At CES, the famous Canadian speaker manufacturer took the opportunity to launch an entirely new sub-brand called Paradigm Shift, which will focus on desktop audio, headphones, earbuds/in-ear ‘phones, and gaming headsets and controllers. The first product in the new range will be the Active Atom (or “A2”) self-powered desktop monitor, which will arrive in April and sell for approximately $500/pair. The A2 is loosely based on Paradigm’s critically acclaimed Atom monitor, but will feature a cool onboard bi-amplification system (2 x 50 Wpc), along with facilities that allow an Apple Airport Express module to be plugged onto the rear of the Active Atom, effectively turning it into a wireless self-powered monitor. We can hardly wait to see how the new Paradigm Shift brand evolves over the coming year.
Leveraging expertise acquired through development of its critically-acclaimed Nova and iDecco integrated amp/DACs, Peachtree Audio unveiled a killer new DAC called the iDAC ($999) that provides switch selectable USB, SP/DIF, and Toslink digital inputs, plus—get this—a digital iPod dock built directly into the top of the iDAC’s chassic. Digital audio doesn’t get a whole lot more versatile or convenient than this.
Phonak is one of the largest and best-respected hearing aid manufacturers in the world, but what you may not know is that the firm also builds a very ambitious series of audiophile-grade in-ear headphones, collectively known as the Audēo line. Two models I got a chance to see were the Audēo PFE 022 ($89, or $99 with headset mic/send/end module) and the top tier Audēo PFE 122 ($139, or $159 with headset mic/send/end module). Interestingly, the Phonak phones are universal-fit models shaped to mimic at least some of the fit characteristics of custom-fit monitors. Another signature element of the Phonak design calls for use of color-coded in-line filters that serve both as ear-wax filters and to shape the sound of the ‘phones. For example, Phonak’s green filters enhance bass, while gray filters enhance vocals, and black filters offer optimally neutral voicing overall. Playback will soon be reviewing the Audēo PFE 122.
The British firm Rega showed what may well be one of the most versatile DACs on the market. Called simple the Rega DAC ($995), the unit sports one galvanically isolated USB input (limited—purely for sonic reasons—to a maximum resolution of 16-bit/44.1kHz files), plus two SP/DIF and two Toslink inputs that can support data formats up to 24-bit/192kHz. Interestingly, the DAC provides a five-position digital filter switch that is context sensitive (that is, the switch knows whether you are using standard or high-res files, and varies filtering options accordingly). Significantly, two of the filters available for use with standard (CD resolution) files are appodising filters.