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WCES 1997 Show Report




  So, ya want something with tubes huh.  You'd like a tube amplifier AND preamplifier.  And what's that ya say, you're not a gazillionaire? Well cool dudettes / dudes, looks like Golden Audio has done it again!


GTA SI-50 integrated preamp/amplifier


YO!!  Check it bud-dee.  Above is their new SI-50 integrated preamp/amplifier.  It's claimed to have 50 watts of push-pull Class AB via two EL34's per channel.  Also in the design are a complement of five 12AU7 tubes.  It offers two inputs, one tape loop, balance control and...  a REMOTE CONTROL!!!  SO what would you expect to pay for all this and passive or active line amp memory (which is the ability to match the different input voltages so that each input is at approximately the same volume level for a given setting).  $2,000??? $3,000???  NOPE, it's only $980 retail list my friends.  Ya may wanna check it out REAL soon-like.

So my next little trip was to Pass Labs.  Ok, i admit i've owned and enjoyed Nelsons products in the past and just wanted to say hi.  As i walked into the room there was cool dude Nelson with a beer in his hand (heh heh).  Ok Nelson, so whaddup?  What cha got cookin' this year?  Well, he said i've got this new phono preamplifier called the Ono.  So i immediately replied "The Yoko Ono"???  After a few laughs he began to tell me how, like, this baby will support virtually ANY cartridge with approximately 70dB of gain for MC and 40dB for MM cartridges.  The (Yoko) Ono offers both single ended and balanced outputs and looks very promising at $2,000 for those who desire, like, killer music on vinyl and stuff. (see photo below).  And unlike Yoko, won't break up "the band".


Pass Labs Aleph Ono
Aleph Ono


Aaaaaaah, day two and i focused more on equipment today. So what's hot.  Well, DVD of course YET i just don't have THAT much faith in it right now.  We'll wait and see.  Meanwhile Sansui was showing a tube amplifier which has been available in Japan. Just now it's reaching the American shores and even then only by special order said the Sansui representative.  The Sansui yummy B-209 weighs in at just over 66 lbs. and uses the popular 6SN7 for input, the also popular 6SL7 for driver, and finally uses two 6L6's for 30  watts per channel power output.  Tube rectification is handled by the  5U4 tube and the power transformer is rated at 150% duty cycle.

The  front faceplate is finished in a champagne gold fascia with a power knob to the left and three knobs are located on the right of the front faceplate.  One of the knobs is for switching between two inputs or a direct input while the other two are for separate right and left gain adjustment.  This unit has already received praise in Japan and will retail here in America at about $7,000 through special order only (please see picture below).


Sansui B-209
Sansui B-209 Tube


With so many manufactures going back to tube gear, leave it to good ol' JBL to also join the fray.  Maybe not tubes this time, but JBL was famous in the early 70's for their studio monitor speakers.  So enter in the new JBL Century Gold speakers.  Based on their classic studio monitors, the Century Gold's have been updated, yet still retain some of that good ol' JBL charm.  On the right side of the below picture is an example of the classic speaker and to the left is the now available reissue.


JBL Century Gold speakers
JBL Century Gold


The midrange has been revised to a five inch Kevlar cone material with a two inch voice coil.  The classic paper cone tweeter has been updated with JBL's new titanium dome unit.  Most "audiophiles" may not know this, but JBL speakers are VERY popular in Japan and they are also used in more than 70% of the worlds greatest recording studios.  From Abby Roads to Lucas Films, JBL was also found this very evening serving duty as the speakers of choice for the FI party (and an AWESOME party it was)!  Pricing is $5,000 and are available at selected JBL dealers worldwide.

And speaking of FI magazine...  These guys REALLY know what this is all about.  And THAT being MUSIC!  Performing tonight at the FI party was none other than Jimmy Rogers.  Jimmy and his band, which also consists of his very talented son, played blues music while the crowd danced and enjoyed the music :-{)+ .  To steal a phrase from the Blues Brothers movie, Jimmy's band can turn goats milk to gasoline!  Hours of GREAT music and good food 'n' drink kept all us music lovers in hog heaven.  It's good to know that there's a magazine who know's what this cottage industry is all about.  And that being to, well, er, um, to enjoy the music!  A very big thanks FI.  i'll party with you ANYTIME, ANY DAY, ANYWHERE.


Jimmy Rogers


And now it's time to dispel rumors as Steven "rumor police" Rochlin has a discussion with Pat Mc Carroll of Westrex.



Ok, so we've virtually ALL heard various rumors.  Personally i HATE rumors so here's a few rumors followed by FACT:

Rumor #1: The tube manufacturing plant in Georgia is empty.

TRUTH: Of course its.  Western Electrics last made the 300B
        in their plant located at Lee's Summit, Missouri.  This plant
        began producing the WE300B in 1962 until it AT&T finally
        discontinued production in 1988.

Rumor #2: No one really knows how to remake the WE300B because
           most of the original employees are no longer alive.

