for those afflicted with that most dreaded of diseases; audiohilia. The atmosphere, the weather, the music and the gear are just the ticket to satiate the most ardent audiophile’s appetite. Good things on hand this year, so let’s have a look…
The 2013 International CES was the largest in the event’s 45 year history, with a record number of more than 3,100 exhibitors across the largest show floor in CES history – 1.861 million net square feet of exhibit space – and drawing a record of more than 153,000 attendees.
I have been going to audio shows (like the CES) for over thirty years and have heard innumerable speakers and audio systems. I’ve traveled to manufacturer’s facilities, visited factory reps, distributors and countless private systems, listening to speakers in all of them. You’d think after all those encounters that I would found a mix of qualities that would define a loudspeaker so close to perfection that it would satisfy the two seemingly disparate qualities of resolution and tonal accuracy. Well, I can count on one hand the times I thought one had come very, very close. As of today I have to use my second hand.
When it’s right you know it. It doesn’t take hours of careful listening to recognize exceptional sound. In my case all it took was opening to door to a suite at CES to know this was something special. It was an instantaneous recognition that there’s something amazing here, a sound so “right” that it is immediately captivating. I was lucky; the seat front row center was available.
Not sure exactly how long I sat there, several songs for sure; I truly was lost in the moment (and I can assure this never happens at CES). “Hi, Galen!” Took me a second to come back to reality after my total immersion in rapture (you know the feeling), it was an old friend I knew from his association with another manufacturer I represented. “What do you think of the system?” he asked. It took me a second to respond as I thought about a description, but one word was all that came to mind – remarkable.
The speakers were YG Acoustics, a brand that has been the recipient of countless awards and accolades from reviewers across the globe and after my experience, you can add my name to their fan base. So impressed was I that we’ve added the line, and I can’t wait for our first units to arrive. Welcome TG Acoustics to Galen Carol Audio!
We’ll surely be writing more about these amazing speakers soon, but limited space in this issue only permits a brief tease, but you’ll want to know more, definitely. In the mean time, here are few review excerpts to whet your appetite!
From his review of the Carmel, Phil Gold writes for the webzine, Enjoy The Music: “I am surprised at each listening session just how freely music flows from it. This is not just a result of its superb linearity, but also a direct result of the way it reproduces bass.” “Bass has amazing speed and articulation. It’s as clean as a whistle with not a trace of the boominess that afflicts so many large speakers. A bass line is as focused and well pitched as anything in the midrange.” “It is quite the best treble I have ever heard in my house, and as with the bass, it’s superbly integrated with the midrange.” “…its immediacy, tonal accuracy, resolution, speed and imaging are simply astonishing, even by the highest standards. There is no way this pair of speakers is going back to the State of Colorado where it was born. I’m addicted.” “This magic is repeated whatever disc you play. The dynamics are so great, the string tones so realistic, the sound so full of detail and harmonic accuracy, the listener is immediately transported.” “…the closest I have ever heard to Rubinstein’s sound as I remember it from the half dozen times I heard him in the concert hall. Everything is here, power, grandeur, sparkling treble, deep bass runs, the Carmel reveals it all.” “That the Carmel belongs in the reference class is unquestionable. More than that, I have selected it to be my new reference.”
Chris Martens comments in his review for The Absolute Sound: “Let me just come right out and say it: the YG Carmel is hands down the most accomplished loudspeaker I’ve ever had in my home…” “The sense of place, of actually being present at the moment of the performance, is so convincingly rendered through the Carmels that you may feel almost as though you’ve stepped into a musical time machine…” “I found the Carmels produced much wider and deeper soundstages than any speaker I’ve yet had in my listening room…” “…that’s the most amazing thing I ever heard from any hi-fi system.”
And in 10 AudioJerry Seigel talks about his experience with the Kipod: “For more than a year, over many hundreds of listening hours, I have found no fault. None.” “The Kipods are the highest resolution speakers I have heard in my room…” “The YG Acoustics crossover technology, where both the phase and amplitude are optimized, is – audibly – perfect.” “This is the ideal marriage of art and science.” “The sound stage, that illusion of a discernable and realistic performance space, is as solid, stable, deep, wide, tall and huge as from any speaker made today.” “There is no ambiguity at the start of notes, which are often startling in both their realism and clarity.” “This is a step above “reference-grade”, which is simply the current state-of-the-art.”
Shunyata debuted several new offerings at this year’s show. First up, the awesome Hydra Typhon. This model partners the Hydra Triton, further enhancing that units’ already stellar performance. I’ve yet to receive my first sample, but will be soon. I’m really jazzed about it as the reports from others have been super positive. $4995.
The new Viper ZiTron power cable, at just $595, brings ZiTron technology and performance to a much lower price point than ever before (previously the $1000 Cobra ZiTron was the least expensive cable offering this technology), making it a really exciting introduction. The Viper ZiTron is a large gauge cable, but it’s still quite flexible and is available in both 15A and 20A versions, suitable for any component including Hydra power conditioners. Our first cables arrived just a few days prior to press, so they’re still breaking in, but initial listening impressions are really positive. We’ll have details by the time you read, so call.
An all new conditioner, the Hydra AV, is the perfect choice for anyone needing a high quality line conditioner but lacking space on their rack (a line conditioner should always be treated as a component with regards to placement). The outlets are top mounted and the unit includes Shunyata’s stainless spikes making it suitable for floor placement, such as the limited confines behind a rack. The Hydra AV offers Talos-level performance and includes eight outlets. $2995
The Venom PS-8 Power Strip (announced but not shown) adds flexibility to any Shunyata power line conditioner with its eight additional outlets. The Venom PS-8 can also be used on its own and updated later with the Venom Defender plug in module that adds noise filtration and surge protection. The PS-8 will be shipping shortly and priced at $595. The Venom Defender plug in module is $195.
Another power cord has been added to the phenomenally popular Venom Series. The Venom HC (high-current) power cord is a beefy, large gauge cable that is a perfect choice for any high current application (power amp, integrated or line conditioner) and will be offered in both 15A and 20A configurations. Priced at just $295, the Venom HC is a lot or power cord for the money. The 20A version is available now; the 15A cord will be shipping soon.
