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CES

2010 CES Coverage 10

Good Experiences, Revisiting Reviewed Products, A Couple of Might Fine Rigs

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Ayon CD-5 (click for review)

Ayon Audio CD-5, complete with incredible Redbook sound

Ayon Audio CD-5, complete with incredible Redbook sound

Ayon Audio Orthos Monoblock Amplifier

Ayon Audio Orthos Monoblock Amplifier

Legacy Audio Whisper XD and LumenWhite Aquila speakers

Legacy Audio Whisper XD and LumenWhite Aquila speakers

Two manufacturers, which in the past few years I have spent considerable time investigating products, are Ayon Audio and Legacy Audio. The Ayon CD-5, which I have recently reviewed, is nothing short of spectacular. I am seeing more Ayon players utilized by manufacturers in show systems as the word gets out about them. In the exhibit, the Legacy Whisper XD has been upgraded with new bass drivers controlled by an internal 500W IcePower amp module; its upper end was driven by the Ayon Audio Orthos monoblock amplifier. The speaker now seems to resemble the higher-level Helix even more, only at a more affordable price point.

Together, these produced a powerful punch; the bass was reminiscent of subwoofers, not floor standing speakers, and the degree of detail was remarkable. The room was not conducive to a proper demonstration, as the quarters were too cramped, making the presentation at higher levels overwhelming in the bass and the treble overdone. I would not recommend users of the Whisper XD to opt for a nearfield listening position if they have the choice. However, the Whisper XD captures quite a bit of one of my show’s favorite speakers, the Evolution Acoustics MM Two.

A Couple Of Mighty Fine Rigs

Gershman Acoustics/VAC (Valve Amplification Company) room

VAC Statement 440 Monoblock Power Amplifier

VAC Statement 440 Monoblock Power Amplifier

I consistently enjoy the sound of the Gershman/VAC systems at shows. I especially enjoy the pairing of the Gershman Black Swan and the VAC power products. This year’s new wrinkle was the utilization of Gershman’s new cabling, including power, interconnect and speaker cables.

These manufacturers unfailingly assemble an eminently listenable system which dances with effortless, fluid music. I enjoy the warmth, bass presence, delicate treble and gorgeous mids. This is a system which captures much of the ultimate in an audiophile rig. There is typically a “standard” setup used for this system as I’ve seen it from show to show, with little effort to avoid room boundaries or treat the room extensively, yet the sound is superb every time. That means such a system could be taken to extremely high levels with proper positioning and room treatment at home. Compared to the absolute largest and best systems it is only limited in the reproduction of the scale of music. In terms of quality of reproduction it is among the best.

BAlabo BP-1 MkII Stereo Amplifier

BAlabo BP-1 MkII Stereo Amplifier

Zanden Model 2000P Transport

Zanden Model 2000P Transport

Again, noting that I did not hear every system at the shows, I did settle on what I would consider to be a rig which should be considered among the very best, and also among the most costly! Here, with pricing structure, is the system offered by BAlabo with invited partners Tidal Audio, Echole Cable and Sensory Power:

Tidal Audio Sunray speaker

Tidal Audio Sunray speaker

Control Amplifier (linestage) – BAlabo BC-1 MKII – $59,500
Power Amplifiers (2) BAlabo BP-1 MKII – $77,500 (each) -note: stereo amps@2 x 500 wpc each; bi-amping
DAC – BAlabo BD-1 $37,500
Music Server – Blue Smoke Entertainment systems Black Box $6,999
Transport – Zanden Model 2000P – $30,250
Loudspeaker- Tidal Audio Sunray – $178,500
Active line level crossover for bass only – Tidal Audio LPX – $18,100
Interconnects – Echole Obsession – RCA $3,800/3 ft, plus $300/additional foot; XLR $4,800/3 ft; plus $300/additional foot
Speaker Cable – Echole Obsession $6,100 for 6 feet, plus $300/additional foot
Power Cords – Sensory Power $7,500 each
Active Digital Cable – Sensory Power – $3,999

Isolation stands (2) and Amp platforms (2) – Grand Prix Audio -Stands – Monaco with F1 Shelves – $10,000 each; custom oversized Amplifier platform for BAlabo $4,000

Depending on cabling needs this system tips the scale at the $550,000 mark. Did it sound like a “million bucks”, or at least half a million? Well, compared to a lot of $150-200K systems at the show, yes it did sound quite a bit better. It had the makings of a “no holds barred” approach to audio. It sounded majestic, beautiful, powerful and exceptionally expressive.

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