High End 2016 pt.3

The high end continues to get more expensive and the clientele are not getting any younger, but Harman had the sense to use the world’s greatest turntable (Rega RP10) in their Mark Levinson and JBL Everest dems at Munich. They were not the only ones to realise the potential of analogue to impress an audience as you will read in our final chapter on what is surely the biggest and best audio even of 2016.

Neodio has a new S2 version of it Origine CD player (€35,000) with B1 anti-vibration feet and a new ‘zero quartz’ clock, it has been joined by a matching A2 amplifier (top of page) based on op amps, with no global feedback and bipolar output devices, at present still a prototype price is to be confirmed.

Mofi has a range of turntables, phono stages and cartridges to complement its vinyl releases. Features include an AC synchronous motor, Delrin platter, constrained layer damped plinth and 10 inch arms, prices are $1199 for Studio and $1799 for the Ultradeck (above). Tim de P. designed phono stages start at $250 and MM carts at $199.

Joe Roberts did his best to convince audiences that progress in the field of audio reproduction had been less than spectacular by playing a Western Electric 11A theatre horn system from 1924 using VT2 ‘golf bulb’ triodes in a Silbatone amp. It certainly sounded relaxed.

ELAC has brought back its Miracord record player after a 35 year sojourn. With input from the original designer it has a pitch controllable motor with DC motor, an MDF and aluminium plinth and a carbon fibre arm. Price is €1,999.

Creek has a new Evolution 100 CD player (£1,350) with digital volume control, headphone out and a “powerful” DAC that does Bluetooth and has both RCA and XLR outputs. Evolution 100P (abovd) is a 110 Watt power amp at the same price with a class G output stage while the Evolution 50P is class A/B power amp offering 55 Watts for £800. Creek also showed the Ruby 2 digital module for integrated amps that has Bluetooth and an AM/FM receiver alongside digital inputs, Mike Creek says it’s the best tuner he’s ever made, so £400 seems a fair price. Finally there’s what might be called Puck, a streaming box with optical digital and minijack analogue outputs that allows direct streaming from a tablet or phone without a network, price will be around £250.

Aerix is a French designed all-in-one system with 360-degree upward facing speakers in the top and a down facing bass driver in one half. There are three sound modes: natural, relaxed or hyper and it plays CD, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and FM for €1,800.

FM Acoustics played some fabulous music on their X2 system (above) at around €500,000, and it sounded extremely good. Particularly impressive was the de-click and de-crackle facility which is now being added to their most affordable FM 123 Phono Linearizer (below) at around €15 - 20,000.

Wilson benesch has started to make speakers using Hypertex a coloured carbon fibre found in Formula 1. The Enzo red Act 1 Evolution P1 (below left) certainly looks pimpin’.

For the Libération (above right) Soundkaos has abandoned its solid wooden aesthetic and opted for something equally beautiful in copper mesh with a walnut frame, this conceals two 8inch midranges, a Raal dipole ribbon tweeter and a 15inch woofer all in an open baffle. Price TBA.

Sigma Acoustics Maat loudspeaker looked too big to go in the room but thanks to its 100db sensitivity and the presence of an original Audio Note Ongaku the sound is remarkably good, but at €100,000 one would hope so.

Hi-fi Racks showed the smallest support system I've yet seen, its desktop stands suit compact components and come in at £85 per tier.

We saw the Neat Iota Alpha in Bristol at prototype stage, now Bob Surgeoner has finished his smallest floor stander yet. Alpha combines an Iota for mid and treble with a bass system powered by a 5.25" down firing driver, price is £1,395.

The Geometric Harmony Congas from Greece are 360 degree, two driver transmission line speakers, nuff said.

Dynaudio has revised its longest standing Contour range with softer styling and a variety of design changes including aluminium front baffles, new profile silicate polymer cones that are thicker in the middle and have moulded-in dust caps and use the tweeter from the company's top speaker. There are three models, the 20 standmount, 30 and 60 floor standers which cost £3,750, £5,750 and £7,500 respectively.
 They sounded rather good on the end of some NAD electronics.