New speaker cable terminations! Shunyata will now be installing a unique threaded end on all their speaker cables. Into this threaded termination can be screwed either a banana or one of three different size spades, thus eliminating the need to send cables back should your needs change. According to Caelin there is no loss in performance with the new system and it has allowed him to design custom connectors to his specifications. In particular, the banana connector looked really well done, better than any other model or brand I’ve seen.
The new termination system makes changing the connector as easy as changing a light bulb. Sweet!
Late last year we received our first KWI-200 integrated amplifier and were immediately enthralled with this most remarkable product. After living with the unit long term, I can’t think of a single nit to pick. It’s fabulous! The KWI-200 has an incredibly low grain structure, which lets the music flow with an inviting smoothness and grace, leaving some other similar products sounding rough and aggressive. Soundstage is positively three dimensional with serving up a wide and deep musical panorama. Power aplenty here too, with 200 watts into 8 Ohms (and a staggering 400 watts into 4 Ohms) the KWI-200 sounds unforced and unlimited, even driving notoriously difficult.
ModWright have made the KWI-200 doubly attractive with the available options of an internal DAC or phono section. Both are outstanding in their own right and significantly improve function and convenience by eliminating the cost and complexity of additional outboard components and cabling.
An incredible performer and an excellent value at $4995. The MM/MC phono stage is an $850 option, the internal DAC add $1150 and offers asynchronous USB at 24/192.
- ModWright KWI-200 Integrated Amplifier
Intrigued by the over-the-top reviews, we decided to bring in the new tube amplifiers from Bob Carver. The Cherry VTA180M mono blocks ($7990) have received such accolades that they must be no less than miraculous. In the conclusion to his review in Enjoy The Music, Dick Olsher writes: “The Cherry 180 represents, in my book, one of the most exciting high-end product launches in recent memory. In fact, let me go even further: its high-power performance catapults it to an exceptional category - one of the most significant tube amplifiers of the past 60 years! The introduction of the DC restorer circuit redefines and expands the potential of a pentode type Class AB tube amp. Judging by its performance with the Omega planar magnetic speakers, I would venture to say that the Cherry 180 may well prove to be a definitive partner for the Magnepan planars. Furthermore, its price tag makes it look like a bargain in a world populated by super expensive amplification. Highly recommended, and I dare say, you’d have to be crazy or stupid not to give it a listen.” So, after reading that, who wouldn’t be tempted! Our samples should be in our hands by the time you read this, so give a ring for our thoughts.heir other products include the Black Beauty VTA305 tube mono blocks that output a whopping 350 watts apiece for $12900pr. The baby of the line, the 20 watt per channel Black Magic 20, is just $2399. expect our first units by the end of January and am looking forward to their arrival. Call us for a detailed report.
In late summer we received our first Aurender Music Server, the S10. After many enjoyable hours we can see why it has been proclaimed by many to be the best sounding music server available today, and possibly the best way to replay digital files period. The sound quality is absolutely stunning as is the impeccable built in quality. The user interface (available as a free app for both Apple and Android devices) is both simple and effective. But, you ask, why does one need the Aurender if you have a computer to play your files? Because it sounds better. Much better. Let’s see why.
A computer is designed to perform a variety of functions reasonably well, but isn’t optimized to accomplish any one task at an exceptional level. Think of the S10 as a purpose built computer designed from the ground up, to audiophile standards, to do one thing optimally; play music files. This starts with the basic mechanical design and layout, including a solid non-resonant chassis and enclosure, and a large, quiet, isolated and well regulated power supply. Rather than store and play files from a single spinning hard drive (like a computer), the Aurender stores files on its internal Hard Disk (2TB in the case of the S10) and caches them to its Solid State Drive for playback. Unlike typical PC or Mac Based systems, which use ordinary crystal clocks, the Aurender employs super stable (and very expensive) TCXO and OCXO word clocks. In addition, the S10 utilizes proprietary Field Programmable Gate Array re-clocking to virtually eliminate jitter.
The standard-setting performance of theAurender S10 prompted accolades from reviewers around the world. Chris Connaker in Computer Audiophile writes: “Widelab (Aurender) has finally made it cool to bring a computer into the listening room. In fact the Aurender S10meets or exceeds so many audiophile and music aficionado requirements that it’s the Computer Audiophile Product Of The Year 2011.” On Soundstage!, Vade Forester notes: “What most impressed me about the Aurender S10 was that it made recorded music sound more real and involving – and more beautiful. If digital sound reproduction has left you cold, you ought to give the Aurender S10 a listen. After hearing it, a good friend who has remained a staunch analog holdout observed that perhaps it was time to consider a digital system. A Reviewer’s Choice Award is a no-brainer, but I think it deserves to be a Recommended Reference Component. In my view, the Aurender S10 advances the state of the digital art. Soundstage! also honored the Aurender S10 with Product Of The Year, an award presented to the product considered to be the best of its kind, for 2012.
Given the technology, performance, features and construction quality, the asking price of $6990 seems like a bargain. Once you hear it, I’m sure you’ll agree, this really is a ground breaking digital component. For a limited time, free shipping and a free iPad are included with every Aurender purchase.
Aurender announced a new addition to the line at CES. Slated for arrival in the spring, the W20 will feature two internal HDDs for a total storage capacity of at least 6TB and a unique LiFe battery powers the audio components to completely eliminate noise and jitter from AC power sources. The W20 can be synchronized using a Master Word Clock and also supports dual-wire mode) 2 x AES/EBU).
The exact price hasn’t been set, but expect somewhere in the range of $15000. At CES a number of the very best sounding systems employed the Aurender S10.
- Aurender S10 Music Server
The new 818 Master Reference S/PDIF coaxial digital cable is the latest digital cable from Chris Sommovigo. The 818 enjoys some trickle-down features from Stereolab’s super-reference Tombo TRØN digital interconnect. 818 introduces the evolution of QuieTex to the old XV-Ultra form to create a world-class digital cable that provides ‘Next Generation” performance in a cable that proves to be a substantial upgrade from both the Black Cat Silverstar-75 and the old XV-Ultra format.
