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2012 CES, Part III

Tube Technology, Thorens, Vincent Audio, Benz Micro, VTL, Lyra, Tannoy / VAC, Basis Audio, Palmer, Funk Firm, Pass Labs, Grand Prix Audio, Burmester

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Tube Technology

Tube Technology is a new name for me. The race car engine-like “Synergy Carbon” amplifier is 100% hand build in the U.K. The Synergy is a single-chassis dual mono preamp, power amp, and remote control system. It is available in two formats:

Synergy PPS – single chassis remote control Pre-Power system (Integrated amp)
Synergy DMA- single chassis Dual Mono Power Amp

The circuit is based on a push-pull ultra-linear design, with six EL34 tubes per channel pumping out 150W into 8 ohms. The unit is priced at $ 18,000.


For those who are looking for something less expensive, some very attractively priced analog gear are on display at the Thorens room.

On the left, we have the TD 2035 priced at $5,000. On the right, we have the TD 2015 priced at $3,500. Both non-suspended tables come with a toenarm and a detached motors. The TD 2035 has a multi-layered lacquer plinth, and the TD2015 comes with transparent acrylic.

Vincent Audio

And for those of you who are looking for an entry level phono stage, the Vincent Audio PHO-8 may just be the right ticket. Priced at only $399, it is a dual mono two-chassis phono stage with both MM and MC capabilities. The MM stage is fixed at 47k ohm and has a gain of 40 dB. The MC stage is fixed at 100 ohm with 60 dB of gain.

Benz AMG

Over at the Musical Surroundings room, Mr. Garth Leerer, president of U.S. Importer Musical Surroundings, was giving me a full demonstration of the all-new Benz AMG (Analog Manufaktur Germany) Viella 12 “V12” turntable.

Priced at $16,500 with the wood trim or $15,000 without, the table is designed and built by Werner Roeschlau in a factory north of Munich. The Plinth is CNC’d in-house using 25mm aircraft grade aluminum. The platter bearing is made from 16mm hardened metal housed in a sealed hydro-dynamically lubricated radial bearing assembly.

The turntable is belt-driven, and the belt is hidden underneath the platter very much like the Oracle V turntable. It was explained that the turntable comes with a special tool which allows you to slip on the drive belt easily, and it does not slip off easily during play.

Below: The Viella turntable without the wooden trim.


VTL displayed two new products at the CES. First is the S-200 Signature stereo amplifier which utilizes VTL’s latest amplifier technology passed down from the MB-450 Signature Series III monoblocks, with a fully balanced differential circuit from input to output, and also includes the latest upgrades in components. The S-200 will retail for $10,000.

The second newest item is the S-400 Series II Reference stereo amplifier, priced at $33,500. The Series II is a completely redesigned audio circuit that is now fully balanced, and includes numerous upgraded components and controls over the previous model, the S-400 Series I. The new amplifier has been voiced with Mundorf Silver Oil capacitors, with significant bypassing using Teflon in the power supplies, all housed in an aluminum stereo tower.


The Lyra Olympos is one of my favorite cartridges of all time, so I was excited to learn that Lyra was coming out with an all-new flagship cartridge called the “Atlas”. It is priced at $9,500. Although not exactly chump change, it is still cheaper than the Olympos by $1,500.

Jonathan Carr explained enthusiastically that the Atlas is truly a newly designed cartridge built with the word’s first “asymmetric” design. The Atlas has a 12% increase in output versus the Titan, but at the same time the coil size has been reduced by 22%, giving an output of 0.56mV which makes phono stage selection an easier job.

Tannoy / VAC

One of my favorite rooms at the show is the Tannoy / VAC room. I spent nearly thirty minutes in the room listening to tunes with great satisfaction. Thirty minutes by the way, is a very long time for me to spend in any room in show coverage terms.

The room has exactly what was needed to get my audiophile blood flowing. We have the VAC Signature Mk II A preamp with phono option ($19,500) paired up with the Statement 450 Monoblocks ($78,000), driving the all new Tannoy flagship Kingdom Royal speakers ($55,000).

I am somewhat familiar with the sound of the VAC equipment given my friend David has the exact same combination in Toronto. The Statement 450 Monoblocks drove his MBL 101s to near perfection, so in my mind, I already know the 450s as one of the best sounding high power tube amps.

