Astell&Kern has produced an audiophile ‘MP3 player’, that’s the wrong name because the AK100 plays FLAC and WAV files at up to 24/192 but what else do you call a pocket size music player that’s not an iPod? At £569 it’s not cheap but with a Wolfson WM8740 DAC, optical in and outputs and 32GB of internal storage plus the option to add another 64GB with micro SD cards this is a godsend to those who want high quality sound on the move. It has a 2.4inch touchscreen and the case is brushed aluminium with a knurled volume ‘wheel’ for easy level change. I want one.
LongDog Audio VDti DAC
This DAC is still at the pre-production stage, the declaration of operation on the front panel will probably go, but it looks rather interesting. It’s made by MCRU cohort Nick ‘The Wizard’ Gorham and is only the second British converter to accept DSD via its USB input. It’s also a fully floating design with transformers on in and outputs to provide isolation, those on the triode output stage are nickel cored for maximum resolution. Price will be £2,995 or thereabouts.
With the CD-N500 Yamaha has combined the two popular digital formats in the one box. A CD player and a network streamer that’s fully UPnP/DLNA compatible it offers the V-Tuner radio network and has a USB input for iDevices and PC connection. Control is via the NP Controller app and it supports FLAC and ALAC up to 24/192, price is £500.
Isotek EVO3 Elite
Isotek’s Keith Martin was busy demonstrating his range of power conditioners and cables but I managed to persuade him to model the latest addition to the range. EVO3 Elite will be third up in the power cord range and has seven 1.25mm cores of six nines silver plated copper in FEP insulation. This is wrapped in cotton and Mylar with an OFC foil shield and is designed for use with source components, price is £325.
Audiolab Q-DAC & M-PWR
Audiolab has built a more affordable version of its popular M-DAC by stripping away features to leave a single ended output converter with a digital preamp section that has the same DAC but a more approachable £399 price tag. The M-PWR is a 40 watt, class AB stereo power amp with SE and balanced inputs that has the same footprint as the DAC, it costs £500 and looks a lot better without the fingerprints!
This exotic CD player was being demonstrated by Alternative Audio via Analysis Omega ribbons and NAT tube amps to impressive effect. Built in Singapore it has tube regulation and output, ceramic isolation in the three legs, carbon fibre chassis and a CDR Pro2 disc drive sitting in an Alpha gel bed for maximum vibration damping. All the specs indicate that this is an ambitious product, as does the £19,950 price tag.
Cyrus has gone to town with its 30th anniversary celebrations and built a system that encapsulates all the expertise that it has garnered over that period. The system consists of CD XT SE2 CD with motor control stage filtering, Stream X2 with chassis improvements to reduce microphony and DAC XP+ which has been totally revamped. The two Mono X 300 power amps have new input buffer op-amps while two PSX-Rs in the system, for the DAC and CD transport, have undergone a power filtering change. The Anniversary will be a limited edition of 30 systems and costs £17,000 including the Hark stand, interconnect cabling and a bronze/black gloss finish.
Hi-Fi Racks Slimline Speakers
Built for compact bookshelf speakers Slimline is a solid oak stand with a top plate that’s 125mm wide by 180mm deep. Slimline is available in 500mm, 600mm and 700mm standard heights and comes in a variety of real wood veneers for £119 a pair.
Leading Edge Acoustic Panels
Leading Edge is Vertex AQ and Kaiser Acoustics, two companies that share a common approach to controlling vibration in audio equipment and supports. At Bristol they demonstrated Acoustic Panels which tackle room acoustics issues by calming air flow, this is achieved with panels that have thousands of small perforations on the surface and a cellular honeycomb structure inside. They demonstrated the system with two panels on either side of the room and another against the system and the result was pretty convincing. Acoustic Panels start at £1,200 for a pair of 600 x 800mm panels and these can be placed on walls or ceilings.
It’s been a while since Pioneer has taken a dem room at a British show but it has a range of new electronics to share with the world including SACD players, network streamers and amps. Att the top of the pile is the A70 integrated, this is a class D design that delivers 90 watts a channel from twin power supplies, inputs include USB and it has 32-bit/192kHz conversion courtesy of an ESS Sabre DAC. Tuning is by AIR studios and price £799.
My most unusual product of the show award goes to newcomer Logical Automation and their all in one Blu-ray/CD player, amplifier and multi-channel speaker system CyFi Cinema. Built out of high density resin in true formula one style it has 300 watts of class D power, between 1-12TB of onboard HDD storage and a four-way speaker system with a folded horn for good measure. Price starts at £4,000 and all you need is a power outlet to get it up and running.
DALI realises that to stay in business it has to make its speakers appealing to more than we audiophiles and is in the process of finalising a single box solution with a colour-way for every taste. Kubik can be used on its own or with a second slave speaker to deliver stereo, it has digital inputs and a Bluetooth APTx receiver. Priced at £1,000 for the master unit and £700 for the slave it is wall mountable and comes with a variety of coloured wraps. For those looking to install a serious surround system that you don’t notice the Fazon Micro 5.1 system features compact satellites with alloy chassis and wood fibre cones and a passive sub, satellites are £150 each.