I was treated to the dCS Vivaldi in two rooms at CES 2015. Pictured above is John Atkinson of Stereophile dare I say relaxing in the moment listening to the Vivaldi stack ($108,496) coupled with D'Agostino amps and Rockport speakers. I also shared this oh-so-very sweet spot in the dCS room and the sound was spectacular; natural, smooth, detailed, rich, and warm.
The Dynaudio Excite X14A ($2000/pair) include a total of four 50W amps, one for each driver. The relatively tiny two-way is rated down to 45Hz, according to Dynaudio, and includes both single-ended RCA and balanced XLR inputs. There are also a number of EQ settings to custom fit their sound to your space. Based on my experiences with other Dynaudio speakers, I want to get a pair in the barn asap.
miniDSP, mainly known for their room correction and headphone products, was showing a prototype of their P-DAC125 ($375-$400) 125W ICEpowered integrated amp/DAC. The P-DAC125 includes DSP for basic EQ including four preset room correction curves, supports PCM resolutions up to 24/192, includes analog and digital inputs as well as an aptX Bluetooth input option. The P-DAC125 should be available by the middle of this quarter.
that's Stereophile's Jon Iverson getting the full 3D effect
One the biggest and most mind-boggling moments of CES 2015 was delivered by Professor (of applied physics) Edgar Choueiri of Princeton University. I'd bumped into HDtracks David Chesky, whose binaural recordings are helping to spread the word about 3D sound and Bacch 3D, a number of times at CES, and each time he reminded me that I had to see and hear what Professor Choueiri had to offer. I was intrigued since David has never led me astray in the past and I'd been hearing raves about Bacch from everyone who'd heard it. What is BACCH 3D Sound? In brief the technology behind Bacch is a tonally transparent realtime inter-aural crosstalk cancellation filter. How's that for an oversimplification!
The Rega DAC-R ($1195) supports PCM resolutions up to 24/192 utilizing 2x Wolfson WM8742 DACs. The R includes asynchronous USB, 2x Toslink, and 2x Coax S/PDIF inputs and both digital (Coax S/PDIF and Toslink) and single-ended RCA outputs.
All of my pictures, every last one, of the Le Son LS001 Streamer/DAC ($40,000) simply sucked so I'm using their photo instead. The LS001 supports up to 32/84 PCM and double rate DSD as well as WAV, AIFF, FLAC, ALAC, AAC, DSF, and DFF file formats. Control of the LS001 is provided thrugh an Android app. Inputs include Ethernet, USB (A and B), Toslink, AES/EBU, Coax S/PDIF, and I2S on HDMI. Analoh outputs consist of a headphone jack, single-ended RCAs and balanced XLR pairs. The SL001 utilizes 4 DACs in twin dual-mono mode, a fully discrete class A output stage with no global feedback, and can the unit sit horizontally or vertically according to your pleasure.
I've already tipped my hand with my room-to-room coverage as to my highlights of CES 2015. Certainly the Bacch 3D demo, Meridian's MQA, and the Devialet Phantom represent technological leaps that I believe we'll be hearing more about in the future. Tidal's lossless streaming service was quite literally nearly everywhere and just mentioning the word "Tidal" elicited oohs and aahs from everyone I spoke to. In addition, we've seen tons of manufacturers rolling up the functionality of multiple products, especially adding file-based playback, into single boxes in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience since file-based playback represents the largest part of our hi-fi future.
The Adcom GIA-275 Integrated Audio Multimedia ($1199) wraps up an 80 watts/channel into 8 ohms integrated amp, a 24/192 and DSD-capable Wolfson DAC, headphone amp, Bluetooth (A2DP and aptX), digital (USB, 2x Coax S/PDIF and 2x Toslink) and analog RCA inputs into one fairly tiny (9.75" x 9" x 3.5") black box.