Combined with the new Tannoy Kingdom Royals, the setup was indeed something very special. The Kingdom Royal is the perfect combination of vintage elegance and modern cabinet design: Traditional wood veneer side panels are finished in contemporary deep gloss lacquer, while the smooth black satin finish baffle complements the gold trim and natural Italian leather. Each speaker unit weighs in at 120kg each.

Given the sitting position was relatively close to the speakers, I was offered a somewhat near-field presentation with very little sound staging, which is mostly a room limitation. Yet, the presentation was intimate, realistic and tonally correct.

I wouldn’t mind putting a pair of these Tannoy’s in my very own living room, that is if my piggy bank has enough coins in them.

Basis Audio

On display in the Basis Audio room is their Inspiration turntable, which was debuted in previous years. The unfortunately part is, the turntable was pure eye candy only. It was on static display.


Palmer is another name new to me at the CES. The Palmer 2.5 was making great sounds together with a Durand Talea II tonearm and a Jan Allaerts MC1B Mk II cartridge.

Priced at $7,500 the Palmer 2.5 features a plinth made from Finnish Birch plywood. The bearing is made from high grade Tungsten carbide ball, and the motor is an AC synchronous drive tightly regulated by a power supply.

Jonathan Palmer, the designer and manufacturer, believes in a holistic approach to turntable design, that is to say that it is inappropriate to breakdown a Palmer table by analyzing the individual components. The table should be viewed and judged upon as a sonically harmonious product, every component interacts with another so that the sum of the parts is exceeded by the whole.

Funk Firm

Funk Firm had a funky looking turntable on display with a purple glow. The Sapphire II retails for $4,995. The F.XR-II (F-dot-cross) tonearm comes in a 9-inch version with VTA adapter and the “Captive” cable which retails for $1,995, or a 12-inch version for $2,600.

Pass Labs

I was excited to visit the Pass Labs room, knowing that they will be showing off some very big class A amplifiers at the CES. The thought of seeing big amplifier gets my feet moving quickly. Knowing Pass Labs was at the end of the hallway, I rushed through some of the room to spend time with what Pass Labs had to offer.

Behold the mighty Xs-300 ($85,000 per pair), the result of three years of development work at Pass Labs. The Xs-300 employs two-chassis per channel, with the power supply in one, and the input and output stage in the other. They increased the heat sink area so that the input stage can be biased 2.5 times more in current, and they also brought in higher quality components than previously utilized. The result is 300W of pure Class A power housed in boxes heavier than a person can handle for sure.

Thankfully, the Xs-150 monoblocks ($65,000 per pair) was actually playing rather than just being eye candy. They were paired up with the SR-2 Loudspeaker which were debuted in 2009 at approximately $20,000 a pair.

As soon as I walked through the entrance, I immediately noticed the room was being heated up by the Xs-150. Make no mistake about it, these amplifiers do get hot and depending on where you live and what time of year, you will either have to turn up the air conditioning or turn down the heating.

How do they sound? Exactly as can be expected from a pair of high quality Class A amplifiers. They sounded effortless, grainless, transparent, open, dynamic and musical, and for that kind of money I’d expect nothing less!

My prayer goes out to the folks at Pass Labs that a door will open for a review opportunity. I’d love to see how they will stack up against my MC2KW. Last I look, my basement have the room for another pair of big amplifiers. “Honey, the kids are not going to college.”

Also on display were the XP-30 and XP-25 preamplifier, which I wrote about at the 2011 TAVES show:

Grand Prix Audio

Equipment rack maker, Grand Prix Audio, had their $19,500 Monaco turntable on display, together with Zanden Audio equipment and Wilson Sasha speakers.


I usually fear walking into the Burmester room because I am afraid of the damage it would cause to my bank account if should I act impulsively. This time, I was different. I was looking forward to seeing the Burmester 100 Phono Preamp.

Unfortunately, it was nowhere to be found other than in a product brochure. The Burmester 100 is supposed to have every Ying Yang you can think of under the sun, it even comes with an internal A to D converter which allows you to digitize your record collection. Guess I’ll have to wait a little longer.

The good part is I got to shake hands with Mr. Dieter Burmester.

New for 2012 is the Burmster 111 Music Center which is expected to ship in April. For $50,000, you get an interface which can be controlled by an Apple iPad that comes with the unit, a hard disk server with an integrated drive slot, combined with WiFi / LAN capabilities and multiple inputs.

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