NEW YORK – New-school audio components such as USB DACs, active USB speakers, and audiophile- grade network-attached storage (NAS) drives are taking their rightful place alongside such old-school components as tube integrated amps and SACD/CD transports to vie for the audiophile dollar.
New-school components becoming available include EAR USA’s CD/SACD USB DAC, Certon’s Integrita audiophile NAS drive, April Music’s USB-equipped preamplifier/headphone amplifier with 48kHz/24-bit DAC, Audio Engine’s 24-bit USB DAC/headphone amplifier, and Audio Engine’s latest active desktop computer speaker system, which features built-in 16-bit USB DAC.
New components arriving in more long-established configurations include a MartinLogan subwoofer with room-correction option, Coincident Speaker Technology’s first two tubebased stereo integrated amps, VTL’s $10,000 fully balanced tube amplifier, Venture Audio’s $36,000 2.1-speaker system with active subwoofer, and EAR USA’s first SACD/CD transport and first CD/SACD DAC.
All of the products, displayed at the recent New York Audio Show, have just begun shipping or will ship in the coming months.
Here’s what the suppliers have introduced:
April Music: The company launched the $1,300 Stello HP100 preamplifier/headphone amplifier with 48kHz/24-bit DAC. It features three pairs of unbalanced inputs, a USB PC port that accepts 48kHz sampling rates, and three outputs: one pair of unbalanced outputs, one pair of balanced XLR outputs, and one 0.25-inch headphone output. It comes with a remote.
April Music also launched the $1,200 Stello S100 2x50-watt Class A amplifier.
The products are marketed in the U.S. by importer Rutherford Audio of Seattle.
Audio Engine: The family-run supplier based in Mountain View, Calif., launched new active desktop computer speakers with built-in 16-bit USB DAC. The $249/pair A2+ is positioned as an entry-level computer speaker but can also be used to amplify TV sources. The compact two-way speaker features 2x15-watt amplification, 1-inch tweeter, 3-inch midrange/woofer, USB input , RCA input, and aux input.
It joins the $399/pair 2x45-watt A5+, which lacks DAC.
Audio Engine also plans a 24-bit USB DAC/headphone amplifier, targeted to ship in the fall at a targeted $199.
The new products join other Audio Engine products such as a 24-bit wireless DAC equipped with Wi-Fi Direct. It’s priced at $599 for a transmitter/receiver pair. The transmitter, which gets power from a computer’s USB port, supports up to three receivers simultaneously. Each receiver has its own power supply.
Certon: The German company, through importer Rutherford Audio, has launched the Integrita audiophile NAS drive, which is available with 2.5TB, 5TB or 10TB of storage at $5,000 to $8,000. It lack DACs, and though it is a NAS drive, it is capable of being used in a hi-fi environment because it doesn’t generate noise like traditional NAS drives, said Rutherford CEO Robb Niemann.
It features AirPlay, DLNA and Ethernet and incorporates iTunes and non-iTunes server libraries. Songs can be streamed to PCs and handheld devices.
Coincident Speaker Technology: The Thornhill, Ontario, company plans to offer its first two tube-based stereo integrated amps, the $999 Dynamo 34 SE and the $5,499 Turbo 845 SE. They ship in 60 days.
The Dynamo 34SE is a 2x8-watt single-ended triodetube model that powers any speaker with 90dB sensitivity, the company said. It’s designed for budget-minded audiophiles but who “still demand top-flight sonics and build quality,” Coincident Speaker Technology added.
The Turbo 845 SE is a pure dual-mono 2x28-watt single-ended triode integrated amp with separate output transformers, power supplies, and tube sets per channel. It’s designed for audiophiles who want the quality of a pair of mono amplifiers and a separate preamp but have space limitations, the company said. It comes with remote.
EAR USA: The Long Beach, Calif., company launched its first SACD/CD transport and its first CD/SACD DAC at $5,000 and $8,000, respectively. Both two-channel devices upsample to 192kHz/24 bits from SACDs and CDs, and the transport sends a pure DSD-format (SACD) signal from an SACD to the DAC. The DAC also features a USB port to accept DSD files stored on a PC. DSD tracks are available for download from some music-download sites, and consumers can rip their SACDs for storage on a computer by using a PlayStation 1, the company said.
MartinLogan: The company plans August deliveries of a $2,500 Balanced Force 210 subwoofer, which continues the company’s move from servo subwoofers to subs with room-correction technology to improve sound quality.
It replaces the servo-equipped Depth subwoofer.
Although servo technology reduces distortion, improvements in driver design and manufacturing have been able to achieve similar results without a servo’s overdamping of transient response, said Pete Soderberg, West Coast sales manager. Because a room’s acoustics generates more distortion than a high-end speaker does, the company added compatibility with the optional $100 PBK room-correction kit, which includes a microphone and PC software.
The new sub features two 10-inch drivers firing in opposing directions to cancel cabinet resonances, whereas its predecessor features three 8-inch woofers in a triangular balanced-force configuration. The new model plays lower and louder than its predecessor, Soderberg added.
Venture Audio: The Belgium-based company, whose products are marketed by Precision Audio and Video of Moorpark, Calif., just began shipping its Vici 2.1 speaker system, which consists of two floorstanding speakers and a powered sub at $36,000. It joins a larger, higherpriced 2.1 system. The two-way 47-inch-tall ported towers feature 2-inch tweeter, four 4-inch midrange/ woofers, first-order 6dB/ octave crossover, and 60Hz to 40kHz frequency response.
Venture’s subwoofer features two 10-inch drivers, 500-watt Class D amp, ported design, adjustable low pass, and high- and low-level inputs.
VTL: The Chino, Calif., company launched the $10,000 S-200 2x200-watt fully balanced tube amplifier, which combines the innards of some of the company’s monoblock amps. It runs at 2x200 watts in tetrode mode and 2x100 watts in triode mode. Users can adjust output impedance to their taste or to improve control of loudspeaker loads to deliver the amp’s best performance, the company said.
VTL also launched the $2,500 TP2.5 tube-based phono preamplifier, which replaces a previous model and features inputs for moving-coil and moving-magnet turntable cartridges, all-tube circuitry for the moving-magnet stage, and hyvrid JFET/tube circuitry for the moving-coil stage. It also features user-adjustable cartridge impedance and front-panel switchable rumble filter.
Yacht Audio Speakers: The Berlin-based custom installer launched its first home speakers, both intended for the residential install market and based on speakers that it developed for the world’s largest yacht, said Rutherford CEO Robb Niemann, who is importing the line. The two products consist of a $5,000-each in-ceiling speaker and $12,500-each in-walls.