A strict 75Ω impedance characteristic over a very wide band of frequencies, combined with a very wide-band (5+ GHz) 75Ω BNC ensures truly excellent VSWR performance for a minimum of reflections. Our advanced BNC:RCA adapters (included with each cable) make the transition from BNC to RCA as painless as possible, for those who require an RCA connector instead of a BNC connector.
The 818 is only part of the exciting new releases from Stereolab. At the high end the Master Reference Series include the 818 along with the 838 single ended interconnects, 858 balanced interconnects and 888 speaker cables. The interconnects start at $1500pr for 1M, the speaker cable is priced at $2500 for an 8’ pair.
The Black Cat Series of cables comprise the company’s new cost effective line up. The Silverstar 75! digital cable has already amassed a legion of enthusiastic supporters, and only $150 is one heck of a good value.
New to the Black Cat Series are interconnects and speaker cables. The Neo Morpheus line includes the IC interconnect cable priced at $195 for 1M and LS speaker cable for $275 for 2M. This series feature unique design and construction techniques employing the proprietary CuTube pure OFHC copper microtube conductor and high velocity Aeron insulator.
The Lectra Line cables include the IC interconnects for $295, 1M and the LS speaker cables which go for $495, 2M. This series takes the basic construct for NeoMorpheus and upgrade it with a pure silver (99.999%) solid-core inner conductor and high velocity Aeron insulator.These new cables are only just arriving, and we have some burning in on the Hagerman Fry Baby, so we’ll have more detail soon. If they offer anything like the price/performance ratio we see in the Silverstar 75, they’ll be killers!
- Stereolab 818 Master Reference Digital Cable
- Black Cat Silverstar 75! Digital Cable
Always good to see Ken Stevens at CES and this year he had the prototype of a new amplifier in play. The JL-5 brings the wonderful performance this line is known for to a new price point, just 10k. That buys you 100 watts per channel of triode tube power from KT-120 output tubes (the tubes are run at only a fraction of their rated power, making for greatly extended life expectancy). The bias is set automatically. The unit on display was a prototype, but still sounded excellent. It was housed in a larger JL-2 chassis, the JL-5 will be about 30% smaller.
Ken is still tweaking, so even better performance can be anticipated, but as it was the JL-5 made the Wilson Audio Sasha’s sound better than anywhere else at the show I heard them. There is also talk of a Signature version of the JL-5 to be priced at $12K. (photo courtesy of Stereophile)
Late fall brought the arrival of the new tube line stage preamplifier from Zesto Audio, the Leto. This was an exciting introduction for us as we’ve been smitten with their wonderful Andros phono preamp (if you’re into analog you’ve no doubt read the numerous and positively glowing reviews of the Andros), so we were chomping at the bit to get our hands on Leto.
Designer, George Counnas, has a long background designing for the professional audio/recording industry. In that realm balanced signal connections are critical both for reasons of minimizing noise and grounding issues, as well as component matching and interface. Though hi-fi systems aren’t nearly as complex as the typical studio control room, these design principles can still pay performance dividends. To that end George employs “true floating balanced” inputs and outputs for their foolproof ability to isolate one piece of gear from the next. And that means lower noise for a strong, clean and quiet signal.
What about sound quality? Describing a unit as “characterless” may seem an insult, but in the case of the Leto it’s a strong compliment. Counnas’ design philosophy looks to provide a neutral and honest product that neither adds nor subtracts from the original signal. There are some that may prefer a “less honest” portrayal to counter system weaknesses or imbalance, but for those seeking the musical truth, the Leto will be your savior.
Robert Levi writes for Positive Feedback: What a jewel! The Zesto Audio Leto is a killer design to my way of listening and loving recordings, and may just be the preamp you will buy and keep for the very, very long haul. The Leto receives my highest recommendation.”
Call us today for an opportunity to audition the Leto. $7495
- Zesto Leto Tube Linestage Preamplifier
Just announced, the new Scout 1.1 turntable is an upgrade over the Scout and features a new aluminum platter and main bearing. It uses the excellent JMW-9T nine inch arm, outboard motor, and damped plinth from the Scout. The first units will be shipping soon and we’ll have a full report when they arrive. $1995
- VPI Scout 1.1 Turntable and Tonearm
Great sounding, solidly built and ultra reliable, Bryston products have become some of our most popular offerings. We were excited to see four new products make their debut at the 2013 CES. First up is the BDA-2 digital-to-analog converter. Priced at $2395, the new model builds on the incredibly popular BDA-1 DAC, adding dual 32-bit DAC chips and an asynchronous 24-bit/192kHz USB input (an oft requested feature). The BDA-2 features fully discrete, proprietary class-A analog circuits and two independent linear power supplies, one each for the analog and digital sections. Inputs include USB, RCA and BNC coaxial, TosLink, and AES/EBU. Input signals are re-clocked and re-sampled to reduce jitter. Both balanced XLR and single-ended RCA outputs are included. An optional remote control is available.
Welcome the latest digital player from Bryston! The BDP-2 Player/Server is a natural upgrade from the Bryston BDP-1 Digital Player and is intended for those folks with large music libraries or require multiple larger hard-drive connections and improved interface speed. The unit features an internal slot for a SATA hard drive (user supplied) so you can store music locally, eliminating the need for an external USB hard drive or portable thumb drive. It also includes NAS connectivity and UPnP/DNLA client/server support. Note to BDP-1 owners: The latest firmware upgrade allows for NAS connectivity support for your unit. Go to the Bryston website for the download.
