This elegant German arm allows VTA adjustment on the fly, azimuth variation, has magnetic anti-skate and offers variable damping. The bearing is an inverted unipivot that leans on its sapphire bearings as it traverses the LP. Prices start at €6,000.
Most affordable network player yet in the Marantz range the NA8005 (top of stack) has DSD and double DSD decoding, is a USB DAC and offers Airplay plus Spotify Connect for €549.
Arcam C49 & P49
Arcam’s US built amplifier range, which started with the A49 integrated has been expanded to include a balanced preamplifier C49 (£2,500) with six inputs and an MM phono stage, and the P49 muscle amp (£3,250). This is specced to deliver 200 watts but will double that into four Ohms, it can also be bridged for serious grip.
KEF Blade 2
The Blade has a mini me in the two-thirds scale Blade Two at £15,000. It has the same UniQ treble/mid unit but smaller bass drivers.
Replacing the 200 series this features a combination of tech from Blade and LS50 in beautifully finished rectilinear cabinets. Front baffle is a laminate with ally facing, internal bracing is lossy and they use flexible ports a la LS50. All three-way designs the Reference range consists of Ref 1 bookshelf at £4,500, floorstander Reference 3 £7,500 and top dog Reference 5 is £11,000. It was doing sterling stuff with Van Morrison’s Saint Dominic’s Preview and Arcam electronics.
Musical Fidelity Merlin
Merlin is a compact but serious system for the smart phone generation. It has a phono stage, Bluetooth, USB in and a headphone amp, and is specced to give 40 watts a side. There’s an ADC onboard and the speakers use BMR drivers in aluminium enclosures with ‘lumpy’ baffles designed to enhance dispersion. Looks good for £1,000.
Musical Fidelity MF200 & MF500
MF 200 is a refined version of MF’s MF100 headphones with a better driver and modified enclosure for £230. MF500 (£500, above right) has a 50mm driver, SE or balanced connection and both cables in the box. A matching amp is in the pipeline.
Amati 845 Parallel Single-Ended
Most outrageous casework from a conservative nation award goes to Swiss brand Amati’s 50 watt monoblocks, yours for €65k a pair. They also make a Nautilus style Passive Speaker for the same price.
Patrick Miller showed DAP800 a digital and analogue input preamp with USB, optical and coax inputs for £3,600 and a matching FBA800 floating bridge power amp. This produces 40 class A watts per channel from a pair of bridged 20 watt modules and costs £5,500.
Former Wadia Digimaster designer Jim Kinne has created the Comet DAC, it has proprietary upsampling and filtering technology, 32-bit volume control and in upgraded form can process DSD and 384k PCM. That alongside the gamut of inputs makes it an interesting proposition at €2,200.
Now finalised this network bridge is a powerful computer that sits between a network and your DAC, giving you high streaming quality thanks to femto clocking (an expensive upgrade for some DACs) and USB output that supports double rate DSD and PCM up to 32/384. Aries LE has one clock and a wallwart for $999, Aries doubles that with a ‘proper’ power supply for $1,599.
Lindemann Musicbook 15
A great looking all in one preamp/player the Musicbook 15 is a CD player/DAC with analogue and digital inputs, the ability to deal with double DSD via dual differential DACs and up to 32bit/384kHz PCM. The preamplifier stage is fully balanced and disc drive by TEAC, yours for €3,200.
Engstrom & Engstrom Monica
A tube preamplifier without compromise would appear to be the slogan, this two box design keeps the audio circuits in the upper box and everything else in the lower one, including controls. It has MM and MC, balanced and single ended inputs as well as headphone out in a chassis made of three sheets of aluminium per piece, price is a serious €30,000.
Wolf von Langa Salon
These remarkable creations house 15inch field coil drivers for bass and mid alongside a horn tweeter that is also powered. Von Langa was inspired by old Lansing cinema speakers but wanted body in the sound without horn colouration, so he had the drivers built in Germany and installed them in aluminium open baffles with acrylic panels to provide horn loading, then put adjustable lighting in the sides for ambiance. They sounded very entertaining playing Praise You by Fat Boy Slim, it nearly got Nigel Trump dancing! Price €350,000.
