Headphones were surprisingly poorly covered at the show. Sennheiser showed its new €599 IE 800 in-ear monitors and €1,499 HDVD 800 amp (expected in the Summer and Fall respectively), while Lehmann Audio (formerly headphone amp supplier to Sennheiser) announced a new veneer on metal process to make its amps look cooler than ever. Elsewhere – on the Cardas stand – the company was playing a range of headphones and its Clear headphone cables through a Manley Stingray.
Manley was also showing its new Chinook phono stage, effectively a Steelhead without the front panel adjustments for half the price. EveAnna Manley also announced that Zia Faruqi of Tube Technology will be working closely with the Manley brand presently.
Naim Audio has been very busy on its digital streaming side lately. It’s latest versions of its NDX and UnitiServe players will sport a 2TB hard drive, while the £2,795 NaimUniti2 all-in-one sees improved analog circuits, a bigger transformer and a power increase to 75W per channel.
Qualia & Co showed its range of exceptionally well-made products, including preamp and DAC. Currently, Qualia lacks wide-spread European distribution, but the hope is these highest of high-end products will make it out of Japan soon.
At the satellite show in the nearby Marriott hotel, Jeff Rowland showed off its new 725 monoblock power amps. Based on the excellent 625, these amps were sounding good in a too quiet room, comprising dCS and Spiral Groove front-ends, Transparent Audio cables, Stillpoints isolation and Avalon loudspeakers.
Siltech and Crystal Cables naturally shared a room given the companies are run as a husband and wife team. Edwin van den Kley-Rijnveld launched the new limited edition battery-powered SAGA (Structural Amplifier Gain Architecture) amplifiers, adding the €9,000 V1 interstage amplifier and €18,000 P1 power amplifier to the existing €28,000 C1 preamp. The interstage amp acts to boost the dynamic range of preamplifiers, delivering 140dB of dynamic range from the terminals of the 300W P1. These sounded truly remarkable when playing through the Crystal Cables Arabesque Three standmount loudspeakers, fed by a dCS Puccini/U-Clock and using Crystal Cable’s new flagship Absolute Dream cables.
There was a lot more, like Tron’s beautifully made single-ended triode amplifiers and van den Hul’s new phono stage. Or like Stern’s Harmonizer. As well as many excellent products that weren’t showing new ranges or (like Dan D’Agostino audio) were hoping for the preamp to arrive… but didn’t. And then there was Bo Christensen; supposedly retired, Bo showed his new concepts for new designs to be seen later in the year. More on this soon.