• Liquid Fire—Hybrid tube/solid-state desktop headphone amplifier. ($3250)
• Liquid Lightning—Solid-state desktop electrostatic headphone amplifier, shown in pre-production prototype form. (Projected price, about $5000)
Cavalli’s Liquid Fire headphone amplifier was the first, and is thus far the only, headphone-related product to be praised in Playback as a state-of-the-art product, but at Can Jam the firm rolled out a new, dedicated solid-state electrostatic headphone amp called the Liquid Lightning that may also be vying for state-of-the-art recognition. We like what we’ve heard thus far, but need to hear the Lightning driving a true top-shelf electrostat such as the new Stax SR-009 in order to know for sure just how good this amp really is. Stay tuned.
• DACmini PX—Class A desktop headphone amplifier/25 Wpc integrated amplifier/DAC. ($1475)
• Master Class 2504 speakers—Desktop monitoring speakers. ($700/pair)
When CEntrance’s DACmini first appeared on the scene, Playback reported—quite accurately as it turns out—that the DACmini was not just a singular product, but rather a platform from which an entire family of products was likely to evolve. This has, in fact, proven to be the case as you can tell from CEntrance’s decision to release its new DACmini PX. In simple terms, the PX version is what you get if you take the original DACmini CX combination DAC/class A headphone amplifier, and then add in in a very high-quality 25 Wpc integrated amplifier suitable for driving desktop or console-top monitoring speakers.
And just to reinforce this point, CEntrance also decided to release its first-ever set of desktop/console-top monitoring speakers, called the Master Class 2504’s. Sadly, I did not get a chance to hear the 2504’s since their output would surely have disturbed the many vendors conducting headphone demonstrations nearby, but they certainly look promising as they sport what appear to be very high quality roughly 4-inch coaxial mid-bass/tweeter drivers. In practice, this means you can now buy a complete, very high performance desktop system from CEntrance (talk about “one stop shopping”).
• AlgoRhythm Solo—Portable iDevice-compatible DAC. ($579)
Turn back the clock about a year and a half and the Cypher Labs AlgoRhythm Solo was only a proof-of-concept prototype. Now, it’s a reality. What exactly is an AlgoRhythm Solo? In a nutshell, it’s a fully portable, very high performance DAC (with support for audio data files from 16-bit/44.1 kHz on up to 24-bit/192 kHz) that is geared specifically for use with Apple iDevices. Cypher emphasizes that the AlgoRhythm provides, “decryption of the Apple USB output (not a ‘pass through’ of the line out).” The AlgoRhythm Solo also provides, “Aynchronous mode USB to SP/DIF conversion,” adding that, “Clock timing is embedded in the signal for jitter free performance.”
The upshot of all this is twofold. First, the AlgoRhythm is compatible with a wider range of iDevices than just about any competing product, including:
• 4th and 5th generation iPod nano’s,
• 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation iPod touches,
• iPod classic (80 GB), iPod classic 160 GB (2007-version), and iPod classis 160GB (2009 version),
• iPhone 3G, 3GS, and iPhone 4, and
• iPad and iPad 2 (models few other iDevice DACs can support).
Second, the AlgoRhythm, which features a Lithium battery power supply and Wolfson DAC chips, gives you what is claimed to be the highest sound quality of any all-digital Apple iDevice-compatible component.
As icing on the cake, the AlgoRhythm Solo is exactly the same size and features the same footprint as ALO Audio’s RX Mk2 and new RX MK3-B portable amps. Just strap the two together and you’ve got a killer (digital) audio source/amplification package for on-the-go listening (though the AlgoRhythm Solo also pairs very nicely with theRay Samuel’s Audio portable amps—especially the Blackbird SR-71B).