SIGNIFICANT NEW AMPLIFICATION AND POWER COMPONENTS
Electronics to deliver electrical signal along the path to its conversion to musical sound, with one exception, were evolutions of well-developed technologies. That new development may cause some confusion in the long-standing debate over the supremacy of tubes over solid state, or is it sold state over tubes? In addition, power treatment solutions continue to move toward boxes and cables that promise to cleanse power line noise without current limiting, long the bugaboo of filtration products.
Zesto Audio’s new Andros Allaso, joins the small number of step up transformers currently available. The diminutive 5-pound unit provides 40 adjustments, in both stereo and mono modes, on the “fly”. It includes 4 step up ratios/gain settings (1:4, 1:6, 1:8 and 1:12) and 10 moving coil load positions. It includes two ground binding posts to avoid hum. Priced at $2,995 US, the Allaso is distributed worldwide.
Tucked away in the ELAC room was an interesting power conditioning unit developed by Scott Rust of 512 Engineering for Tim Murutani, the Symmetrical Power Source. The 140-pound unit clearly contains some very large transformers. The product literature seems to reject the filtering approach taken by other power conditioners, suggesting that it rejects power grid noise purely through the use of balancing the phase of the AC signal, claiming that line filtering limits current delivery. Pricing is to be determined but the distributor indicated a price would be about $22,000.
Nagra’s only “new” product (first shown in Munich but now in production) was its HD Preamp, a dual mono, tube preamplifier fitted into two boxes bearing the classic Nagra Swiss crafted look, meter and switches. At $59,500 US or £54,900, it won’t be for everybody. Nagra is working on an HD phono preamplifier to fill out its HD line.
The Parasound room featured the Halo JC 3 Jr. phono preamplifier, due to ship soon after the show. With a manufacturer’s suggest price of $1,495, Parasound is bringing John Curl’s legendary phono design skills to a its most affordable level yet. The front panel is simplicity itself, with only an on/off and mono buttons. The back panel sports high quality XLR and RCA outputs and RCA inputs, a switch for Moving Coil or Moving Magnet, a continuously variable MC impedance control and a switch allowing three gain choices.
Constellation was showing two upgraded products. It’s Audio Centaur II mono amps ($80,000 the pair) are said to offer tighter bass than the original model. The Cygus Media Player/DAC ($38,000) has now added Roon. The all Constellation set-up was feeding a pair of Wilson Audio Alexia Series II speakers ($58,000) with an analog front end by Continuum Audio Labs, producing some of the finest sound at the show.
Korg, best known for its professional gear, was some newly developed technology, a chipset called the NuTube. Like a vacuum tube, the chip has an anode grid filament structure and is said to operate the same as a triode vacuum tube. Korg packaged several NuTubes into a prototype phono equalizer. The unit ticked some fascinating boxes—battery power and equalization curves. Korg also displayed a prototype preamplifier developed by Nelson Pass using NuTubes.
Audioquest’s power products were in line in several rooms throughout the show, nowhere to better effect than in The Audio Alternative room featuring VTL electronics and Vandersteen Audio Model Seven MKII loudspeakers and Sub Nine Subwoofers. Nothing says “power” like a pair of VTL Siegfried Series II monoblock power amplifiers. Standing between the Siegrfrieds and the wall was Audioquest’s Niagara 5000 (a Niagara 7000 isolated the front end) and a number of runs of its top of the line Dragon Hi Current Power cords and Hurricane Power Cords.