CES: Highlights from Venetian Floor 30 – Electronics, Source Components, and Servers/Streamers

Solid-state power amplifiers,
Tubed power amplifiers,
Solid-state preamplifiers,
Tubed preamplifiers,
Integrated amplifiers,
Disc players,
Multi-format disc players,
Digital-to-analog converters,
Music servers and computer audio,

Aurender showed two new servers (or ‘Caching Network Music Players’ in Aurender parlance) for CES: the N10 ($10,000) with 1TB of onboard SSD storage, and the N100 (starting at $2500) with 120GB of onboard SSD storage. Note that a 1TB version of the N100, to be called the N100S is also in the works.

According to Aurender, the intended users for the N100, include “Latest USB DAC users, or a user that does not want to set up NAS.” Accordingly, the N100 provides digital audio outputs via USB only. The intended users for the N10, however, include “Traditional DAC users with S/PDIF connections, NAS users, or users whose own content can be fit in 1TB f storage.” The N10 provides digital audio outputs via USB, coax, optical, BNC, and AES/EBU.

The German firm Burmester showed its very versatile MC 151 Music Center ($25,000), which is a category-defying product that incorporates the functions of a streamer, a traditional server (complete with at least 2TB of onboard HDD storage, plus an SSD system drive), and a CD player/disc ripper.

The UPnP-compatible MC 151 can be controlled via a Burmester app and is designed so that it can directly drive power amplifiers without requiring a preamp of any kind (unless the user simply want to use one).

Cambridge Audio
London-based Cambridge Audio announced a new middle range of CX-series components along with a new top-of-the-range 851-series server. New CX models include the CX A60 integrated amp ($799), CX A80 integrated amp ($999), CX-C CD transport ($499), and the CX-N Network player ($999). The CX-N is a wired or wireless network player that supports Internet radio, Spotify Connect, Airplay, and aptX Bluetooth, and can decode MP3, FLAC, and WAV files at resolutions up to 24-bit/192kHz. The CX-N is built around Wolfson WM8740 DACs and sports a colour front panel display. 

In the higher range 851-series line, there is also a new Network player called the 851-N ($1,799). Think of the 851-N as a CX-N on steroids.

Chord Electronics
Many Hi-Fi+ readers are familiar with Chord Electronic’s superb Hugo portable headphone amp/DAC/preamp, but for CES 2015 the firm introduced a considerably larger desktop version called the Hugo TT, for Table Top ($4,795). How did Chord improve upon the already very strong Hugo formulation?

Well, the TT model provides both single-ended and balanced outputs, runs in Class A mode much deeper into the audio range and at lower impedances, offer significantly greater current drive capabilities (though the same maximum voltage swing), has twice the battery capacity, uses 10MµF SuperCaps, provides galvanic isolation for the USB inputs, includes a remote control and front panel display, and larger control buttons.

In every way, then, the Hugo TT is a Hugo writ large, making it more suitable than ever before as a digital preamp for use at the front end of a full-sized speaker-based (or headphone-based) audio system.

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