The power supply has been upgraded to deliver over 5 amps (10 amps peak) and the motherboard employs a custom Intel Atom powered design for super fast load times. $2995
Though it’s been shipping for while now, the Bryston headphone amplifier, the BHA-1 made its formal debut at CES. The BHA-1 is specifically engineered as an audiophile solution for those who take their headphone listening very seriously. The BHA-1 is a fully discreet dual mono design which uses proprietary Class A circuitry. It will drive traditional 1/4” and 1/8” headphone inputs as well as fully balanced, and often less efficient, 4-pin stereo and dual left/right 3-pin output models. The BHA-1 is backed by Bryston’s legendary 20-year warranty.I’ve got to say, this is a remarkably good headphone amp, in fact the best I’ve heard to date. If you strive for honest, neutral tonal balance, great dynamics, solid bass control and the ability to drive balanced headsets, look no further, you’ll love the BHA-1! Also, if you haven’t tried a balanced headphone connection, you are missing an awful lot of performance potential. Check to see if your ‘phones can be rewired for balanced connection, connect them to the BHA-1 and you’ll be in for a shock!
BHA-1 review clip: “If I had to pick a winner here it would have to be the Bryston. It is a close match to the best in performance while offering superior versatility and value. It is the least expensive of the head amps here that support balanced operation, which I have found invaluable. Frankly I think it is underpriced and with the recent addition of balanced preamp outputs I doubt it will stay at the original $1295 for long. I predict a smash hit for Bryston.” – Phil Gold, Enjoy the Music, Headphone Amplifier Shootout.
Another product that’s been shipping for a few months but we haven’t fully addressed is the B135 integrated amplifier. The B135 SST2 pushes 135 watts per channel into 8 Ohms and 180 watts when loaded at 4 ohms. It offers with six single-ended RCA inputs, a pass-through feature, a tape loop, and a pre-out/main-in feature. A headphone jack is provided for those requiring monitoring and private listening provisions. A full function remote control is optional. One can add an optional internal DAC card or MM phono stage for even greater capability and convenience, reducing the number of components and cables.
The B135 SST2’s pass-through feature allows for simple integration into multi-channel surround systems. The pre-out/main-in connectors provide complete separation of the preamplifier and power amplifier sections adds additional flexibility. Gold plated five-way speaker binding posts and gold plated input and output connectors provide long-term trouble-free connections.
Three completely separate and independent custom power supplies with toroidal transformers reduce inter-channel crosstalk, interference, or interaction between digital and analog sections. Bryston’s unique ultra-linear input buffer results in a substantial reduction in noise floor and distortion. Each channel employs a completely independent power supply. Price is $4695.
- Bryston BDA-2 DAC
- Bryston BDP-2 Player
Few products have been as universally accepted among our customers as Stillpoints isolation components. Without fail, Stillpoints will improve the performance of your system, you just have to try them and you’ll agree. These products can literally be a transformative addition to your system. You’re guaranteed to hear your system in a newfound light, with dramatically better resolution, dynamics and reduced background noise (improved intertransient silence). It is suggested you start with the loudspeakers, working back up the signal chain, with full impact heard once the entire system has been addressed.
Stillpoints are more than just passive footers, such as cones or spikes. Inside each Stillpoint is a unique patented vibration absorption system. So rather than simply transmitting vibration, as a spike or cone would do, the Stillpoint footer actually traps and dissipates vibration. Here is a brief excerpt from the review by Robert Harley that appeared in The Absolute Sound: “When I heard the Ultra SS under the loudspeakers, I thought I’d heard everything Stillpoints technology had to offer. In fact, I wrote that the Ultra SS was the most effective accessory I’d ever tried. Little did I know that the Ultra SS was just the beginning. Fully loading a system with Stillpoints technology – the ESS racks, Ultra SS under the power amplifiers, and, especially, Ultra 5s under the loudspeakers – transformed my system far beyond anything I could have imagined. Whatever the music the change was always the same – hearing more music, more realistically presented, and with vastly deeper involvement. There’s simply no going back.
“Frankly, I’m a bit chagrined that I’ve been reviewing foe 23 years and it took me this long to discover the benefits of no-holds barred vibration-isolation technology. It’s a new trick that this old dog was thrilled to learn.” – Robert Harley, TAS
The Stillpoints ESS racks are amazing! At CES the company debuted an upgrade to their racks. The new Grid System replaces the acrylic shelves, providing better energy transfer to the Stillpoints pockets in the rails for more complete absorption/dissipation. Price is $390 each for 26” shelves and $370 apiece for 20” shelves. They also introduced a long spindle version of the LPI (record damping weight) for turntables with taller spindles (like some VPI models). In this design the spindle hole is drilled all the through the LPI, allowing it to work with spindles of any height.
- Stillpoints Ultra Stainless Steel
At one time or another every audiophile has wished for a wireless speaker system, one with true high end performance. Many pretenders have come and gone, none offering anywhere near the quality a wired system can achieve. Now we have a game changer.
The Xeo 3 wireless speaker system from Dynaudio offers true audiophile performance with the convenience of untethered operation. Simply connect any source to the Dynaudio transmitter, plug the speaker’s power cord into an outlet and you have full CD quality music virtually anywhere you like.
Xeo can be used with anything that plays music: your hi-fi audio system, computer, mobile phone, personal audio player, video system, docking station, network player, streaming client, TV, anything. Xeo frees you from set-up problems with amplifiers, cables and converters. Unplug and play!
The Xeo 3 goes for $2299 per pair. There is a larger floor-standing model, Xeo 5 priced at $4499. Both are available in piano gloss or satin finish black or white.
- Dynaudio Xeo 3
It was at last year’s CES that we got our first introduction to the Aeris DAC from Rowland; that experience convinced me to order an Aeris for ourselves, and we’ve been madly in love ever since. What is it about the Aeris that distinguishes it from other competitors? I can sum it up in one word, transparency. It’s simply the most transparent digital component I’ve heard and, like all Rowland products, the music emanates from an absolute black backdrop, a total absence of background haze or noise.
Like the Berkeley Alpha DAC (another long time favorite around here), the Aeris can drive an amplifier directly, thus eliminating the need for a preamplifier in systems with only digital sources. Used in this way, the sound is uber-clean and crystal clear, maximizing the DAC’s prowess in this area. Even so, some listeners prefer the contribution of a line preamp, and we certainly love the sound of the Aeris running through our CAT preamp or the new Leto tube line stage from Zesto Audio, so I can see both sides.
