At CES, many companies set up shop in off-site hotel suites, making it more difficult to find and experience them first-hand. So it was this year with <A href="http://www.krellonline.com">Krell</A>, which shared a suite at the Mirage with SIM2. Among the items introduced there was the Evolution 555 Blu-ray player, the company's first foray into this product category.
Audiophiles know the name <A href="http://www.yg-acoustics.com">YG Acoustics</A>, even if they can't afford its flagship Anat Reference II Professional ($107,000/pair, <A href="http://www.stereophile.com/audaciousaudio/yg_acoustics_anat_reference_ii... in <I>Stereophile</I></A>) or the more moderate Kipod Studio ($38,000/pair). Both models are encased in CNC-machined aircraft-aluminum enclosures and consist of a main compact-speaker module and a powered subwoofer—plus an additional passive sub for the Anat—that can be purchased separately, allowing users to build their systems as budget permits. But even if you start with only the main module of the Anat ($33,000/pair) or Kipod ($17,000/pair), that's still some serious coin, and it doesn't get you all that deep into the sonic basement without the accompanying subs.
Most consumers would probably apply the word "stereo" exclusively to 2-channel audio systems. So you might be surprised to learn that "stereo" has nothing to do with the number 2 per seit derives from the Greek word for "solid." The word was applied to 2-channel sound systems when they first became available because those systems rendered a much more "solid" sonic image with more specific placement of individual elements (instruments, voices, etc.) than the monaural systems that had preceded them. Similarly, 5.1 surround systems are far more "stereo" than 2-channel systems.
As a kid, I remember visiting friends and seeing McIntosh stereo systems in their homes, no doubt the pride and joy of their fathers. Even way back then, <A href="http://www.mcintoshlabs.com">McIntosh</A> was a revered brand, and it remains so today, 60 years after its founding. In celebration of this milestone anniversary, the company has introduced its first-ever compact integrated audio system, the MXA60.
Many audiophiles love vacuum tube-based components for their warm analog sound. <A href="http://www.einstein-audio.de">Einstein Audio</A> of Germany understands this well, as demonstrated by the introduction of The Tube MKII 2-channel preamp at CES next month.
Turntables remain the source device of choice for many audiophiles who prize analog sound, but friction in the bearings makes it difficult to keep the platter spinning at a constant rate, which is critical for high-quality playback. One solution to this problem is suspending the platter on a cushion of air, an approach championed by <A href="http://www.bergmannaudio.com">Bergmann Audio</A> of Denmark in its new Sindre airbearing turntable, which debuts at CES next month.
Ever since <A href="http://www.oppodigital.com">Oppo</A> introduced the BDP-83, I've thought it to be among the best Blu-ray players money can buy—and at $500, it doesn't even cost all that much, especially compared with, say, the Denon DVD-A1UDCI, another universal player that lists for $4500. Now, Oppo has introduced an upgraded version, calling it the BDP-83 Special Edition, for a list price of $900.
CES spawns a number of satellite events, including T.H.E. (The Home Entertainment) Show, which focuses on high-end audio. Among the exhibitors this year is <A href="http://audience-av.com/main.php">Audience</A> with its new ClairAudient LSA 4+4 speaker, a mouthful of a name for a product that is said to provide an earful of great sound in a relatively small package measuring 17 x 15 x 12 inches (HxWxD).
In my never-ending quest for the ultimate in performance, design, and/or price, I came across the GA Star from a British company heretofore unknown to me—<A href="http://www.goldacoustics.com">Gold Acoustics</A>. This unique speaker is unlike any other I've seen, and while it certainly looks shiny, I can't help wondering if it delivers the sonic goods.
So-called digital or Class D power amps are often maligned as incapable of matching the performance of high-end analog amps. This has certainly been true of many designs, but <A href="http://nadelectronics.com">NAD</A> is out to change that perception with its new M2, a 2-channel digital power amp in the company's flagship Masters Series.
The history of recorded music is a long and storied one that is worth preserving for future generations. Unfortunately, the earliest examples of the recording arts are difficult if not impossible to hear anymore. Many wax cylinders and shellac discs are crumbling in archives, unable to be played because any physical contact with a stylus would cause irreparable damage. Even those that can be played often suffer from lots of surface noise and scratches that cause clicks and pops. And many are broken, making even the most careful stylus-based playback impossible.
In these days of outsourced manufacturing, it's refreshing to find a company that builds its own products right here in the USA. Of course, it helps if those products are high-end, high-cost items with no expectation of high-volume sales. Take, for example, <A href="http://rockporttechnologies.com">Rockport Technologies</A> in Rockport, Maine, whose speakers are hand-built for an exclusive clientele rather than the mass market in a facility that looks more like a house than a factory.
When you think about the components of any audio system, things like speakers, power amps, and source devices undoubtedly come to mind. You might even consider the room as a component. But what about the seat in which you sit to enjoy the music? Most chairs are not designed specifically for that particular endeavor, leaving you with a pain in the neck and/or back after extended periods, and some actually interfere with perceiving the best possible sound. To overcome the limitations of this "forgotten component," a Swedish company called <A href="http://www.klutzdesign.com">Klutz Design</A> has developed the Ballerina Sweetspot, a prototype chair that is optimized for just one thing—listening.