NAD has added the M32 integrated (£3,700) to its Master Series, a “true digital” amplifier it offers 150 Watts/channel, analogue, phono and digital inputs and has modular connections for future requirements. The M50.2 (£3,700) is a network ripper/storage vault with all the bells; wired and wi-fi connections, real time CD playback, USB and SPDIF outputs and Bluetooth atpX, it can rip CDs to 24/192 and accepts direct downloads of hi-res material.

Thrax made a fabulous sound courtesy of an original master tape on a Revox machine. The new Bassus active sub system probably helped as did the Lyra speakers (€49,500) and extensive room treatment.

Totem always makes a good noise at shows and its Element Fire (€9,000) range topping monitor reinforced that impression, not least by delivering extension and power in the bass that seemed way beyond possibility. Vince Bruzzese puts this down to the in-house, long throw bass drivers, but it still seemed to defy the laws of physics.

 

Graham Audio showed a prototype of its VOTU (Voice of the Universe, below right), a domestic version of the 3D speaker created for the Royal Opera House. They also had a new BBC style prototype called Flat 6, which is in between an LS3/5a and a 5/9 in size and has a 6 inch mid bass driver.

The Volya (above left) from Ukraine is a substantial, hand painted speaker with ceramic drivers that actually sounds remarkably good, or at least it did with a Mark Levinson CD player and ASR emitter amplifier. But all that decoration has its price, specifically €120,000.

Audio Note Japan has replaced its M1000 Mk2 preamplifier with the G1000. An all tube, two box design it has a new stepped attenuator for volume control, balanced input courtesy of silver wound transformers and a “large scale” shunt regulated power supply. Price is an eye watering $110,000 not including remote.

I caught Vincent Luke of ifi on the floor and he showed me the smallest widget yet in the SPDIF iPurifier, a regenerator, reclocker and galvanic isolator for Apple TV boxes and the like. It runs on a USB supply and will be available soon.

Mark Levinson unveiled a pre/power combo based on their range topping No.526 preamp/DAC and No.536 monoblock but at a slightly more accessible $20,000 per piece. The No.523 (above)  is an all analogue class A preamplifier with phono stage, six inputs, balanced dual mono construction and 2.1 operation capability. The No.534 (below) is a 250 Watt stereo power amp whose output is said to double with a halving of load right up to 1kW into 2 Ohms. On the digital side there is the No.519, a stream/spin/connect DAC/preamp that does just about everything you could want of a digital source including stream from hi-res services or a portable HDD, and uses its entire power supply for the headphone output, price is TBA.

Can you spot the wood for the speakers? Spaltart (below right) have come up with the cunning plan of using Tonholz (tone wood) to build apparently driverless speakers.

Burmester decided to go large in Munich and craned in the 500kg Concept 500 speakers (above left) with dazzle ship paint job, which makes them harder to spot in open water. It has two modes, audiophile as shown and party wherein the second bass driver is deployed and the whole side panel opens up to produce maximum fire power. Man the lifeboats!

Dan D’Agostino has nearly finished his biggest self branded amplifier yet. The Progression monoblock will be a bit smaller when finished but should still deliver 800 Watts for its $35-39,000 asking price.

Ayre has a DAC coming that does pretty well everything for $8,950. The QX-5 Twenty has 10 inputs including RJ45 for network streaming, it’s a Roon endpoint, has volume control via a digital preamp and/or its app can control volume on an attached preamp. It will be able to stream from USB drives by the autumn and has separate left and right headphone outputs or stereo outs in both sizes.

Kevin Edwards has had a busy winter if the slew of new Edwards Audio products is anything to go by. He has revised the Apprentice Lite turntable with an acrylic platter (£300), put that and a new arm on the Apprentice TT (£380, above) and produced a matching phono stage for MM and MC cartridges for £180. The MM1 on the other hand is a “proper” phono stage with fixed loading and higher spec for £300. There are also three new amps the IA1-R 50 Watter for £550 with optional phono stage, IA2-R has 65 Watts for £700 and the proper IA3-R (below) with a 100 Watts a side for £1,500. If that weren’t enough Kevin also has the C2/P2 pre/power (£450/£550) which takes the amp out of the IA2-R and includes a phono stage.