The Aeris isn’t cheap at $9995, but it’s a Rowland after all, and no expense has been spared to make it the best it can be. From the standpoint of build quality, it is without a doubt in a class of its own!
CES 2013 brought a host of new introductions to the Roland family, here’s the run down.
A power supply upgrade for the Corus was announced (but not on display). The Super Capacitor Power Supply offers the advantages of battery power, without the drawbacks. Price is $8200 and available in the first quarter of the year. Jeff tells me it’s a huge upgrade and takes the Corus to new heights. Anticipated March/April arrival.
The popular Capri preamp has undergone a significant redesign. Now the Capri 2, the upgraded unit features transformer coupled inputs (an expensive upgrade found in the more costly Corus), updated audio circuitry and a host of feature enhancements. The transformer coupling isolates the unit from noise and enhances resolution of low-level detail by reducing noise induced background haze. As always you can add in an optional phono card, but the Capri 2B now offers the convenience of a DAC card option. For $450 you get a digital section designed by the same group that devised the remarkable Aeris. While it’s not up to the Aeris level of performance, Jeff Rowland tells me it’s a superb DAC that easily bests anything remotely close in price. Carpri 2 is priced at $2995 and shipping now.
To partner the Capri 2, Jeff will be introducing a new power amp, the 125. The unit employs a new generation of the ICE class D module for significantly improved performance over the predecessor and added power, now 125 watts per channel into 8 Ohms. The amp will ship in the spring at a price of $1995.
More news on the amplifier front, Rowland announced two flagship products. The825 is a two chassis stereo design (main amplifier chassis which sits atop an outboard power supply) producing 400 watts per channel into 8 Ohms and 750 watts into 4 Ohms. The stunning 925 mono blocks now represent the top of the Rowland line up. Double the 825, the 925totals four chassis weighing in at 160 pounds per channel. The stereo 825 goes for $32k, the 925comes in at $58k for the pair. Springtime availability.
The new model 525 stereo amp replaces the 501 mono power amps. The digital design departs from the ICE module found in the predecessor, opting for a Class D module designed by the Norwegian firm Pascal. The 525 makes 250 watts per channel in stereo and can be bridged for mono operation, producing 1000 watts. Price is $4500 and expected to ship in the spring.
Great news for all those that missed having a Rowland integrated amplifier option. Jeff debuted the new Continuum 400 employing he same updated and refined preamp circuit found in the new Capri 2 backed by a 400 watt per channel amplifier section whose output doubles in power at 4 Ohms to 800. $9200, and shipping in the spring.
Robert Harley did a wonderful job capturing the inspiration and technology behind the Corus and Model 725 in the December issue (#228) of Absolute Sound. The cover and interior photography are beautiful, highlighting the jewel-like construction quality, both inside and out, of the Rowland gear.
Cardas pioneered the headphone upgrade cables many years ago. For years audiophiles have improved the performance of their audio systems with Cardas interconnects and speaker cables, it is only logical that they would desire the highest level of performance from their headphones. Cardas is proud to introduce the Clear Light Headphone cable. This cable is the least expensive model to employ their Matched Propagation technology cable. The Clear Light Headphone offers much of the performance advances of a Clear Headphone in a more price sensitive package.
Much like Clear Headphone, Clear Light Headphone is the latest design in matched propagation conductors from George Cardas. Its jacket is an intricate fabric weave that is both silky to the touch but also helps to prevent it from catching on clothing. Important because after all, it is one of the few Cardas products that you wear.
Clear Light Headphone is priced in between Cross Headphone and Clear Headphone, and is available with connections for Sennheiser 800, 650, 600, and Audeze, all HiFi Man, and AKG headphones. All are available in balanced, 1/4” phone plug, and 1/8” mini. Hearing is believing!
George Cardas has been researching in ear headphones for years. In doing so he found a number compromises in both design and materials. The result of the effort produced the soon to be released EM5813 in-ear headphone. I got a brief listen at the show and came away impressed. Anticipated arrival is April and we have them order. Price expected to be $425pr.
The Clear Series of cables now comprises an entire range including three levels of interconnects, four models of speaker cables, three power cables, a phono cable, USB cable and two models of headphone cables. Every one of these offerings offers excellent performance at its price point. They have all become extremely popular with our customers and have proven to work well in a variety of systems. If you are considering a cable upgrade anywhere in your system, call us to see if the Clear Series of cables would be a good match. We’re happy to arrange and audition.
- Cardas Clear Headphone Cable
- Cardas Clear Light Headphone Cable
Michael Yee, designer of the Phonomena series of phono preamps, has been working on a DAC for the past three years. Michael knew there were a confusing array of DACs already available in an overcrowded marketplace, and not wanting to produce a “me too” product looked in a different direction for the design of his product. And so his MYDAC II is totally unique, software driven circuit executed using a Field Programmable Gate Array, or FPGA. Think of the FPGA as a computer, which is capable to many tasks depending on the software being run. And so the FPGA allows Michael to program it to decode digital using his own algorithms. This solution also allows for updates to the code at any time in future, so there’s no fear of a DAC chip being soon outdated. Cool.
According to my friends at Musical Surroundings, the MYDAC II recovers low-level musical, textural and spatial information making for a very analog-like presentation. Introductory price is just $999, and it’s made right here in the USA!
- Musical Surroundings MYDAC II
Esoteric debuted a new flagship preamp, the C-02. It features a fully balanced, dual-mono compartmentalized design with five separate transformers and weighs a hefty 71 pounds! The C-02 utilizes QVCS (quad volume control system) and HCLD (high current-capacity line driver) technologies. There are three sets of RCA inputs and two sets of XLR inputs, along with two sets of RCA outputs and two sets of XLR outputs. A phono module (MM and MC) will be released in the future. Price $23,499.
The new UD-501 from Teac supports DSD 2.8/5.6MHZ file native playback by ASIO 2.1 or DoP methods or up to 32bit/384kHz PCM. TEAC also packed this unit with dual 32-bit BurrBrown DACs per channel and JRC MUSES op amps, dual monaural design, fully balanced XLR as well as unbalanced RCA outputs and a toroidal-core power supply. Both 2.8/5.6MHz DSD files are processed in native mode to properly convert DSD into an analog signal, and skipping PCM conversion in between. PCM files are supported to 32bit/384kHz. All for only $849.
