Some things are nearly certain and one such reassuring event is the TAD room at hi-fi shows which consistently deliver great sound. "Effortless, dynamically scary, piano and cello sound like piano and cello..." so went my listening notes. Zoomed in on in the above picture is the TAD C2000 Preamplifier ($24,500) that also houses a 24/192-capable DAC.
I was first made aware of Danish company Grimm Audio by Jared Sacks of Channel Classics Records who uses the Grimm AD1 on many of his wonderful DSD recordings. At the Munich show, Grimm was lighting up their room with the LS1s loudspeakers (€25,000/pair) which also house a DAC, preamp, amplifier, and subwoofer. So all you need to complete your computer audio system is a server and some music. The LS1s also have an analog input, which gets converted to digital prior to being amplified, so you can add a turntable if you so desire and there's also onboard DSP for equalization, crossover filtering, and time alignment for the two drivers (1” Seas dome tweeter and 8" Seas Excel bass-mid driver). The internal DAC can handle up to 24/192 and the 180W Class D Hypex NCore amplifier section designed by Bruno Putzeys of Mola Mola resides in one of the speaker's legs.
Burmester's components suggest (to me) that one needs to address them with a fair amount of reverence while being properly quaffed, properly attired, and with very good posture. The Burmester 111 Musiccenter ($50,000) combines a DAC, Preamplifier, CD drive for ripping, SSD system disk, mirrored 3TB (6TB total) of hard disk storage for music, UPnP Ethernet and WLAN connectivity, a 7" display, iPad app, 3x analog inputs, 6x digital inputs (3x Toslink and 3x Coax S/PDIF), supported file formats include "FLAC / wav / mp3 etc" and up to 24/192 playback. There's also a headphone jack and RCA and Tolsink output.
Emotiva Pro was showing their Stealth 6 ($499/each) and Stealth 8 ($669/each) powered studio monitors. The Stealth 6 feature a 60 x 32mm airmotiv™ high-frequency transducer and a 165mm (6.5 inch) airmotiv™ low-frequency transducer and each driver gets its own amplifier (100W up top and 110W for the woofer). The Stealth 8 ups the ante on the bass driver to 8" and power gets pushed to 200W for each driver. These are not small speakers but I'm sure they'd make your desktop rumble.
The mysterious AVM Tec (check out their website for an explanation) coupled their Alluxity Pre ONE preamplifier and Power ONE amplifier with the Aurender W20 music server (pictured at the bottom of the rack), and the Estelon Model XB speakers ($32,900/pair). AVM Tec is the brainchild of Alexander Vitus Mogensen, son of Vitus Audio founder Hans-Ole Vitus, and the company specializes in OEM and DIY markets.
Onix was showing the latest version of their DAC 25, the DAC 25B (£850) which adds 24/192 capabilities to the previous version. Inputs include Toslink, asynchronous USB, Coax S/PDIF, and a USB Type A input for connecting an iPod. Outputs include RCA and XLR pairs. There's also a headphone jack around front and the DAC section comes courtesy of the Burr Brown PCM1792 DAC.
This picture tells most of story (except the most important part) from the Genelec room. They hosted a wonderful demo where each of the four active speakers from their G-Series, the company's first "consumer range" destined for the home as opposed to the recording studio, plus their biggest brother 8260A ($5,639/each) were played for a few minutes and the sound went from good to bigger (right to left). I was actually surprised by how well the tiniest of the Genelec active speakers, the G One filled this large room. But as we went up in size, things got more and more involving and deeper (from a rated 73Hz in the G One all the way down to 45Hz in the G Four to 29Hz for the 8260A).
Nagra, makers of exquisite hi-fi gear, is coming out with a 24/384kHz PCM/DSD-capable DAC (pricing TBD and "whose official name will be revealed in the fall"). This prototype was on silent display but I did learn that the digital section was designed by Andreas Koch while Nagra handled the analog bits. "The new D/A Nagra converter is planned for autumn release."
The M2Tech battery-powered Vaughan DAC ($7,999) can handle up to 32/384kHz data and includes 1x USB, 1x I2S RJ45, 2x Coax S/PDIF (RCA), 2x Coax S/PDIF (BNC), 2x AES/EBU, 2x Toslink, 2x optical ST Fiber, and 1x external clock (BNC) inputs. Outputs include RCA and XLR pairs as well as a 6.35mm stereo jack for headphones.