Morning was slightly overcast and a little rainy in Las Vegas as my companion and I headed over to the Venetian Hotel to start the show.
Since we needed to stop by the Consumer Technology Association office at the Sands (which is all connected), we decided to wander the Halls of the Tech Innovations Hall which was the site of 3D printers, wearable technology, medical technology and similar interesting gadgets and do-dads. This area is about as far removed from High End Audio as one can get and still be considered electronics. I was fascinated and confused like I was a kid in a candy store. Anyway an interesting hour of my day.
Eager to visit what I came here for….. real hifi, I headed up to the top floor of the Venetian Tower to see what there was to see.
NAD, Blue Sound and PSB were showing. The Blue Sound MQA encode/decode high resolution streamer was the heart of this demo. This rather impressive piece of gear incorporates a 32Bit 84khz Burr-Brown and some rather exciting technology that allows significantly smaller data packets to be, as they explained, “folded” for transmission and then unfolded for playback. If I went into the technology I could burn through my entire article, so let’s just say it works extremely well. Blue Sound will be the first to be streaming with this new capability. There is another I will talk about later.
Their demo included the Blue Sound MQA streamer ($1,199), NAD 375BEE 180W/ch integrated amp ($1,800), The Imagine PSB T3 Paul Burton transitional 5 way tower speakers ($7,500/pr). First cut was B.B. King and Eric Clapton’s “Riding with the King” blues cut. Overall it displayed excellent focus and extension with an impressive amount of bass punch. I was immediately aware of the miking used on the recording, which is both good and bad depending upon how you see it. Van Morrison’s “Moon Dance” was incredibly smooth for a digital stream, with excellent detail without any noticeable brightness. Bob Dylon’s “Don’t Think Twice” vocal was raspy where it was supposed to be and overall my impression was that the MQA was about as close to analog as I have ever experienced. I also want to say all the recordings were taken from master tapes.
Audio Alchemy, which I discussed in the CAS 2015 article, stayed with Andrew Jones-designed speakers but was now showing how their products perform on the ultra high end side by using the TAD CE-1 speakers at $27,000 a pair in the High Gloss finish. Like before they had their DDP-1 Digital Drive DAC at $1995, The DPA-1 400W mono block amps at $1995 each and DMP-1 Digital preamp at $1795. On static display was an AVID turntable, a personal favorite of mine.
Diana Krall’s “A Case of You” was delightful. Her voice seemed to appear from total blackness, perfectly centered and above the center line of the rather smooth and wide sound stage. Chris Issacs’ “Wicked Games” was focused with excellent layering of instruments and air. Nice to see reasonably priced gear used on upper high end speakers.
The Aries Cerat Ltd. room was next. Here was a room where great sounding gear seemed to elude common sense. They were showing their big tube SET mono block amps using 813 outputs in parallel for 65W of power at a budget busting $82,500 a pair. I have to admit the sound was superb. Their technology is also unique. They are modifying the triode to produce gain while reducing impedance. This is similar to what a transformer does in concept not execution, as transformers don’t reduce impedance. I should say they also do a non deluxe version of the amp at a mere $35,000.
The speakers on demo where the modified Synfonia Aries Special Edition, utilizing a Fostex woofer in a 3-meter horn enclosure, with a 4″ compression mid horn and a 6″ ribbon in a horn configuration. They had beautifully finished laminated plywood cabinets at $125,000 a pair price tag. The front end consisted of a laptop computer (cheapest part of the system) feeding the Kassandra DAC using 16 ladder stepped DACs at $35,000. Oh yes, also Kimber Kable throughout.
Sonically, extremely smooth with a soft buttery bass end. Overall rather nice. My only complaint is the system cost for the result.
I have noticed that the show didn’t seem as busy as I recall from last year.
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