- Teac UD-501 DAC with DSD
Jim Hagerman offers a number of very interesting and useful products, we’ll talk about two here, first up is the FryBaby Burn-in Generator. FryBaby is a compact and portable cable and audio electronics burn-in generator that offers a number of unique features that make it an invaluable tool for any serious audiophile. Fry Baby offers three selectable output amplitudes, two low-level inverse-equalized for MC and MM phono stages, and a third at line-level for preamplifiers, amplifiers and directly burning-in cables. FryBaby can be powered from either a 9V battery or AC power supply (included). You also get a break-in CD for conditioning CD players, an RCA loopback adapter, and binding post adapters. The FryBaby is a very flexible and low cost solution for all your audio break-in needs. Priced at $250, it’s an accessory that most every audiophile can afford, and one that comes highly recommended from us.
“While I am unable to offer any direct comparisons with other cable run-in devices, I can say that when used as directed, it delivers everything it promises—and in a BIG way. I have found it to be appreciably superior to any of the half dozen or so run in “discs” I have on hand. The benefits it brings to cables alone make it worth the price of admission.
“The significant differences post FryBaby treatment were an overtly more relaxed presentation, markedly more natural timbre, greater articulation, especially at both frequency extremes, and an overall quieter background. While intended for the “seasoning” of “green” products or cables, I want to point out that it made a perceptible contribution to products I have used regularly for extended periods of time, most especially cables. In fact, with some cable sets, I am convinced that I have NEVER heard their full potential pre FryBaby. Two thumbs up, WAY UP!” - Greg Weaver, Positive Feedback, Writer’s Choice Award
“I was in a shock, that was my first reaction. This is one of the best tweaks I’ve ever tried ... fuller tones; more refined treble; bigger/deeper stage; instruments with a bigger body; more air; better sustain of instruments ... only after two or three seconds, it’s so obvious that bass got more breath and freshness; bigger, deeper, wider and richer soundstage; more breath and body in bass; richer in the middle; warmer vocal; better sustain; you can feel and touch the singer who is here in my room ... the difference wa SO obvious and audible.” - Marko Pecotic
“The sound that came out of the speakers was in all aspects - BETTER. The color of sound didn’t change, but colors were richer and clearer. The background of soundstage was completely dark, so it was easier to see the musicians and instruments. The character of instruments has become more natural. FryBaby is a very recommended component! Each and every serious audiophile should own it.” - Robert Kocijan
“So far I’ve burned in two pairs of interconnects. There is quite a difference in the sound: improved clarity, more air, bigger soundstage, more robust bass, and improved dynamics. Overall everything is clearer and has more impact. This is a very effective device.”
“I really depend on these, as my recording duties constantly require me to ‘break-in’ new microphone cables of varying lengths - generally 10 to 20 feet! in length, quite a difference from the usual ‘audiophile’ 1 meter standard RCA interconnects! The long lengths really seem to effect the sound - starting as quite ‘muffled’ and ‘closed-in,’ but gradually changing (over the period of about one month!) to a very ‘open’ and ‘dynamic’ sound, which is what I am looking for. I don’t think that most of the ‘studio’ recording people are aware of this effect. Their attitude is more generally ‘wire-is-wire’ with little appreciation (that an audiophile would have) of how the passive components can radically effect the sound.”
“I borrowed my friend’s Fry Baby recently to burn in my Grover Huffman cables. These ICs had thousands of hours on them and sounded very good, so i was not expecting the excellent results i heard. Initially i did the phono cables and then the ones from the phono stage to the linestage and then the pair from the linestage to the amp. With just the phono cables burnt in, i noticed a bit more detail, but nothing major. After the 2nd set of cables i was hearing much more detail and a big improvement in everything! Of course by the time the 3rd set was burnt in that really made a difference. What i heard was way better extension at both ends and bloom and decay to die for. My soundstage grew in width height and depth. Overall I’m very impressed as i hadn’t expected such an improvement. What a fantastic item you’ve made with the Fry Baby!”
- Hagerman Audio FryBaby
A unit designed for power cords, FryCorder, is also available. Just plug the unit into the wall outlet and it sends the sophisticated burn-in signal (a combination of wideband noise and swept amplitude modulation) into the cable connected as well as the wiring circuit.
- Hagerman Audio FryCorder
I stopped to shake hands with A.J. Conti in the hallway, but lost track of time and didn’t get back to his suite. Turns out I missed the introduction of his new state of the art tonearm. A.J.’s latest offering, Superarm 9, is hewn from an ultra-dense Nickel alloy said to effectively control resonance and vibration. The headshell and armwand are also of special design, again to reduce the effects of unwanted vibration and resonance. Price is estimated at $14k.
For the first time in five years Audience is introducing an improvement to its highly acclaimed Au24 e RCA interconnect cables. The SE are made with ultra low mass, high purity and cryo treated tellurium copper connectors allowing for the passage of much more low level information which was previously inaudible. (see image below) For example you can hear much more decay and room environmental dimension as well as a richer sound throughout the full frequency spectrum. SE cable prices are $200 per pair more than the Au24e and upgrades are also available for $220.
Continuing to impress is the aR-6TS line conditioner partnered with the aU24 power cord.TS filters and aU24 power cord are optional upgrades to the standard aR-6TO unit and make for a whopping improvement in performance.
In his recent review for Ultra Audio, Doug Blackburn comments: “Going from no power conditioner to the aR6-TS was such a revelation that it was difficult to believe that a mere power conditioner could make such a huge improvement. If you think your system already sounds as good as it can, you might find it hard to believe what an Audience aR-TS can do for it. And if you’ve used a power conditioner before and heard little or no change in sound quality, well, I’ve been there many times with many such products. The Audience TS-series models are different.”– Doug Blackburn, UltraAudio
The S Filters are an option in all the Audience power conditioners (two, six and twelve outlet models) ranging in price from $1595 - $8995. When the S Filters are installed, the unit is given the TSS designation. Call us for information and special pricing!