JPLAY JCAT Thrax/Kawero!
This system sounded rather good playing Tord Gustavsen, hardly taxing stuff I know but possibly all that room tuning and JPLAY run in streamer mode with two PCs must have helped. JPLAY showed its USB output card for €400 alongside Ethernet, eSATA and USB cables at €350 apiece, all of which are available at a discount to JPLAY customers.
Vertere SG-1 & SG-1 TPA
Vertere has finished its Standard Groove Record Player and arm and was demonstrating it to great effect via Bryston electronics and PMC fact.12 speakers. The SG-1 turntable (£12,500) is a three layer acrylic design with a pivoting motor and multiple decoupling points. The SG-1 TPA is a variation on a unipivot that puts a point in a circle of balls, it has a wrapped carbon arm tube and costs £1,800 with standard wiring.
The biggest panel that ML has made since the four box Statement has a 12inch bass driver in a sealed box at the front and a 15inch one in a ported enclosure at the back. The electrostatic panel is four foot high (1220mm) and its ability to render the texture and depth of male voice is simply remarkable. The Blind Boys of Alabama have never sounded so real, as you might hope for “somewhere under $100,000”.
The Strain Gauge cartridge maker has a new range topping preamp/cartridge combo, the solid state electronics offer four line inputs plus a stage for the cartridge, outputs are balanced and SE. The needle itself has a ruby cantilever with the penultimate SG5 stylus and the price for both is $12,900.
Kuzma ultrasonic record cleaner
Frank Kuzma has built a system for rotating up to eight LPs in a commercially available ultrasonic cleaning bath. Kuzma provides the mechanics required for the wash/dry cycle for about €800 and the customer buys a bath for around €500. A complete equivalent from Klaudio with dryer will set you back €4,000. As they rarely say in Munich “you do the math”.
New from Hamburg, Lyravox is an all in one, six speaker, 1200 watt class D sound system that claims high quality for maximum style and minimum footprint. You can have up to four optional subs alongside the Bluetooth, HDMi, USB and SPDIF connectivity and control it with an app or RF remote, oh and it usually comes with a CD drive, as you might hope for €17 – €23,000.
The K3 series consists of a CD, integrated amp and DAC at £1,250 each. Compared to K2 the amp has better protection circuits, new output resistors and a new mains transformer for a 25% price premium. It also has Bluetooth and looks a whole lot better in three finishes: anthracite, black rock and opium. K3 DA is a wireless DAC with two USBs, XLR and RCA outputs and AES/EBU input. As you can seenTufan is very pleased with K3.
Astell & Kern AK100 II, AK120 II
AK100 II ($899) has a new Android OS, 64GB storage, delivers DSD via PCM and can stream from a PC or streaming services. AK120 II has all of the above plus balanced outputs, the ability to download direct via wi-fi and 128GB of memory for $1,699. Both units can also stream losslessly from the Quboz premium service.
The Vario’s Angelo
Would you want this hoodlum in your living room? If you listened to him you just might, despite appearances this is a serious speaker that’s made out of machined, solid plywood – the cabinet is 42cm deep and over a meter tall so weighs 75kg. It has hardcore drivers, two tweeters and tonsils in the port, all for between €13 and €15k.
Resolution Audio Cantata m100
Resolution showed prototypes of the m100 at CES which is now ready to roll with a 100 watts from class A/B circuitry, two sets of speaker outputs, RCA or XLR input sockets and third wire connectors for earthing speakers that have this facility – Tannoy for instance. Price is $8,990 per pair.
French synth pop supremo Jean Michel Jarre has put his name to a range of distinctive docks and Bluetooth devices, we like the Aerotwist with BT and NFC (the donuts) but the Aeroskull HD dock is pretty mad too.
You have to hand it to the Italians, what a name, what a look. What does it sound like? Who cares!