I reviewed the Aragon 8008 amplifier for Stereophile back in the mid-'90s and loved it. I often wished I'd bought it, in fact, as it was a near perfect match for my Energy Veritas v2.8 speakers. When Mondial (the original source company) folded, the Aragon line (and the lower end but also well-regarded Acurus products) was acquired by Klipsch. That company never really supported either of these lines. The rights were recently acquired by a company called Indy Audio Labs, which has just re-launched the 2-, 5-, and 7-channel Acurus amplifiers (200w/ch intro 8 ohms, all).
Later this year Indy plans to re-introduce the Aragon 8008 mkIII, 2-channels at 200W/ch (8 ohms) at $4000 and the Iridium, a 400W (8 ohms) differential monoblock, successor to the Aragon Palladium, at $4000 each. Apart from some added control and status features, the amps are said to be nearly identical in design to the earlier versions, though to my recollection the original Palladium was lower powered (but biased heavily toward Class A). And, of course, those 1990s models were considerably cheaper. Time marches on.
KEF's new R-series, mentioned in an earlier blog, was inspired by KEF's far pricier Blade ($30,000/pair), shown here in its dress whites. It sounded surprisingly good on the open show floor, with a tight, punchy bass that was undoubtedly helped by the lack of room modes--though the latter can hardly be blamed on any speaker. When I placed by hand on the composite cabinet during those heavy kick-drum hits, I felt practically nothing.
Kaleidescape's CD/DVD/Blu-ray server gets around the copy protection issue with Blu-rays by having the user load his or her Blu-rays into this carousel-like unit--the Vault. The discs are then loaded onto hard drive servers and played from there. But they will only play from the server if the unit confirms that they are still in the Vault. If not, the server will no longer play the disc file. That's not a limitation with CDs or DVDs, which can also be loaded into the Vault, but can be removed (but still play) after copying onto the hard drives. The Vault holds over 300 discs, but the number of Blu-rays you can load will depend on how big a server you purchase. No word on whether the pretty blue light is standard or just a show special.
To dramatize the efficiency of its two Class D receiver models, Pioneer hooked up one of them to a meter that monitored power consumption in real time as compared to a Class AB model. At left is the Class D SC-57. At right is the Class AB VSX-1021-K. Though rated for more watts, the SC-57 sucks up less power. Pioneer also showed three new Blu-ray players ranging from $199-399 and made a point of saying they are built to last, unlike all too frequently disposable competitors.
Paul Barton, the speaker-designing eminence of PSB, has tried his hand at headphones. The M4U 2 ($400) can function in active or passive modes. Active gets you more gain but passive is handy when the battery runs out. Cushions are asymmetrical to follow the form of the human ear. Cord can be plugged in either side. A control cord will add numerous features including the ability to skip songs. The product may surface in time for the holiday season.
Totem Acoustic, you knocked our socks off. Now give them back. Technically, the Element Series was announced at CES and it is against our code of honor to cover anything but new-for-this-show stuff. However, the center speaker is new, so we've wiggled out. It's called the Wood ($4500/each) and it will be joined by the Water sub ($5500) at a time yet unspecified. The existing models include two towers and a monitor. Powered by Arcam electronics, the big Metal tower ($16,000/pair) provided the best sound we've heard at the show so far, with effortlessly natural and well imaged vocals that flourished despite noise from the show floor.
There are days - many of them just like today - when I muse over how nice it would be to replace nearly all of my body parts with shiny mechanical, motorized versions. (No more worn out feet or stiff backs at the end of a long day covering a convention!) If it ever does become feasible to cyborgify myself, I know just the folks I’ll have do it: Future Automation. One stop at their booth immediately gives you the impression that if there’s a way to make something move, slide, lower, raise, turn, or otherwise shift and hide, these guys have figured out how to get it done. You won’t find their mechanisms boxed and stacked on an end cap at Best Buy or Walmart, though. Future Automation likes to do the weird, wacky, and close-to-impossible stuff. Until now, they’ve concentrated on motorizing the UK. Now they’re bringing their hidden-wire act to the US. Welcome to America, guys!
While not brand new, Omnimount’s RE27 enclosed rack still elicits feelings of want and desire. The RE27 is a 19-inch rack that works with standard 19-inch rack shelves and accessories. It ships fully assembled, has integrated cooling with top and bottom ventilation, and has front and rear access with removable side panels. (If you can’t get to the component or cable you need to reach with this rack, you’re simply not trying…) All total, the RE27 is supposed to be able to hold up to 750 lbs of your most valuable gear. The $699 price is a steel – which also happens to be what the rack is made of.
A whirlwind tour of the Paradigm booth: The Monitor 7 line is the latest version of a killer value series. It has fewer SKUs, and one of them (the Mini Monitor, $279/each) will soon be reviewed in our pages. The Paradigm Cinema Series has gotten its first rethink in 10 years. For a 5.1-channel treatment, mate the Cinema 100CT sat/sub set ($1249, pictured) with the MilleniaSub ($1399). The Millenia LP updates the flat speaker line with 4.5-inch woofers and one-inch tweeters, in various configurations, in 1.75-inch-deep enclosures.
USB is something previously unseen on a Rotel receiver or pre-pro. But there is one on the front panel of the RSP-1572 pre-pro, and yes, it's iDevice compatible. The product ships in October for $2199. The next big thing from Rotel will be a second receiver using Class D amplification, RSX-1562, but it wasn't on display.
The Bowers & Wilkins ISW-3 sub has a front-facing slot grille that can be disguised as a vent for very minimal footprint. It costs $1000. Budget another grand for the SA-250MkII sub amp. B&W also showed the PM-1 monitor ($2800/pair). It has a new carbon-braced aluminum tweeter that pushes breakup mode up to 40kHz, beyond the range of human hearing. It's mated with a five-inch Kevlar woofer.
Wharfedale's new Jade series has a Crystal AM enclosure. That is a composite of wood fiber and polymer made in multiple layers of microscopic thickness and arranged to prevent the backwave of the drivers from polluting their output. The aluminum tweeter has an oversized surround to defeat ringing and the woofer is a weave of glass and carbon fiber. There are two towers, two monitors, two centers, and a surround at prices ranging from $4199 for the biggest towr to $1199 for the smaller stand-mount.
Monitor Audio's SF3 in-wall ($399/each) uses a dyed sublimation process -- not Freudian as far as we can tell -- to allow reproduction of any high-res image on the grille, so it hardly looks like a speaker. Monitor also showed a couple of biamped idecks and new trimless in-walls with rounded corners reminiscent of Apple products.
The BG Radia RS-420 ($5000/pair) caught our eye with its gleaming red finish. Name your color -- the company is willing to custom mix anything you want. The speaker mates two Neo-10 planar midranges with two Neo-3 ribbon super-tweeters. Price $5000/pair including paint.