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WCES '99


  The folks at Alternate Audio were showing this private eye their new CA35 "Class A" powered amplifier which uses only two gain stages (like the Pass labs offerings).  Achieving 25 watts per channel and weighing in at 25 lbs., the CA35 uses low noise power supplies with separate power torroids for the current gain, voltage gain, and control circuitry!  Gold-plated connectors are used and it is priced at $2,500.  Looked very interesting i thought to myself.  Alas, still need more clues in solving this case.


Marchand Electronics XM26

Gizmo raved, mother approved, the Marchand Electronics XM26 is a vacuum tubed electronic crossover which uses four 12AX7 tubes per channel.  After some thorough investigation last year on this unit, my close friends tell me the Brimmar CV4004 work better then even the Telefunken flat-plates in it. Still, if you're ready to join the really tweaky bi-amplification, electronic crossover folks, here is the crossover for you.  Very reliable, easy to use, and fun can be had by all.  The XM26 come in kit ($689) or fully tested and assembled ($1,495) form.


Hovland HP-100

It is good to see Hovland was still kickin' butt again this WCES.  The dudes at ATC/Hovland got this Dick's vote for great sound at the WCES '98 and here is '99 they are still going strong.  The Hovland HP-100 preamplifier comes with phono stage ($4,595) or without ($3995).  Still scoping out their stuff i can easily say they make one very solid, good sounding package.


J.A. Mitchell Gyro SE

There was one thing this private eye saw at the WCES and that being good analogue playback.   This new turntable by J.A. Mitchell is called the Gyro SE and priced at a low low bargain basement price of $1,595 not including tonearm.  The Gryo SE is based on the popular and long-lived (since 1981) GyroDec, but by eliminating the Plexiglas bass and dust cover a savings of $400 is achieved.  Still, there are some interesting new features to the J.A. Mitchell table such as the use of an outboard motor housing, large 40 VA torroid power supply, and 3-point suspension.


Bear Labs

Well, it is time for this dic to Bear it all.  Thinking outside the box, i saw the new Bear Labs amplifier.  Of course even my highly tuned private eye skills fall short sometimes.   Can't seem to recall anything about it so i guess i'll be like it was last night with this girl... and fake it.  Well, um, it's big, has a big Bear on it, and a nice knob baby.  Touch the knob to enjoy it.  Oh yeah, and it gets hot the more you use it.

The one manufacturer that get my vote for the best sound at show is Spectral.  They were at T.H.E. SHOW and had a wonderfully large room playing music to a level that is usually not heard during these events.  Spectral's two new products at the show are their DMC-30 Reference Preamplifier ($8,995) and DMA-360 Monaural Reference Amplifier ($15,995 pr).  The DMC-30 is a remote control dual monophonic preamplifier using a cascode "front-end" and power MOSFETs as output followers.  The power supply is claimed to be immune to external influences by using a multiple isolation strategy.  Five single-ended inputs and a tape loop via RCA jacks, one balanced input via XLR, and balanced and signal-ended outputs are included.  Meanwhile the Spectral DMA-360 produces 300 wpc at 8 ohms with a high speed risetime of less then 300 nanoseconds.  The slew rate is 600 volts/microsecond with a peak output current capability of 90 amps!  Basically this is one extremely fast, powerful, and mega-capable unit.  i suggest checking them out if ya can.


Silver Reference 20

Seen here is the Silver Reference 20 ($21,500 pr) by Cyrus Brennenman Audio.  These 20 watt Class A single-ended monoblock amplifiers use two triode connected 6550 tubes for output and a 6BL7 for mu driver.  For rectification duties, a GZ37 is employed.   The reason for the name is that pure silver Electra-Print output transformer, silver chokes, silver paper and oil capacitors, and silver signal wiring is used.   Seen here in their gold-plated chassis version, this private eye saw a thing of beauty.  Here is another very special product that deserves closer observation.


Audio Aero Prestige

As we look to our right, there is another amp of beauty.  Audio Aero's Prestige monoblocks ($20,000) use two VT4C/211 output tubes which produce a total of 40 watts.   A pair of 6L6 tubes are used for driver duties.  Rectification is solid-state.   After some detective work, i discovered the frequency response is claimed as 15Hz - 22kHz.  If you want to do some investigation work on your own, ya better check out their website.


Wavelength Audio

This private dic uses Wavelength Audio amplification.  In fact this company will soon be making the new Western Electric amplifiers as reported here via a web exclusive audio recording!  Click here for the exclusive RealPlayer audio announcement.  Well, i am not called a good dic for nothing you know.  Of course Wavelength Audio makes their own great products too!  Seen here to the left is the highly acclaimed Triton available in both Classic ($6,500) and Signature ($10,000) versions.  The Signature version uses a single WE437A interstage transformer coupled while the Classic version use auto-transformer coupling.   Wavelength Audio also offers the Tangent MM/MC phono stage ($3,000), Sine v3 preamplifier ($3,500) and much more.  As i said, i use the Wavelength Audio stuff in my daily private eye music enjoyment.


