Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2013: Part 3

Neil Gader's Highlights

Show report
Solid-state power amplifiers,
Tubed power amplifiers
Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2013: Part 3

In other news Benchmark (pictured above) introduced its first “analog” product in the guise of an amplifier,  the AHB2. Power output is 100Wpc into 8 ohms (170Wpc into 4 ohms & 340 W bridged mono into 8 ohms) Designed for high resolution digital formats it’s a wide bandwidth design with response out to 200kHz plus it claims a whopping dynamic range approaching 130dB. Although the price hasn’t been settled, Benchmark sources state that they’ll hold the line just under $3000. This isn’t Class D design but it’s claimed to be nearly as efficient as the switch mode technology and said to eliminate crossover distortion.  And it’s capable of handling loads down to two ohms.  I listened to it driving the Studio Electric compact monitors ($2450-2850) and it sure exhibited terrific control over these terrific, acoustic-suspension loudspeakers.

Cyrus electronics has maintained a solid footing in the Euro and Asian markets for years but for the US?-not so much. However, the introduction of the Lyric CD transport/DAC/integrate (est. $5000) could auger a new day in North America for the British firm.  It uses Cyrus’ own Redbook CD coding. At 175Wpc from its hybrid Analog power supply/Class D output stage it uses technology to allow it to handle difficult speaker loads. Ethernet and Wi-Fi capable and internet radio and it’s own comprehensive iPad App plus loads of digital inputs plus an analog input for a phono preamp.

Bel Canto’s Mike McCormack introduced me to the firm’s unique three box Black playback system which incorporates the ASC-1 (Asynchronous Stream Controller) $20,000 and PS-1 PowerStream DAC/monoblocks ($30k/pr). the imposing, jet black chassis are solid billet aircraft aluminum. the monos are capable of up to 1200W of power output.  Driving TAD CR-1 speakers. Harmonic Resolution racks, Kimber Select cabling w/Palladian power cords. The ASC-1  accepts nine inputs including Ethernet streaming PCM and DSD and USB2 audio up to 24-bit/192kHz. The controller is linked to the monoblocks via BC’s own StreamLink ST Fiber interconnects. The sound was a complete contrast to what I heard in the TAD CR-1 equipped Zesto Audio room.  Black Playback was fast, highly detailed but considerably cooler than the tube-driven Zesto system. Same speakers–So is this proof of a still brewing tube-analog/solid-state-digital divide? Room setup? Hard to say except that I’d love to hear these systems again, but next time in the same environment.

The Sony footprint in the high end continues to expand with the long awaited introduction of electronics designed to complement its AR & ES Series of loudspeakers. Specifically its PHA-2 High Res Portable DAC/AMP ($599) and TA-A1ES integrated amplifier ($1999). The later joins Sony’s Elevated Standard series, an 80Wpc output with the enhanced frame/beam chassis construction, Smart Bias Control for Class A operation and an amp stage that features robust caps, a toroidal transformer with a 300VA rating

Simaudio was demoing its all new Moon Neo series lineup (pictured above) which includes CD and network source components and the Neo 350P Preamplifier ($3650)
MOON Neo 400M mono amplifiers ($4300). The preamp borrows liberally from the flagship Evolution series and offers a pair of options which can be installed in the field in the form of a high performance DAC and a MM/MC phono stage. The 400M outputs in pure Class A up to 10 watts, plue the no-overall feedback design uses eight Bipolar output devices to achieve it’s well-muscled 400 watt into 8 ohm (650 into 4 ohm) rating Other elements in this setup included B&W 804D loudspeakers along with Cardas Clear wire.

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