Now for one of the most expensive and interesting components on display. Naim, a company located in Salisbury, England, about an hour from where I grew up, presents the North American debut of the CD 555,
a two box CD Player, which will set you back a whopping $33,000 Cdn. One box, which you may hide away if you like, is the very sophisticated external power supply, the 555PS, while the other contains the top loading Philips VAM 1254 drive unit and associated DACs and output stage. The 555PS can also be used to upgrade earlier Naim CD players but you cannot use the previous separate power supplies with the CD 555. The 555PS provides two sets of clean power for the CD 555 - one cable for the analog circuits and one for the digital.
The drive unit incorporates two heavy brass subchassis, and the drive itself sits on a leafspring. Special features that Doug Graham highlighted include a new clamping system and Naim are supplying interesting new interconnects featuring decoupled DIN plugs, where every pin floats freely yet makes a secure connection for signal integrity and vibration reduction.
I spent a while listening to this CD player, which was not easy given the AV system playing at the other end of suite. However, it was enough to discern a very relaxed analog type of presentation, with abundant detail on voice and instrument, and lightening reflexes. I need more time to make a full assessment, but I think it would be time well spent. Can you hear me Doug?
David Berning is shown here with an interesting system which pairs his prototype tube amps with high-end EMM Labs SACD Player and Peak Consult Empress speakers making beautiful music in a very natural way. David told me he is planning to introduce within the next year some upscale tube amps with advanced circuitry and attractive cosmetics, to compete with the best but at a competitive price point. The unit on the top of the rack is close to the final form of his upcoming power amp, while the two pictures on the floor are even closer in appearance. Knowing what Berning can do for very little money, this will be something worth waiting for.
Odyssey Audio's Pete Camperon is showing his Art-On-Wall Loudspeaker Systems. You can put your own art into their picture frames for the ultimate cosmetics. I was surprised to find the sound was quite good, much better than I would have expected. Prices from $1,350 a pair to $2,200 Cdn a pair. The top of the range Canvas High End has a frequency response from
45Hz to 25kHz, 87dB/W/m sensitivity, measures 26" x 22" x 3.5", and weighs 19 lbs. Odyssey uses Scan-Speak drivers in these speakers. You send them a digital image and they do the rest. Watch how you dress that cable.
New from Musical Fidelity is another two box CD Player, the kW DM25 system, which comprises the kW DM25 transport and the kW DM25 DAC. The DM25 DAC is also available as a separate product. I don't have North American pricing, but you Brits can buy this for £3998. The system features multiple choke-regulated power supplies, and the Transport passes its output to the DAC using a 96kHz balanced connection. The DM 25 DAC upsamples that stream to 192 kHz before conversion to analog using double dual-differential DACs (DSD 1792s). Unusually, both tube and class-A transistor output stages are available simultaneously. Connect them both to your preamp and switch between them for the ultimate tweak.
In the Focus Audio room, Kam Leung shows the new Master 2.5 speaker, $21,200 Cdn a pair for the piano black finish, and the least expensive offering in the Master Series. This 3-way speaker features an 11" Nomex / Kevlar Hexacone Woofer, a 5.5" Nomex / Kevlar Hexacone Midrange and a Revelator soft dome tweeter. I don't know too much about Focus Audio, so I will make arrangements to pay them a visit in their Markham, Ontario offices soon. Feeding the Focus speakers, a Vitus Audio SL-100 True balanced linestage ($32,500 Cdn) and two SM-101 True balanced mono 100 watt class-A power amps ($56,000 Cdn), while the digital front end is from Weiss Engineering, the Jason transport and Medea DAC. The Jason transport is a top loader done right - the puck is automatically positioned over the CD by the lid. I'm not fond of loose pucks to fuss over, not to mention when there is a puck and a removable lid to worry about.
Distributor Charisma Audio is showing Audio Space amplification
from China. The preamp is the Pre-2 ($3,499 Cdn), which includes a phono stage (MM/MC). The two monoblocks are Reference Ones, 75 watts a side, class-A triode push-pull designs, featuring two 300B tubes, two 845s, a 6N8P and a 6N9P. At 55 Kg each, they'll take quite some lifting and will cost $23,999 Cdn. Digital source is the Shanling CD-T300 CD Player, a two box visual
stunner (reviewed here) while the speaker is the JAS Audio Odin 2.5-way floorstander [$7799 Cdn] featuring a twin ribbon tweeter and dual 7" Accuton ceramic mid/bass drivers.
Also showing in this room - a rack full of smaller Audio Space amplifiers
and top left, a JAS Musik 1.2 tubed CD player [$1199 Cdn].
Here in close up is the new Qinpu A1.0X integrated amp, not quite as eye catching as Qinpu's offering at last year's show, but offering 100 wpc for just $799.