Audio Note M-Zero Preamplifier

This private detective is always looking for good analogue gear.  This mission for information got a bit side-tracked.  Ya see, i personally own an Audio Note M2 preamplifier which i've enjoyed for years.   In fact my friends seem to always say to me "Hey, Dick, i like what cha got."  Well, the M2 aint cheap, but now Audio Note has an M-Zero preamplifier for only $699!  It uses a 6111WA valve, thermonic device, love heater; tube stage and has four inputs and a tape loop.  Now this in itself deserves some investigation work, but for now i have another job to do.


Pass XO Preamplifier

My other job was in checking out this suspicious guy called Nelson Pass.  Word on the "audiophile" streets say he has some good stuff, so like a good detective i ran to investigate.  Seems there is three new products by Pass Labs. Specifically, the new XO dual-mono preamplifier ($8,000), X150 stereo amplifier ($4,000) and X5 home theater amplifier ($4,500).  The XO is a three chassis dual-mono preamplifier (main control unit and one of the two other sections shown above).  Each channel is in its own chassis while the control section has its own chassis as well.  The XO uses separate power supplies for the control and pre-amplification sections.  The volume and balance are adjustable over a 70db range!  Five inputs and one tape loop appear on the rear of the unit while all inputs/outputs can be either balanced through XLR jacks or single-ended via RCA jacks.  Pass Labs also had two new amplifiers.

The X150 is a 150 watt per channel stereo amplifier while the X5 is a 125 watt each, five channel amplifier.  Both use the patented "X" circuit topology, front panel standby switch and front status indicator, remote turn-on, and five-way speaker binding posts.  There was more, but frankly this dic had seen enough.  This Nelson Pass guy was up to no good so i called the local "audiophile authorities" to confiscate his equipment for further investigation.   i had my own mission to complete.

In trying to complete this mission i came upon a company long-known for high quality gear.  Boulder, like Pass Labs, had new offerings so i went in to investigate.  Seen here is the 2060 ($35,000) which is a 600 watt per channel stereo amplifier.  They also have a new model 2050 ($59,000) stereo unit which produces 1000 watts per channel.  Also new is the 2010 preamplifier ($35,000) and 2020 DAC ($34,000).  Too much to say here so again i turned this over the the "audiophile authorities" for further investigation on the Boulder web site.  It was getting dark and this private eye really needed to visit the strip.

While walking down the strip in my the hotel my eagle eyes spotted the seductively mirror black with chrome knobbed Hovland HP-100 preamplifier.  Upon giving this guy near it some hard-nosed questioning, he told me that the HP-100 is a vacuum tube unit employing Caddock and Holco resistors.  Meanwhile the HP-100 is guilty of using Hovland's MusiCap film and foil resistors as well.  An impressively custom made 31-step silver contact stepped attenuator controls the volume.  This Hovland unit gives you the choice of eight stereo inputs plus tape monitor and comes in either a line stage or line with phono stage version.  Stereo/mono and mute switching is also included.  When asked how much this baby would set me back, i was told $3,995 for the linestage only and $4,595 for the version with phono stage.


LaLuce by SpJ

Time for a good sit-n-spin.  Since all the Mafioso gang of thugs were saying that this guy George Cardas, known cable, cartridge, and connector Mafia guy, imports this new turntable into the USA.  George has a way of supplying his friends with good stuff ya know.  The LaLuce by SpJ rests on three contact points and keeps level by adjusting the knobs on each acrylic support. Even the synchronous motor has three level adjustments!  The platter is two inches thick and is precision machined.  Within the platter are stainless steel weights to increase it's mass.

Still walking my nightly beat i also discovered the Tenor Audio amplifiers.  Alas, only a wood-sided prototype at the show, the photos on their website will give you good idea what these suspicious looking characters are up to.  It took some good guy/bad guy investigation tactics, but all i got from the guys at Tenor Audio was that they make OTL triode tube amplifiers and that these special units have a frequency response from 5-150,000Hz!  Once i saw the military-grade 6C33C tubes, i realized these guys were pros.  i tried to get more information out of them, but they just pointed to their web site as the best way to learn more so it was time to moved on.


VAC Avatar

This Dick loves his tube... tube audio of course.  What else could this private eye mean?  With great retro-tube looks, the VAC Avatar seemed to know something, but unlike the good guy/bad guy interrogation i tried earlier, maybe some crafty low profile information gathering would be better this time around.  Besides, it was getting late and i was getting a bit tired.  The Avatar people knew a lot.  After all, it was a fully integrated preamplifier/amplifier and included a photo stage too!  All this for $3,490 the guy told me.  The phono stage could handle MM and high output MC cartridges he said.  The Avatar includes multiple input capability, tape loop, and "home theater bypass mode" which allows the amplification to be used more purely.  Speaking of amplification, push-pull EL34 pairs are used to produce a 60 wpc output.  User selectable triode/ultra-linear operation is also included too.  There was much more to this VAC Avatar then meets the eye.  Under the center bottom panel were the four bias adjustments which used the center meter to insure proper calibration.  As i said, this guy seemed to have it all.  Needless to say, this VAC Avatar was good for putting quite a few pieces in my audio together.  Makes this detectives life easy.  i like that.  VAC had many more things new that weren't part of this private eyes job.  Still, they were putting the word on the streets.  Clicking here might help you learn more as i need to continue my journey.


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