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Audio Makers See Comeback In 2-Channel Market

NEW YORK – Audiophile companies said a reinvigorated two-channel market is prompting them to bring new products to market, and the rising tide has prompted British brand Cyrus Audio to return to U.S. shores once again.

“Great two-channel is making a big comeback,” said George Haight, product specialist for Kevro International, which is importing and marketing Cyrus to specialty A/V dealers.

Some of the latest high-end stereo products range from a $44,000 SACD/CD transport from Esoteric to a $59,000 turntable from Jadis, a $35,000 stereo preamplifier from Viola Audio Laboratories, and a $5,999 Cyrus Audio component that combines CD transport, DAC, integrated amp, and networked music streamer.

For his part, Kevro’s Haight sees an opportune time to reintroduce U.S. consumers to Cyrus. He cited “the reinvigorated two-channel market” combined with Cyrus’s focus on overcoming aesthetic drawbacks that have kept some consumers from buying the performance that they want. “That huge stack of gear with fancy lights and meters has become an eyesore for many people today,” Haight said. “In many cases, this has prevented them, for one reason or another, from obtaining the performance level they really wanted in their system.”

To overcome that challenge, Cyrus offers smaller half-chassis components that “perform as well as if not better than some of the competition’s gear that is as much or more than four times the size,” he said. “This allows Cyrus access to spaces and places in the home that full-size gear isn’t allowed in for aesthetic reasons or simply physically won’t fit in.”

Here’s what Cyrus and other audiophile companies are bringing to market:

Cyrus Audio, the premium British audio supplier, is returning to the U.S. again, having been marketed here briefly in the early 1990s and once again briefly about 10 years ago. This time the British brand is marketed in North America by Kevro International, which also markets Monitor Audio.

Cyrus Audio is the company formed when Cyrus management bought the company from NXT in 2004.

Most recently, Cyrus had been selling into the U.S. direct through a small number of dealers.

“We plan to bring Cyrus to market using a very-limited- distribution model using our network of independent reps and reserving the brand for the discerning upscale A/V specialists that will be able to properly show and audition the product for their clientele,” said Kevro’s Haight.

Products include CD players and transports from a suggested $1,499 to $1,999, integrated amps from $1,699- $3,699, preamps and DACs from $2,599 to $5,399, and power amps from $2,099 to $5,299.

The brand has also developed six networked streaming devices to stream music from PCs or NAS drives. They consist of the $2,099-suggested Stream X2 for addition to existing stereo systems, the $2,499 Stream Xa streamer/ DAC, $3,599 Stream XP2 QX streamer/DAC/preamplifier, the $1,999 Streamline 2 streamer/DAC/ integrated amp, and the $4,499 Lyric 05 and $5,999 Lyric 09. Both of those models combine streamer, DAC, integrated amp, and CD player.

All streaming models play back high-resolution music files through their decoders, and all feature built-in Wi-Fi and an Ethernet port.

The streaming devices other than the Lyric models are expected to be available in the fourth quarter.

All Cyrus products are space-saving half-chassis components except for Lyric series products.

Esoteric plans a trio of flagship stereo components shipping in April include an SACD/CD transport that uses a pair of HDMI cables to transport 352.8kHz/48-bit PCM, DSD and double-DSD digital audio to a pair of companion monoblock DACs.

Esoteric developed a new proprietary data-transmission format called ES-LINK4 to transmit the ultra-wideband signals between the transport and the new monoblock DACs.

The two-channel transport and the monoblock DAC, part of the new Grandioso series, are the $44,000-suggested P1 and $22,000 D1, respectively. The transport comes with separate power supply and included pair of HDMI cables to connect to two D1 DACs. A dual-mono configuration like this delivers a richer stereo image and greater sonic depth, the company said.

The third Grandioso component is the $23,000 M1 monoblock amplifier, rated at 300 watts into an 8-ohm load and 1,200 watts into a 2-ohm load.

Esoteric’s ES-LINK4 data-transmission technology enables the transport to perform a large amount of digital signal processing to reduce the processing load on the DAC, the company said. Both units apply a proprietary 36-bit D/A processing algorithm to convert PCM signals to analog signals with 36-bit resolution. Esoteric said it’s the first audio company to offer 36-bit D/A processing.

With the D1 monaural DAC, all analog circuits in the D1DAC are electrically and mechanically separate from the digital circuits to further enhance clarity, the company noted. The two DACs must be connected to each other via an included HDMI cable.

Esoteric products are distributed in the U.S., Canada and Latin America by Integra.

Jadis developed a new Jadis turntable, preamp, power amp, and DAC are making their North American debut through Bluebird Music, which distributes eight audiophile brands.

The turntable is the $59,000 Thalie, which weighs 176 pound and was designed with few moving parts “to do a better job of conveying the authentic tone, presentation, passion and emotion of the actual performance,” the company said. The design features very high weight, high precision machining, and a synchronous motor to deliver high mechanical control and precision, speed stability, vibration control tracing accuracy and high reliability, the company said

The $15,900 PA100 stereo tube amplifier features an all-new design to improve sonics and boost output to 150 watts.

The $11,900 PRE1 tube stereo preamp features fully balanced line stage with all-new design.

The $6,700 JS2 Mk111 DAC has an entirely new design and adds USB input and XLR balanced output.

Viola Audio Laboratories plans to expand its Reference series with a two-chassis Sonata stereo preamplifier, due in mid-2014 at a suggested $35,000, including onboard DAC.

The two-chassis construction separates the audio-signal path from the power supply to reduce distortion. Its only front-panel control is a multifunction control knob and color touchscreen display. The preamp can also be operated via Wi-Fi from Apple and Android mobile devices. An optional IR remote is also planned.

The component features three pairs of balanced XLR inputs, three RCA inputs, one 192kHx/24-bit USB audio input, one coax input and one AES balanced input.

The Sonata features RS232 port to connect to home-control systems. The component is said to pair up well with the Symphony power amp and Legacy Class A power amp.