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Changing Face Of High-End Audio On Display

MUNICH, GERMANY – High-end audio suppliers turned up at the High End Munich show last week to unveil new audio components with premium performance and often-lofty prices.

Many of the electronics components integrate both new-media and legacy physical-media sources into highperformance stereo systems. The former include computers and mobile devices, and the latter include vinyl and digital discs.

During the hybrid trade/consumer show, companies such as Auralic, PS Audio and Mizik displayed such products. High-performance speakers were also on display.

Here’s what the companies unveiled:

Auralic North America: The Vancouver, Wash., company revealed updated plans for its previously announced Aries Streamer Bridge, which streams high-resolution music files wirelessly over a home’s Wi-Fi 802.11ac network from a PC or NAS drive to a high-end DAC. The Bridge outputs double-rate DSD, Digital eXtreme Definition (DXD) and USB Audio to connected DACs.

To these capabilities, Auralic plans to add local storage playback, DSD up-sampling, room acoustics correction and multichannel support, a spokesman said.

The bridge is promoted as the first product to stream DSD, double-rate DSD, and DXD music files wirelessly in native format from networked sources.

The company is pushing back availability to June from a previously announced May. The product will be available in two versions: The standard Aries-LE is $999, while the $1,599 Aries adds two Femto Clocks, lownoise internal design to eliminate jitter, and a low-noise external linear PSU.

To control the Aries and music playback, the company will offer a Lightning a p p that lets users browse their music library, select songs and choose hardware settings. The Lightning App will also feature built-in streaming of high-quality music from service providers such as Qobuz and WiMP.

The Lighting DS app is available in separate iPhone and iPad versions, with an Android app available by September. A desktop app that supports Macs and Windows PCs will be available by the end of the year.

Aries features a 3-inch OLED display to display playback status. The RC-1 remote controls basic operations, including play, pause and track select.

Estelon: The high-end speaker company from Tallinn, Estonia, is expanding its speaker selection further up in price and performance with the launch of the $230,000/ pair Estelon Extreme. It will be distributed in the U.S. by Bluebird Music of Niagara Falls, N.Y.

The Extreme will join four other Estelon speakers available in the U.S.

The speaker cabinet is made from a proprietary marblebased composite material, and it is built in two modules. The upper module can be adjusted to raise the speaker’s height to 6.8 feet from 5.8 feet. The two-module design also isolates the high, medium and mid-bass drivers in the upper module from the vibrations generated by the bass drivers in the lower module, the company said.

The driver complement consists of two 1-inch aluminum woofers, a 10-inch midwoofer, a 7-inch ceramic midrange, and a 1.5-inch diamond tweeter.

Mizik Music: The Spanish company is seeking U.S. distributors for its componentelectronics lineup, including the new dPlay preamplifier, dStream streamer/server and system enhancer, and dVin phono preamp with A/D converter. All are priced at around $2,736, including sales tax.

Each component can be placed horizontally or vertically and connected to legacy stereo systems. Connecting the dStream via HDMI cable with either the dVin or dPlay DAPre would offer the greatest performance boost because of dStream’s MusIC Process error-cancellation technology, said to deliver “ground-breaking performance with astonishingly natural and accurate sound from both digital and analog replay.”

Together, the three components create a single, universal switching/ control solution that offers interface, switching and control of all types of digital and analog sources, the company said.

Because the components can be incorporated one-by-one into conventional analog-focused stereo systems, they ease the transition “from the analog-focused systems of the past to the file-replay solutions of the future,” the company said.

The components are targeted to “a whole generation of digitally convergent consumers who just don’t ‘get’ high-end audio as well as all those audiophiles who can see which way the wind is blowing,” the company explained.

Each component measures 3.2 inches by 11.4 inches by 8.8 inches.

PS Audio: The company showed a preproduction prototype of the compact Sprout, a combination 2×50- watt integrated amplifier with phono preamp, DAC, headphone amp and Bluetooth to play music from a turntable, from any digital input, and from any Bluetooth-equipped mobile device or computer.

The component is targeted to people who want the performance of PS Audio products but can’t afford them and don’t have room for them, said sales director Scott McGowan.

The expected suggested retail is $799. A ship date was unavailable.