- Audience aR-6TO
Allen Perkins of Immedia has been at work on a new range of component isolation footers. Strange Attractors address wide-band vibrational energy that adversely affects audio components. The energy, whether random or chaotic, transfers at high-speed into the Strange Attractor where, through carefully shaped aluminum and graphite, where it refracts, dissipates, and reflects off a sequence of boundaries. This puts the vibrational energy into a cycle of decreasing amplitude and rotating phase ultimately transforming it to heat.
The sonic effect of the Strange Attractors is a startling reduction in the noise floor, which accrues to greater dynamics, a larger and better-defined soundstage, and a musical ease to the performance that is both relaxing and exciting. They can be placed in the same position as the existing component feet, but we encourage experimentation of other positions as well. For example, placed directly under a transformer or drive unit may yield a more significant reduction in the noise floor. Additionally, significant resonant peaks within the bottom of the chassis are not usually found at the corner of the component where stock feet are typically placed. Alternative support positions for the Strange Attractors under your component may result in superior results, but always keep in mind the stability of the component when choosing where to best place the support. Three models accommodate.
We’ve been listening to a special Strange Attractor designed as a specific match for the outstanding Alpha DAC from Berkeley Audio and comes equipped with threads to match the inserts on the bottom of the Berkeley chassis. This tight mechanical connection optimizes transfer of energy for maximum reduction of vibration. Simply unscrew the feet on the Berkeley and replace them with the Strange Attractors. Instant sonic magic! Set of four retails for $595.
- Spiral Groove Strange Attractors
Two new models have been announced, Nefes and Sema. The Nefes was on hand, the Sema is a future introduction.
The Nefes employs two of the company’s proprietary 8” full range drivers and a pure Beryllium dome tweeter arranged in a vertical array and housed in an extremely rigid and inert floor-standing enclosure. The Beryllium tweeter is mounted behind an exponential acoustic wave guide for better time alignment and more uniform dispersion patterns.
Part of the key design elements of Reference 3a is elimination of a complex crossover. The main drivers see no crossover at all, and just a very high quality capacitor is used as the high pass filter on the Beryllium dome tweeter. This lack of component parts in the signal path insures a dynamic, fast, articulate and very coherent performance. The Nefes claims an unusually wide frequency response with the bass extending down to 26 Hz and the high frequencies reaching past 40 kHz. It is also very efficient at 95 dB and presents a very easy impedance load of 12 Ohms to amplifiers.
To further refine the performance of our new model Nefes - patented Surreal Acoustic Lenses for diffusing inherent driver cone turbulence noise and patented Magnetic Wave guides to purify the incoming audio signal are also used. Cryogenically treated, Teflon insulated, pure OCC copper conductors in appropriate thicknesses for each driver and copper input connectors are also used to ensure perfect signal transmission.
Nefes, and all Reference 3a speakers, are finished in a durable anthracite colored, suede textured Nextel finish. This special coating effectively absorbs sound and light for acoustically and visually silent cabinets. Price is for the Nefes is $9950.
Not much detail on the Sema, but the preliminary photos suggests the top section of the enclosure contains the two 6.5” and 1” drivers and is angled slightly downward, the lower section housing four 8” speakers is canted upward. No price announced for the Sema.
Reference 3a Nefes
Introduced here was the 32 bit M1SDAC. The new model features connectivity and control for up to 5 digital sources, and all are re-clocked and asynchronously up-sampled to 24/192 kHz! In addition, the M1SDAC features two analog inputs as well as a built in high quality headphone amplifier. Finally, the M1SDAC can stream your favorite music from any Bluetooth enabled device at up to 16/48 kHz via CSR’s apt X. Projected market launch is March 2013 with an anticipated price of $1499.
A new high end DAC was also announced. Like the MS1DAC, the M6DAC offers 5 digital inputs, all re-clocked and asynchronously up-sampled to 24/192 kHz. It uses a precision DAC array arranged in a dual mono, differential configuration and incorporates an ultra low noise power supply with choke smoothing and 32 polypropylene capacitors for decoupling and isolation. Price will be $2999 with deliveries beginning in February.
Debuted here at CES were two new additions to the Fosgate line. Jim Fosgate’s new tube preamplifier and full tube amplifier share the circuit innovations and industrial design of his other Signature products. The 9 tube, full function preamp combines a hybrid MM/MC phono stage will an all tube line stage. An ALPS motorized volume pot is controlled by the metal remote, also providing muting and power on/off. Additional features include ALPS input balance control, 4 inputs plus processor loop, and six position MC cartridge loading. Multiple circuit boards, 6X4 tube regulation, and large power supply storage capacitors for each channel provide wide bandwidth, low noise and excellent imaging. Anticipated price is $3999 with summer availability.
Fosgate’s new Signature tube power amplifier uses two EL-34/6CA7 output tubes per side for 50 watts of power. Large high quality output transformers, custom wound with a core of German grain-oriented steel, provide both 4 and 8 Ohm taps. Output tube biasing is easily accomplished using a simple on board system of LEDs. Input/driver stage uses two 12AX7 and two 12AU7 tubes. $3499 is the expected price point, delivery this summer.
Having read the multitude of over the top reviews for QuteHD DAC from Chord, we decided to bring one in for a listen. It has arrived and we’ll be putting some time on it before a proper shake down, so check in with us for our take on this little goodie. Did we says reviews? Britain’s biggest hi-fi magazine, What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision gave it five stars and awarded it Best DAC of 2012 (£900-£1,200) international specialist hi-fi bible, Hi-Fi News, gave it an Outstanding Product award and US giant enjoythemusic.com have also awarded it 5/5.
