Publisher Profile

2008 CES & T.H.E. Show Coverage 1

Featuring Acapella, Einstein, Wadia and more

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Wadia Digital (manufacturer)

Wadia Digital garnered the partnership of Halcro and Verity Audio in the form of the $18,990 Halcro DM10 preamplifier, the $22,990, 180Wpc DM38 stereo amplifier and the $20,995 Verity Audio Parsifal loudspeakers in their Venetian Suite. Cabling was via the XLO Limited Series LE-1 Unbalanced Audio Interconnect, LE-2 Balanced Audio Interconnect, LE-4 Digital Interface, LE-5 Speaker Cables, with an LE-10 AC Power Cord.

The beautiful shelves were the Grand Prix Audio Carbon Fiber expoxy chassis platforms, 304 Stainless steel support columns, 6061 T6 Aluminum support column closures, Stainless steel “True Vector” couplings, 304 Stainless steel spikes, etc. The 3-shelf Monaco Modular Isolation System costs $3,625, while the Monaco Amplifier Isolation System retails for $1,650.

The biggest little high-end audio news at CES was Wadia’s latest incursion into the world of iPod: the $349 170i “iTransport”. The first member of Wadia’s new “1” Series, the 170i “iTransport” is the first dedicated device extracting supposedly bit-perfect digital information from the ubiquitous Apple® iPod for high-end audio purposes. The 170i outputs in a variety of formats, including S/PDIF digital audio, analog audio, high-resolution component digital video and standard video. It even charges the iPod when running it. [Press Release]

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The new, $13,450 781i CD player was also introduced at the CES. It’s sound quality was reminiscent of the impeccable resolution of the Wadia, and in the case of the piano sound, a remarkable tube-like warmth and very revelatory spectral details permeated throughout the presentation. That was the sound I fell in love with when I had my 27 Decoding Computer, and that was the reason I pressed for an audition of the Reference Series 9 last year, which I bought (review to come). Throughout the generations of Wadia that I experienced, including the 521, the Wadia sound had always been one of immaculate balancing act in dynamics, tonality and flavor.

Wadia 781i

Weighing 55lb, the 781 CD/SACD player uses two DSP’s in its renowned programmable gate-array arrangement to feed the DigiMaster 2.5 upsampling software, generating a data rate of 1.4112 msps (million samples per second) at 24-bit resolution. The patented SwiftCurrent (SC-3D) technology enhances output impedance in its non-negative feedback I/V conversion, creating a zero global feedback, Class A throughput stage, while a fully regulated, separate power supply feeds the stages of digital processing, clocking, D/A conversion and output. The 781i adds digital input capability.

Halcro DM10 preamplifier

Halcro DM38 power amplifier
Verity Audio Parsifal loudspeaker

Aaudio Imports (U.S. distributor)

How much harmonics are there in a standard CD system? I really don’t know; but the Violon Mk4’s ($59,000/pair) ion tweeters dispersed so much sonic fragrance that I reckon I never heard piano music so rich in substance and lucid, transcending silkiness. The instrument was in sheer holography for the liberating dynamics, and it became a worshipped object from the surreal texturing. There was serious magic.

The rest of the system included five Fondato Silenzio Base and Isolation Platform ($2,700 each), two Isoclean PT-3030G III Power Transformers ($3,500 each), two Isoclean 80A3 6-position 80-amp Power Filter ($4,200 each), two Acapella High LaMusika Speaker Cables ($9,000/pair, 3m spades), three Acapella High LaMusika Power Cable ($5,000 each, 2m), two Acapella High LaMusika XLR interconnects ($4,400/pair, 1.5m), etc.

Congratulations also to Brian Ackerman of Aaudio Imports for his firm’s recent appointment as Lindemann Audio’s Official U.S. Distributor.

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Einstein “The Source” Balanced CD player, $15,200

Einstein “The Light In The Dark”, $10,900

Lindemann Audio
Lindemann 820 SACD Player

Lindemann 830 preamplifier

Lindemann 850 stereo power amplifier

On A Higher Note (U.S. Distributor)
Brands: Luxman, Vivid

Luxman is brought back to the U.S. market by Philip O’Hanlon of On A Higher Note, the U.S. Distributor. During the RMAF in October, as well as his visit to my home in early November, 2007, Philip also disclosed the development of a loudspeaker by Lawrence Dickie, the South African designer who was responsible for the creation of Bowers & Wilkins’ infamous Nautilus. This time, after 14 years, the designer will create a new design encompassing all of his knowledge thus far, a loudspeaker that will not only surpass all his previous efforts, and will require not the four pairs of monoblocks that the Nautilus demands, but only one pair.

The result was the $54,000/pair Vivid G1 Giya. Weighing 150lb and 5.5feet tall, the G1 Giya is 91dB/6Ω efficient, utilizes patented driver technologies based on tapered tube loading, a concept similar to that in the Nautilus of 14 years ago. The sound? With Luxman’s 50lb, 80th Anniversary commemorative C-1000f Control Amplifier ($30,000) and a pair of the, 143lb, 80th Anniversary commemorative B-1000f monoblock amplifier ($48,000) churning out a maximum of 250Wpc, there was no room for loose air and loose nerve. To say the air in the room was excited by the drivers was an understatement. Inside the Mirage Penthouse Suite, there was dynamics and coherency with extensions that was among the best I’ve heard. Inner details was among the most abundant and yet easiest on the ear that I’ve experienced.

For those of us who never had a chance to experience the B&W Nautilus, the Vivid G1 Giya was a dream come true: more advanced, easier to use, and a whole lot cheaper using only one pair of amplifiers.

The primary source of the Luxman/Vivid Exhibit at Mirage was a Studer reel-to-reel, running at 15 ips (inch per second) on half track stereo master tapes supplied by Paul Stubblebine of Paul Stubblebine Studio, San Francisco. Paul mastered a predominant number of First Impression Music productions, and it is only fitting that we get to hear the master’s blood and sweat through a pair of the Vivid G1 Giya and Luxman electronics.

Also on hand for CD music but now must take a second spot was the Weiss Jason CD transport and Media DAC system.

Per our host Philip O’Hanlon, two reels of tape constitute a single symphony, costing around $320 total. If you must have the best, these master tapes from the Tape Project will get you closer to the original performance more than anything else.

Left to Right: MQ-88 stereo amplifier ($8,000), CL-88 Control Amp ($6,000), SQ-N100 integrated tube amp ($3,000), D-N100 CD player ($2,000)

Left to Right: C-800 Control Amp ($16,000), M-800A stereo amp ($16,000)

The Studer reel-to-reel tape deck

Avatar Acoustics (U.S. Distributor)
Brands: AMR, Karan, Acoustic System

Darren Censullo of Avatar Acoustics imports a complete system showcased at his CES Venetian room: the $20,000 Abbingdon Music Research AMR-77 Reference Class Compact Disk Processor/Player, the $12,995, two-piece Karan Acoustics KA L Reference Preamplifier, the $20,995/pair KA S 450 Power Amplfier and Acoustic System’s latest loudspeakers. On static display was the transformer-coupled Music First Audio Passive Preamplifier.

The sound of the system was one of articulation and prowess. The Steinway piano played by Evgeny Kissin was airy with sophistication in tonality, an aspect the large-diameter midrange of the Acoustic Systems speaker was made to accomplish without breaking a sweat.

Bonnie & Darren Censullo, and Acoustic System’s new loudspeakers

Music First Audio Passive Preamplifier

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