EMM Labs MTXR
Even by CES standards the MTRX is a monster amp. They didn’t give me the figures but the CD cases are a clue, apparently the production units will be 4inches shorter, but still weighing 300lbs, each. EMM Labs blames the size of the transformers, chokes and caps for the scale and claims that the 750 watts will drive anything without compromise, the fact that they will deliver up to 90 amps would tend to back that up. Price is still sub Naim Statement at $130k.
ProJect’s Elemental range is designed to beat “plastic net turntables” that vinyl newbies are wasting their money on. The Elemental turntable, arm and cartridge is £149 and matching Phono-, DAC- and USB/Phono Boxes are priced between £60-£90.
Clearaudio Professional Analogue Toolkit
Vinyl lovers wanting to get the very best from their turntables might be tempted by Clearaudio’s new toolkit. It contains everything you could possibly want to set-up virtually any turntable to the highest standards, price looks like being £1,000.
Clearaudio Statement TT1i
CA’s latest tonearm is a parallel tracker with a difference, instead of pivoting from one point it sits on parallel rails and is magnetically locked into place while the short arm and headshell traverse the vinyl. This is a downsized version of the Statement arm but still comes in at $30k.
The headshell on this arm is thicker than usual because it contains the front end of an Absolute Phono stage. This 3.9 gram stage on a chip has no resistors and no loading because the distance from the coils is so short, it hooks up to a separate power supply and costs €10,000. The Absolute Phono is available for most of CA’s arms.
McIntosh MHA? & MB100
McIntosh launched its first headphone amplifier in the shape of the MHA100 or 1000 (they had not quite decided at the time). This has an autoformer headphone output and a speaker output both driven by solid state electronics. It has six output settings and X-Feed to create an image in front of the headphone user. Inputs include digital and analogue in balanced and SE varieties, price will be between £4,500 and $5,500 and the MHA will be launched in the spring.
The MB100 is a server/bridge based on technology from Autonomic, it has a terabyte drive and 128GB SSD and acts as a hub for any music you have on the network, or that provided by services such as Spotify. Price will be $6,500 and it will ship in Q2.
Ayre KXR20 & MXR20
Ayre is celebrating its 20th anniversary with totally revamped versions of its range topping amplifiers. Both KXR20 preamp ($27,500) and MXR20 monoblock power amps ($30,500) are totally new except for the chassis and transformer, I couldn’t get much more than that out of them except that they take on ideas developed for the 5 series, so trickle up tech then.
TAD D1000 & DA1000
TAD has a pair of more affordable, by its standards, components in the new 1000 range. D1000 is an SACD player/DAC at $17k while DA1000 is a DAC with variable output for $14.5k. They are almost identical except for the disc drive and a headphone amplifier on the DA1000. Both accept digital inputs up to 24/384 and DSD at 2.8 and 5.6MHz via a proprietary asynchronous USB input, and have balanced and unbalanced outputs. Their USPs include proprietary discrete I/V conversion and a “highly accurate master clock similar to that used in the flagship D600”.
At £2,800 the EVO3 Titan offers many of the benefits of the Super Titan at a third the price. It has two outlets for power amps each capable of 4.6kW and 20 amps, which should be sufficient for most amps. It cuts RFI by 82dB and has 112.5kA of protection. Isotek also launched a whole system conditioner called EVO3 Sigmas with four medium power outlets for source or pre and two Direct-Coupled outlets for power amps, it comes in at £2,400. The final element is the EVO3 Mosaic Genesis, this takes a cell from the full Genesis which regenerates mains for three low power outputs, combined with two Titan-lite outlets for amplifiers. It comes in a half width case and retails for £5,995.
Manley 25th Anniversary Neo Classic V
This wordily named monoblock was designed by Zia Faruqi who has moved to LA to work with Manley Labs but plans to continue his Tube Technology brand in the US. The monoblock has 10 KT120 tubes and is specced to deliver 500 watts, it certainly sounded rather good with a Music Hall turntable, Soundsmith cartridge and ATC SCM50ASLT speakers. A controversial choice of speaker for a tube brand and a testament to both companies.
Creek Evolution 50CD
A DAC with a slot, that's how Mike Creek describes the Evolution 50CD, plain CD players are rather tricky to sell. The Evolution 50CD has four SPDIF inputs, 2 outputs and USB up to 24/96 (class 1) but upgradeable to class 2. It has an in-house developed servo for the CD mech and balanced and SE outputs all for £950. An optional Bluetooth receiver is also available.
Creek has also released the Ruby module for the Evolution 50 amplifier, this has wireless connectivity, SPDIF and USB inputs as well as an FM tuner onboard and will come in around £500. Finally the OBH-21Mk2 headphone amp (£300) has adjustable gain for different headphones and will even drive loudspeakers, oh and it offers preamp operation too.
Epos K series
Luke Creek has taken over Epos and launched the K-series which harks backs to the brand’s birth with first order, minimal component crossovers. The K-1 standmount shown (£360) and K-2 floorstander (£795) have 5.25inch main drivers and a slot port for deeper bass. There is also an active option with a future digital amp pack. This bolts into the back and offers digital and analogue inputs, it should be ready in May.
One of the most appealing new products I heard was Eclipse’s desktop system TD-M1. Featuring one of the brand’s trademark single drivers alongside a NOS (non-oversampling) DAC and both standard and Direct Airplay this powered system sounded remarkably good in a typical desktop set-up. Its touch controls and £1,000 price are the icing on the cake.