TRUTH: ALL of the key AT&T people, technicians, etc who were
        last involved in the manufacture of the WE300B are once
        again hard at work to again bring us the famous Western
        Electronic sound and quality we have all grown to love.

Rumor #3: AT&T lost or misplaced some of the data to make the tube.

FACT: ALL the data IS available and has been very carefully
       evaluated to enable the production of the new WE300B tube.

According to Pat, they are very close to release and the production facility is VERY hard at work.  In fact, the employees are right now VERY HARD at work to bring the rest of the world the joy we all have come to expect from the WE300B.  In fact, they are in their final stages of fine tuning.  And YES, as soon as i get a pair or two of WE300B's they will be tested and auditioned by me personally in various 300B based amplifiers available to me and fully compared and reported here and in other media forms by me.  We have all seen how VIAC tubes were not always reliable.  Some of the Soviet made tubes have been gassy.  Western Electric is being VERY careful to not make these same mistakes.  Pat also discussed with me how they have ALL the Western Electric data dating all the way back to the famous WE tube amplifier of days gone by.  Hmmm...  maybe one day we will again see new production of the famous WE tube amplifiers!  And if we do Pat can you please, pretty please, with sugar on top and a cherry put me first in line.

In fact, Pat was kind enough to honor me with much of his valuable time on Thursday and again at the FI party tonight (Friday). Tomorrow i will again be meeting with him to further discuss matters. May i humbly suggest you please stay tuned!              


Clearaudio  Reference Turntable
Clearaudio Reference Turntable


A turntable that dreams are made of.  It kinda reminds me of the Goldmund Reference turntable i've spent sooo much time with... only better.  MUCH better.  As seen is TAS issue 109 this turntable turned more than just a few heads at the show.  Not just for it's sheer beauty, but for the music it produced from those vinyl grooves.  They were playing some "audiophile" fave but really wish i had a Funkadelic album with me because most big tables just do not boogie.  Aaaah well, we all choose our "poisons" in life.  Make mine a VOYD.  But hey, at "only" $5,500 it's gonna make some big waves on those overpriced, under performing tables (like the aforementioned Goldmund Reference which will set cha back over $20,000 for a USED one).  In the $5,000 rage this is a VERY serious contender in my humble opinion.              


Burmester Rack System
Burmester "Rack System"


Ya see, Burmester has been in business over 20 years and their head designer is a musician himself (guitarist).  To cover EVERY aspect of their system is going to haveta take a FULL review (planned later) on my www site.  The head designer didn't allow photo's on his goodies, yet after we spoke for a while he humbly allowed me to take a few photos.  And BOY did my camera go into overdrive!  Ok, lets start off with the ???basics???.  There are ZERO, none, ZIP, nada signal capacitors directly in the signal chain.  The ENTIRE system is DC coupled too.  For digital, the transport is a VERY well engineered, professional transport which in turn feeds their DAC.

The Burmester DAC consists of a precision 75 Ohm input.  And like any TRUE, REAL, not bogus digital design he HIGHLY recommends the BNC connector vs the RCA jack for coax digital signal transmission.  And why DO those who proclaim to have great transports/DACs use RCA's for digital?  ANYWAY, like Theta's top of the line stuff, Burmester uses separate DAC chips for the right +, right -, left +, and left -.  In this system is included a power filter which is claimed to eliminate DC offset!  The preamplifier even included a phono stage foe MM/MC cartridges. Audio Illusions is their USA distributor.  Lookey here.  There's soooo much i haven't even begun to cover here (like they also sell integrated amplifiers, speakers (seen below), a tuners, amplifiers...  If ya get a chance may i most humbly suggest you check them out.  They've FINALLY decided to come to the USA and i HIGHLY recommend an audition for your solid-state needs.  These dudes REALLY know their, shi_, er, um, stuff in my humble opinion.  Oh, and if you must ask, an entire Burmester system is priced at around $125,000.


Burmester Speakers
Burmester Loudspeakers


Last, but most certainly not least we have a handmade, point to point wired tube preamplifier by Blue Circle. This unit looks like something me and my friends would build.  Using an outboard power supply to keep the precious analog signal pure from power supply noise, Shallco military grade volume control, Shallco selector switch (Shallco uses silver coin contacts), Holco 0.5% metal film resistors, Solen Fast Caps and more!  Here, take a look inside:


Blue Circle BC-3 Preamplifier
Blue Circle BC-3 Preamplifier


The BC-3 has five line level inputs, one tape input/output, two preamp outputs (all on Cardas RCA jacks), right/left channel tracking is better than .2dB!  Two 6922 tubes are used for amplification of the audio signal with ALL point to point wiring as i've said before.  If i was gonna home-brew a preamplifier, it's be along the lines of the quality seen here.  It's most unfortunate that most folks haven't heard of these guys because they really do a great job and deserve some recognition in my humble opinion.















































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