New High-End Audio Options On The Way

Publish date:
Updated on


High-end audio companies haven’t been shy about launching new products in a weak economy, perhaps buoyed by Consumer Electronics Association forecasts calling for a third consecutive year of double-digit percentage growth in factory-level component-audio dollar volume.

Companies such as Cambridge Audio, Current Audio, Parasound, SnapAV, Theta Digital and Wisdom have all announced new products that are shipping or will ship soon. The products range from in-wall speakers to a component-size network music player, preamp/surround processors, A/V receivers, half-size audio components, amplifiers and high-end DACs that connect to a PC’s USB port.

Here’s a sampling of what’s coming:

Current Audio

has begun shipping its in-ceiling dipole/bipole speakers, the CS654DBFL and CS- 650DBFL, at suggested retails of $799.00/pair and $599.00/pair, respectively.

Each speaker features one woofer and two tweeters. Users can set the speakers for dipole out-of-phase operation to create a null around the listening area and focus on recreating background ambience, and the tweeters can be set to bipole mode for in-phase playback to enhance localization of sounds.


has added a three-channel amp to its flagship Halo series and plans four half-rack-size components intended for tabletop use.

The three-channel amp is the THX Ultra2-certified Parasound Halo A 31, due in April at a suggested $3,000. The high-bias Class A/AB amp features pure Class A operation up to 7 watts per channel and delivers 250 watts per channel into 8 ohms and 400 watts into 4 ohms, all channels driven.

It’s designed for multiple applications. In one scenario, it would power two surround speakers and one centerchannel speaker in a home-theater system while a separate two-channel amp or pair of monoblock amps are dedicated to the left-right front channels, which can also be used for two-channel music listening.

The amp can also be used with a second three-channel amp to power a 6.1-channel home theater.

In its Z series of half-rackwidth audio components, the company is adding four models designed specifically for tabletop or desktop use. They will be available in silver to complement black Z series half-rack-width components intended for rack mounting. Those models come with rack ears and could be used to create a multi-zone audio system.

The four tabletop models are the $350-suggested Zamp v.3, $400 Zcd CD player, $400 Zpre2 preamp and $450 Zdac digital-to-analog converter, all due in the spring.

All are one IU-rack tall at 1.5 inches (2 inches with feet), a half IU rack wide at 9.5 inches wide, and 10 inches deep.


has expanded its Episode speaker selection with the shipment of the brand’s first soundbars and first on-wall LCR speakers.

The speakers join other Episode-branded in-room, inwall, in-ceiling and outdoor speakers as well as Episodebranded amplifiers and acoustic treatments.

Two Episode three-channel passive soundbars are available in 30- and 40-inch widths at a suggested $499 and $599, respectively. The soundbars are timbre- matched for use with the Episode 300-series onwall LCRs, which can be used for front- or surroundchannel applications. They’re sized for medium- and large-sized TVs and are priced at a suggested $199 and $299 each, respectively.

Wisdom Audio

plans April shipments of planar-magnetic in-wall speakers designed to expand its customer base.

Four in-wall speakers in the Insight series will retail for $1,000 to $5,000 each and feature passive crossovers so they can be used with A/V receivers. The company’s current in-wall planar-magnetic speakers, in contrast, start at $3,000 each, not including a $6,500 7.3-channel electronic crossover with parametric EQ and Audyssey roomcorrection technology. A separate amp to biamplify the speakers is also needed. Until Insight ships in April, the lowest price for a 7.1-channel home theater speaker system using Wisdom’s planar-magnetic in-wall speakers is $30,000, said president Mark Glazier.

The speaker series will “appeal to people who no longer find the box on the floor appealing,” Glazier said in pointing to the rise of flat-panel TVs.

The company plans to add an Insight in-ceiling model and on-wall variants of the in-wall models late this year.

Theta Digital

plans its first Class D amp and multiple upgrade options for its flagship Casablanca III HD preamp/ surround processor.

The card-upgradable Casablanca, whose base price is a suggested $13,745, will get an optional $1,995-suggested digital output card that features six pairs of wideband 192kHz AES/ EBU outputs for connection to outboard digital-toanalog converters (DACs). The card ships in February to upgrade previously purchased Casablanca models but can also be included in new models ordered from the factory.

A second upgrade is a post-processing card that extends digital audio bandwidth to 192kHz on all channels, adds DTS Neo:X 11.1-channel post-processing, and accepts a bundled daughter card that delivers Dirac Live digital room correction. The upgrade will make Casablanca the first, or one of the first, audio components to support DTS Neo:X’s 11.1-channel capability, said senior sales and marketing VP Jeff Hipps. Select A/V receivers currently on the market a 9.1-channel implementation of Neo:X.

The solution will be available in June at $3,995 for installation by dealers and advanced consumers.

In April, the brand will ship the $6,000 Prometheus monoblock amp, which will be the brand’s first Class D amplifier. Power is rated at 250 watts RMS into 8 ohms, 500 watts RMS into 4 ohms and 1,000 watts RMS into 2 ohms with less than 0.01 percent THD.


Related Articles