Vivid G4 Giya
Dic at Vivid says that this is the smallest Giya he will make, but this is the third year in a row that I have seen a smaller Giya so time will tell. It stands a metre tall and has a 45 litre volume and given the low mass of the composite sandwich construction you can probably pick it up with one hand. G4 has a new lower midrange driver with a 50mm voice coil and 100mm cone in a 125mm chassis, the rest of the units are as seen on the larger Giya models. Price will be £21k and final production is expected in April.
Bang & Olufsen Essence
Bang & Olufsen have come up with a means of accessing your music files without having to touch an app or dock your phone. Essence is a simple controller that can be wall mounted or handheld and uses Bluetooth to communicate with a hidden box that acts as a hub for music stored around the house or in the cloud. It provides simple controls such as on/off, volume and (presumably) source in a battery powered, aluminium knob.
It’s designed to work with the company’s WiSA wireless speaker systems with more complex control being provided by the iOS and Android BeoMusic app. Bang & Olufsen CEO Tue Mantoni (above) explained Essence thus. “By applying our behavioural and ethnographic studies of how people live and live with music we have developed the simplest user interface available in the market.” Price will be £695 for a wall-mounted BeoSound Essence Remote and hide-away box, and £149 for additional wall-mounted or table top Essence Remotes.
HDTracks’ David Chesky is looking forward to a future where hi-res audio takes the home listener to see the Rolling Stones at Madison Square Gardens in virtual reality. He wants to drag file playing out of what he calls the Flintstone age of the present into an exciting new rollercoaster ride experience that everyone wants to enjoy. I like his attitude and I like the fact that HDTracks will be officially available to the UK and Germany this coming year. Controversially perhaps HDTracks has no plans to offer DSD downloads in the forseeable future.
Astell & Kern AK240
Astell & Kern has put the ability to play DSD files with native conversion into a portable device. The AK240 is larger than existing AK players and equipped with dual mono DACs which feed a 2.5mm balanced minijack output. It comes in an aluminium body and offers 256GB of onboard storage plus a microSD slot for memory expansion, price will around £2,000 in the UK.
Totem’s new mini monitor the Kin has a very simple crossover in a box that’s only 4.5inches square and 9 inches high, yet it sounds remarkably lively. It also works at almost any height thanks to excellent dispersion and great phase alignment according to MD Vince Bruzzese. Kin costs $550 per pair or $500 if bought with the matching $700 sub.
Cambridge Audio 851
The guys at Cambridge Audio were still standing on day four, which is quite an achievement for them, and were able to point out the new 851 range. This is the most ambitious electronics range from the brand yet, the 851W (£1,500) is a 200w/ch power amp running their proprietary class XD system with twin power toroids and Terrapin impedance buffering modules. The 851E preamplifier (£1,200) has the same impedance buffering alongside balanced and single ended in- and outputs. The final link is the 851D (£1,000) with optional upsampling to 24/-bit384kHz and second gen adaptive time filtering algorithms. It has all the usual input options plus Bluetooth and accepts PCM up to 24/192.
NAD M12 & M22
NAD has split its mighty M2 integrated and produced an as yet to to be finalised new pre/power combo. The M12 ($3,500) is a pre/DAC with modular input configuration via six card slots for maximum future proofing, USB and Ethernet are among the options being offered. The M22 stereo power amp differs from the M2 in using Hypex switching output stages and will come in at $2,500 in the US at least.
Auralic had a prototype bridge/streamer inside one of their Taurus cases. When it’s finished this will allow any DAC to become a network streamer because it converts a signal on Ethernet to USB output. It uses open source software so can be driven with third party apps such as PlugPlayer. It can also stream DSD, something that no standalone streamer can handle (to my knowledge) but which a number of USB DAC are ready for. Price is expected to be $995.
Primare Pre60 & A60
Primare has finished its ultimate pre/power combo and very nice it looks too. The Pre60 (€7,500) is a DAC, wired and wireless streamer and a hardcore analogue preamplifier. It has C-core transformers, balanced operation and discrete regulated power supply for the analogue section. Its DAC has a Crystal DSD converter and Primare have come up with an alternate means of sending signal to it from Apple devices. The A60 power amp is rated at 250 watts and doubles that into four Ohms, it runs Primare’s UFPD technology with switch mode power supplies and has high grade components throughout, it’s balanced and costs €7,500.
Resolution Audio monoblocks & BlackJack
Cantata Music Centre maker Resolution Audio were demonstrating a pair of prototype monoblocks at CES. Not yet in final casework but destined to inhabit the sculpted metal shell seen elsewhere in the range these are 100 watt units are expected to sell for around $8,000 per pair. Resolution has also produced a power cable dubbed BlackJack in honour of the casino on the ground floor of the Venetian where speciality audio is holed up. The cable has solid core copper conductors, no shielding and minimal insulation and is the closest thing to DNM speaker cable yet encountered in the power cord world.
Jeff Kalt has also been updating the browser based controls for the Cantata Music Centre, this now offers a debug feature, maximum volume setting or 5dB volume boost, and will shortly offer firmware updates. I’m told that firmware v2.17 will be available soon and allows the Cantata to display sample rate when playing via UPnP rather than elapsed time.
Now part of the Fine Sounds group and targeted at the entry level of that institution’s clientele, Wadia continues to offer great looking product at more realistic prices. The 321 Decoding Computer is a full width DAC built into a cast aluminium chassis with a glass top, it also has diffuser panel illumination in the custom car style. Inputs number five and include USB, analogue output is variable and sits alongside a dedicated headphone output. Technologically it’s a 24/192 converter with Wadia know how which seems a good deal for $3,000.