The last of my CES show coverage topics involved high-end amplification components, which category proved to be a veritable hotbed of product development activity for the show. For this reason, I’ve expanded by coverage to highlight a baker’s dozen of new models (rather than my usual ten models), but even so I’m afraid I’m only scratching the surface of important new entries seen in Las Vegas.
Once again, my apologies to worthy manufacturers whose products I did not have space to cover. No slights are intended. Instead, we are simply trying to catch a good representative sampling of great products from what proved to be a very exciting show. Enjoy.
Aesthetix Saturn Atlas ECLIPSE monoblock amplifiers, $25,000/pair
At CES, Aesthetix introduced the latest and greatest iteration of its Saturn Atlas 350 Wpc hybrid valve/solid-state monoblock amplifiers, known as the Saturn Atlas ECLIPSE (because its performance eclipses all prior versions of the Saturn-series amplifiers). What make an ECLIPSE an Eclipse? Aesthetix adds exotics StealthCap capacitors, ultra precisely matched output devices, a chassis featuring a superior mechanical isolation system, and a very sophisticated power supply grounding system. The result should be very special indeed.
Audio Research Corporation Reference 6 preamplifier, $14,000
ARC is famous for its preamplifiers and the firm’s Reference 5SE was one of the most popular and critically acclaimed models to date, until it was surpassed by the superb but also expensive and elaborate two-channel Reference 10 model. To help bridge the gap, a new single chassis model was needed—one that channelled much of the sonic goodness of the Reference 10, which is precisely where the new Reference 6 model comes in. The Reference 6 uses a complement of six 6H30 valves and an all-new chassis said to help dissipate “electrical and mechanical interferences”. According to ARC, sonic benefits include “better bass control, relaxed purity and more dimensionality”, while further “improvements include a more grainless presentation, greater transparency, better speed, and more continuity across the musical spectrum.”
Bryston 7B3 monoblock amplifiers, $10,400/pair
Cynics will tell you there’s nothing new under the sun, but according to the US Patent Office, sometimes there is. A case in point would be the newly patented front-end circuitry used in Bryston’s ‘cubed-series’ power amplifiers, some of the most popular of which are the mighty 600 Wpc model 7B3 monoblock amplifiers. According to Bryston, the cubed-series amplifiers afford “dramatically less distortion at (the) input stage, improved common mode noise rejection, and a major reduction in EMI/RFI noise rejection.” In honour of these improvements, cubed-series models are also treated to “updated dress panel aesthetics with clean lines and a new finish.”