To go along with these Compact TAD electronics components, Jones said, the firm soon intends to release a new “entry-level” (again, a relative term) slim-line tower-type speaker to be called the E1, while will sell for about $27,000/pair. The E1 will be roughly the size and shape of Pioneer’s Jones-designed EX-series floorstanders, but will in every way be a full-fledged TAD speaker, complete with exotic drive units, etc.
The centerpiece for the Totem Acoustic CEDIA display involved the firm’s exotic new Element-series speakers—a product line that includes two floorstanders (the Metal, $13000/pair; and the Earth, $9000/pair), a stand-mount monitor (the Fire, $6000/pair), a center channel (the Wood, $4500/each), and a subwoofer (the Water, ~ $6000).
Interestingly, the inspiration of the Element-series speakers came not so much from Totem’s traditional hi-fi speakers, but rather from the firm’s technically innovative and sonically impressive Tribe-series on-wall home theater speakers. What set the Tribe and Element speakers apart from most others is their use of Totem’s proprietary Torrent driver technology. Torrent drivers look almost like imaginary “mil-Spec” loudspeaker drive units, with radically overbuilt motor structures that give drivers much broader than usual frequency response, allowing a fundamentally crossover-less design. In essence, the Element models take the basic Torrent concept as implemented in the Tribe speakers, and scale it up for a result that is really something special to behold.
The famous digital audio firm Wadia Digital is another of the high-end companies now owned by Fine Sounds, and so Wadia presented its new models from within the expansive Fine Sounds display.
A major point of focus for Wadia of late has been a range of compact components designed for use in computer audio and/or Apple-centric audio systems. In fact, Wadia’s i-series components share a common compact footprint (meaning the components can be mixed and matched, and stacked upon one another, if so desired) and are—at least by the standards of Wadia’s cost-no-object top-tier models—very reasonably priced.
At CEDIA, a significant portion of Wadia’s display featured the model 151i PowerDAC Mini (a combination DAC/integrated amplifier), the model 171i Transport (a digital dock compatible with Apple iDevices), and the all-new 121 Decoding Computer, which debuted at CEDIA.
Many readers may know of the original Wadia 170i Transport, but may not yet know how the new 171i Transport is different from and better than the original. The 171i , unlike the original 170i, adds iPhone and iPad connectivity, plus a better power supply, and a better clock. Price: $750.
The 121 Decoding Computer can serve in several different roles because it can function as a versatile high-resolution DAC, or as preamp/headphone amplifier for systems with all-digital source components. On the input side, the 121i includes AES/EBU, S/PDIF, Toslink, and USB B digital audio inputs with resolution of up to 24-bits/192 kHz for all inputs. Internally, the 121 uses Wadia’s proprietary Digimaster algorithm to provide 24-bit/1.4Mhz upsampling.
On the output side, the 121 provides both balanced (XLR) and single-ended (RCA) stereo analog output. Both sets of analog outputs can be driven simultaneously, and are controlled by Wadia’s DirectConnect 32-bit digital volume control. In turn, a front panel-mounted headphone jack tis driven by a proprietary Wadia SwiftCurrent output stage and serviced by its own headphone-dedicated DAC channels. In short, the headphone amp section of this component is by no means an afterthought; it’s the real deal.
Projected price: $1299. Availability: Q4, 2011.
Wharfedale claims to produce “Britain’s most famous loudspeakers,” and for CEDIA the firm rolled out a new flagship range of speakers collectively know as the Jade-series. Over the years, Wharfedale has earned a reputation for pushing the performance envelope on one hand, while at the same time finding ways deliver ever-higher levels of value for money. The new Jade range fits “high performance/high value” paradigm to a “T.”