Another nearly impossible to properly photograph piece of kit comes from the newly minted MiZiK. The current lineup consists of the dStream Streamer/Server, the dPlay DA Pre, and the dVin phono stage. Each component in the MiZiK lineup is projected to be priced at $3500. The digital MiZiK components support PCM resolutions up to 32/384 and double rate DSD. Inputs on the dPlay DAC/Preamp include 1x Coax S/PDIF, USB, and MiZiK Link for connecting to other MIZIK equipment. The dStream, at launch, will support up to 24/192 and double rate DSD while a future firmware release will add DXD and up to 32/384 PCM playback. In addition to its Ethernet input, the dStream has a 2.5” bay for SSD storage. Production units should hit the stores this summer.
The lovely and understated looking Zanden Model 500 DAC (estimated $7500) was shown in prototype form at CES 2015. Based on the ESS 9018 DAC chip, the Model 500 supports PCM resolutions up to 24/192 as well as DSD. Inputs include I2S, USB, AES/EBU, Coax S/PDIF, and DSD. The DSD input is SDIF (sometimes known as DSD RAW) and requires a special Zanden interface and cable that converts RJ45 to BNC. Outputs include single-ended RCAs and balanced XLR pairs.
The Burmester 151 Musiccenter ($25,000) is actually a music server and DLNA/UPnP network player with 2x 2TB of HDD storage in a RAID 1 array. There's also a SSD for system storage, fixed and variable outputs, WiFi, gapless playback, and an iPad control app. The 151 can play back Internet radio, from your NAS, and it supports PCM resolutions up to 24/192 and FLAC, WAV, AIFF, AAC, and ALAC file formats. Up front there's a CD slot drive for ripping your music and around back there's a USB input for playback from USB storage. The 151 offers both single-ended RCA and balanced XLR outputs.
The Hegel HD12 DAC ($1400), which is their middle-tier DAC sitting between the lower priced HD11 ($1200) and the higher priced HD25 ($2500), supports up to 24/192 PCM data and currently DSD only on PCs (Mac drivers will launch Spring 2015). The H12's USB input does the heavy DSD lifting while the 1x Coax S/PDIF and 2x Toslink inputs max out at PCM 24/192. Outputs include single-ended RCAs, balanced XLRs, and a headphone jack up front.
What a delight it is to sit and listen to music in the MBL room where we were treated to a number of great tunes including a remix of Falco's "Der Kommissar" sung in German through the company's Noble line. I noted the sound was at once delicate and effortless with a natural ease while delivering heart-stopping stunning dynamic contrasts. Nice. On display and pictured top left is the new MBL N31 CD-DAC ($18,000) which is capable of handling up to 24/192 data as well as DSD using the ESS Sabre 9018 DAC chip. There's a boat load of in-house technology wrapped up in all of MBL's products and the N31 is no exception which includes a custom developed filter which avoids "intersample overlook" (or inter-sample overs) according to its designer Jürgen Reis which can cause non-harmonic and non-musical distortions.
In a surprise move, Ayre Acoustics has come out with the Codex headphone amp /DAC/Preamp with a projected retail price of $1500 (that's the surprising part). The Codex supports PCM playback up to 32/384 and DSD128 using the ESS Sabre ES9018 DAC chip. Inputs include asynchronous USB and Toslink, while the outputs consist of a 1/4" headphone jack, 2x 3.5mm headphone jacks (configurable as balanced), and pairs of single ended RCAs and balanced XLRs. Like all of Ayre's products, the Codex is a fully balanced zero-feedback design and contains Ayre's custom digital filter as found on the QB-9 DSD DAC.
I'd heard tale of an "audiophile NAS" years ago coming out of Asia. Rumor had it that electronics and NAS manufacturer Buffalo had started an off-shoot brand called Dela to support this effort. Alas, nothing ever officially showed up in the US. That is until now. Melco is that company and they offer two "High End Source Component for High-Res Music", aka Network Attached Storage. Pictured above are the insides of the N1Z ($8000) which houses, as you can see, two 2.5" 512GB SSDs.