The QuteHD is a 192kHz-capable, multiple-input, USB DAC which offers a range of bespoke technologies taken from the company’s top line QBD76HD reference DAC. QuteHDboasts custom DA conversion technology and cutting-edge DSD-over-USB functionality. Fully future-proof - even for the most adventurous computer audiophile - the QuteHDis ready to take advantage of today’s advanced studio-master-quality music files. It can handle sample rates from 44.1kHz to 192kHz (and up to 384kHz on S/PDIF), allowing users to experience music in true high definition, along with the best possible reproduction of CD-qualitymusic. The QuteHD benefits from an advanced 192kHz-compatible USB input and can also bring sparkling clarity to any connected component with a digital output thanks to two additional digital inputs - coaxial and optical. In addition to standard PCM files, theQuteHD can also process DSD data using the latest DSD-over-USB support, making it the world’s first affordable DSD-compatible USB DAC. Whether using Mac OS or Windows OS, Chord Electronics’ own proprietary driver software is provided, removing the restrictions of current operating system audio playback.
- Chord QuteHD DAC
Triton Seven ($699 each) is a smaller (but not too small) tower, without built-in subwoofer. The Seven incorporates a pair of newly developed 5.25” drivers coupled to two 8” passives located down near the floor boundary for exceptional bass and the angled front baffle helps to assure optimum sound at the normal listening height. The combination of the two bass/midrange drivers in D’Appolito Array along with Golden Ear’s signature HVFR tweeter results in an expansive soundstage.
The Seven garnered huge praise from the audiophile press, post show with Best of Show (at the lowest price) bestowed by Robert Harley, Neil Gader, Steven Stone and Jim Hannon! Alan Taffel said it was the most significantintroduction. High praise indeed.
SuperSat 60 and SuperSat 60C ($799 each) is a bigger, more powerful L/C/R, and the bigger center many of you have asked for to go with the Tritons. With double the bass/midrange driver complement and more cabinet volume, it has substantially higher power handling and dynamic range and is fuller sounding with more output capability - especially down low. And, of course, more than just a bigger center, theSuperSat 60 is a great step-up from the best selling SuperSat 50 for L/C/R use with 60” and larger TVs. Available for shipment in early February, so place your orders now.
Announced prior to CES, the new RP8 made its official debut at CES. The model features a radical new plinth design fabricated from a superlightweight foam core polyolefin resin sandwich, a new tonearm bearing assembly, 24v low volt-age motor controlled by a hand tuned TTPSU electronic power supply, a custom version of the Planar 9 engineered hub bearing assembly and a precision three layer glass platter with “super flywheel effect” outer rim. In addition, the RP8 uses the new RB808 tonearm. $2995 without cartridge, or save $795 if ordered with the Rega Apheta MC at $3995.
We also have the new Rega Ear headphone amplifier. The Ear benefits from a completely new surface mount PCB layout based on the hugely successful Brio-R amplifier. Exceptional performance is guaranteed with the convenience of independent mute, volume control and multiple connectivity options to integrate perfectly into any users system. $395
Purchase Now - Rega RP8
Purchase Now - Rega Ear Headphone Amplifier
Several new products made their debut in the Music Hall suite. I was most intrigued by the new Creek 50A integrated amplifier. As its name suggests, the new model delivers 50 watts per channel of stout Creek power (80 watts at 4 Ohms). It easily drove the Epos Elan 35 speakers to very loud levels with some awfully demanding source material. At $1499, the Creek 50A looks to be a winner.
Music Hall introduced their own record cleaning machine in the WCS-2. The key feature is the powerful 1200 watt motor that is said to dry the record in as little as one revolution. Price is $699
- Creek 50A
Just released, the cost effective Dectet Power Center can handle the power delivery for everything in your system. The Dectet features three zones (high current, analog and digital) and ten outlets of unrestricted AC power. Filtration is handled through large core high permeability magnetic devices wound with heavy gauge OFC windings. The Dectet offers both common mode and differential mode filtering and includes an internal measurement system that automatically determines over/under voltage conditions as well as full surge and spike protection.
Each of the Power Port outlets on the Dectet are hand wired with a star wiring system that provides similar benefits to having individual dedicated lines feeding each piece in your high-end audio system. All for just $499!
Also new from PS Audio, the unique PowerBase combines both mechanical and electrical isolation in a support platform. The PowerBase combines a dual diffused isolation base with a one-way-gate power conditioner into an elegant, component lever product base. Use the PowerBase for source, control or power equipment. PS Audio says the PowerBase lowers smearing and grunge associated with microphonics of equipment, especially tube, turntables, CD players and source gear, for a remarkable improvement in the space between instruments, vocals and soundstage.
- PS Audio Dectet
Everyone loves the incredible Sophia 6SN7 tube, preferring it to any NOS tube! We’ve just received their new 12AX7, and the early returns suggest Sophia has hit another home run! Here’s a customer comment: “I own and have used both NOS and modern production tubes in my preamp. It is a high gain preamp and tube noise is a factor for me. In addition to the sound I think these might be the lowest noise tubes I have ever used in it. The tone is excellent and the tubes do everything right from high to low. Thank you again. I am very pleased.” J. The tubes are carefully graded by Sophia and come with a full one year warranty! We offer their premium A graded 12AX7 tubes at $105 each. Sophia also has a 12AU7 available as well, same price.
- Sophia Premium 12AX7
- Sophia Premium 12AU7
Since its inception over 10 years ago, REL subwoofers have established a name for themselves among the audiophile community as one of the best (if not the best) subwoofer for high end audio and video systems. We are pleased to welcome this highly respected name to our line of quality products. Over the years I‟e heard dozens of systems employing REL subwoofers and I can’t think of one where I felt the sub was the weak link in the chain, surely a testament to their fast, articulate sound and also their basic philosophy and design which allows for a seamless blend.
I have found REL woofers easier to integrate into a system than other subs I’ve used. I believe a prime reason for this is that REL subwoofers derive their input signal from the amplifier outputs. The “sound” or “voice” of any system is the sonic summation of all the components and reflects the signature of each and every component in the signal chain. Unique among subwoofer designers, Richard E. Lord (the R.E.L. of REL) understands this and his input circuitry requires the use of a unique high-level cable that allows for the full system‟ voice to be built forward into the final sound, joining with a REL for perfect system integration. REL is a broad line offering quality subwoofers starting at just $599 for their new T-5 and extending all the way to their Flagship Studio III at $9995, including many stops in between.