PrimaLuna Dialogue Premium HP
Dutch tube amp specialist PrimaLuna showed HP or high power versions of its Dialogue Premium integrated and power amplifier. The new amps have twice as many output tubes as the standard versions so that they deliver 72 watts in ultralinear mode or 42 watts when set for triode operation. The integrated is also a “state of the art” headphone amplifier. The Premium HP power amp can be switched between stereo and mono operation, delivering 148 watts per channel in the latter mode. Both can be run with KT66, EL34/KT88 or KT-120 tubes and both cost about the same price in the US, integrated: $3,999, power: $3,899. When I went in the power amp was playing an solo acoustic guitar version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps, and sounded extremely good in a natural and relaxed fashion, unfortunately the distributor did not know whose version it was.
Crystal Cables Dreamline Plus
Dreamline Plus is the successor to the original Dreamline and a variation of Crystal’s top cable the Absolute Dream inasmuch as it uses the same monocrystal silver cored cable but has two rather than four conductors. Dreamline Plus is available as analogue and digital interconnects, speaker cable and power cable.
Crystal is also working on two new products which it hopes to have finished in time for the High End show in May. One is the company’s first amplifier which is based sister company Siltech’s Saga and employs the same Light Drive power conditioning system. This galvanically isolates the amplifier by converting AC to light and using a photovoltaic receptor to produce DC power. The Crystal Cube integrated will have a bi-directional RF remote with OLED display, produce 200 watts per channel and possibly be encased in carbon fibre but casework has yet to be finalized.
Crystal also had a prototype speaker in action, the Minissimo is a standmount built out of a single piece of composite aluminium/polycarbonate material, it is similar in scale to the Arabesque Mini but will be less expensive at around €15,000.
Krell is going back to its Class A roots but with a modern twist. The new iBias range of Krell power amplifiers is a whole line revamp based around intelligent bias, a pat. pending technology that varies bias according to requirement. Regular Class A runs at full voltage all the time which results in a lot of wasted energy, Krell’s system is claimed to offer only as much power as is required for the program material. It has resulted in seven new amplifiers with lower prices than their equivalent models in the previous range. The Duo 300 (above) is $9,500 in the US, its predecessor was $12,500. Part of this saving has been achieved with smaller casework because the iBias system means less heat sinking is necessary. There are two stereo amps Duo 175 and 300, two monoblocks Solo 375 and 575 and three multichannel designs Chorus 5 (5x 200W), Chorus 7 (7x 200W) and Trio 300 (3x 300W). The only Class A multichannel amps in existence according to Krell and I suspect they're right, though why you'd want such a thing is hard to fathom.
TechDAS Air Force Two
Having created one of the world’s most desirable turntables in the Air Force One Japanese company TechDAS has released a more affordable variant with “almost equal performance” in the Air Force Two. The saving has been largely achieved by using precision casting to make the chassis rather than machining. The Air Force Two retains the air bearing and vacuum platter of the One but has a new oil damped air suspension system. The new model accepts 9 and 10inch arms on the right hand armboard but can be equipped with an extra base on the left of the platter that will accept arms up to 12inches long. Price in the US is $50,000.
TechDAS also a moving coil phono cartridge called TDC01 with an “egg shaped” duralumin body and constrained layer damping, I think it’s the only gloss black metal cartridge currently available.
Constellation Argo integrated, Hercules 2
One of my favourite American electronics brands Constellation Audio brought along two new products to CES. The first is more of a new casework design, the ‘upended suitcase’ form of the original Hercules was apparently too radical for the market so the Constellation team has put this substantial power amp into a more conventionally proportioned box. Now it looks even bigger, at 81.2cm deep it’s one of the biggest around but thanks to the beautifully machined casework it remains elegant. Hercules II is available in stereo and mono forms, the latter being rated at 1,100 watts and the two channel version with 550 watts a side.
Those after something a little more manageable might prefer the Argo Integrated, this is a 125 watt a channel beauty containing half of a Centaur power amp and the circuitry from a Virgo linestage, so it has two balanced and two single ended inputs but adds the first headphone driver to be seen in the Constellation catalogue, price over there is $20,000.
I have to admit that the vinyl comeback was a surprise but the return of the music centre, that was an outsider at best. This may look like a seventies sound system but it’s not so antiquated, a close look reveals it has Bluetooth connectivity, CD player, AM/FM tuner and a turntable with three speeds and a “rubber platter for shock absorb”. All this for $399 including speakers, what’s not to like.
Astell & Kern AK240
Astell & Kern is capitalizing on its prominence in the hi-res portable market with the most ambitious player yet. AK240’s USP is the ability to natively decode DSD and double DSD (up to 5.6MHz), the latest must have feature. It has a pair of CS4398 DACs for dual mono operation and sits in an aircraft grade Duraluminium body, a larger one than the existing AKs but still portable at 6.6 x 10.7cm and weighing in at 185g, so lighter than an audiophile pressing in its sleeve. It also offers balanced output via a 2.5mm, four pole jack as well as conventional headphone minijack. The AK240 has 256GB of internal memory and a microSD expansion slot, price in the US is a respectable $2,400.
Wilson Sasha W/P Series 2
Wilson had the latest incarnation of the Watt/Puppy on display in one of the more salubrious off site hotels. The Series 2 Sasha W/P is a refinement of its predecessor which takes two of its upgrades from the mighty Alexandria XLF, these are the Convergent Synergy Tweeter and the alignment block. The latter replaces alternate spike lengths with 20 angle settings via adjusters to provide pinpoint time alignment of the drivers. The tweeter baffle now features Wilson’s X-Material and the midrange is formed in their S-material. Price for this best seller in the range is $29,900.
Bang & Olufsen Form 2i
Danish style meisters Bang & Olufsen have been plundering the vaults and come up with a revision of one of their most iconic and affordable creations. The Form 2 headphone was launched in 1983, now it has been updated with an in-line mic, 3-button remote and six colours for the highly flexible polypropylene headband. The Form 2i weighs 90 grams and comes with the same 129 price tag in dollars and euros, hopefully not pounds too.