Companies featured in gallery below: Gryphon Audio Designs, Alpha Design Labs by Furutech, Audio Research, Denon, Elac, Focal, Marantz, KEF, Sonus Faber, Triangle
All prices in euros unless otherwise indicated
A flagship Gryphon amplifier introduction is always an event, and the company's new Mephisto stereo power amplifier (42,000€) did not disappoint. What a visual statement! What a behemoth! With 175Wpc of pure class-A power, the Mephisto is a true powerhouse.
According to Gryphon, the Mephisto was "conceived unrestrained by considerations of cost, size, weight, appearance, or production deadlines to be the ultimate evaluative tool." Our mouths are watering! [www.gryphon-audio.dk]
The Mephisto's natural companion is the new Gryphon Pandora preamplifier (24,000€). An obvious departure from the styling cues first seen in the company's Mirage preamplifier, the Pandora is more classic in appeal. In fact . . .
The jewel-like Alpha Design Labs by Furutech Cruise is a 24-bit/96kHz DAC and headphone amplifier. The Cruise retails for 500€, and it's built extremely well and is very attractive. [www.furutech.com]
. . . Gryphon's Flemming Rasmussen told us that they designed the new Mephisto and Pandora to appeal to Gryphon customers who want a more traditional look. While they may look traditional, we'd say they're still quite striking and should be wildly appealing to most audiophiles. They have what Doug Schneider likes to call the "audiophile lust factor." [www.gryphon-audio.dk]
Audio Research Corporation showed the new Reference 150 stereo power amplifier at the High End show, and it will likely be a hit with the company's many fans. Besides the fine sound, we're impressed with ARC's new cosmetics. The Ref 150 is said to produce 150Wpc into 4-, 8-, and 16-ohm loads, and it retails for $12,000€. [www.audioresearch.com]
Doesn't everyone build a music server these days? Almost, but not that many of them have the features of the Denon DNP-720AE network audio player. Not only does the DNP-720AE support AirPlay and DLNA streaming, but it also has built-in Internet Radio and an AM/FM tuner. The retail price is a very reasonable 499€.
Although the Elac Reference 509VX-JET looks like a somewhat conventional four-driver loudspeaker, this 12,000€-per-pair model is anything but . . .
. . . with its unique coaxial mid- and high-frequency driver implemented in such a way that the dispersion can be altered by . . .
. . . a knob on the rear of the speaker that moves the entire drive unit forward and backward. When the driver is moved forward, the mid- and high-frequency dispersion widens, and when moved back the dispersion narrows.
France's Focal sure knows how to design attractive products. There's no better example than its new Bird-series 2.1-channel stereo systems that include a central component to power and control the system. Starting at 799€ for the smallest speaker setup, a system that features the larger speaker models can be purchased for 849€ and 999€, respectively.
Isn't every new audio product designed to interface with a computer at some juncture? The new Focal XS Book speaker is touted to provide the ultimate sound for 2.0 computer-audio systems. The XS Book . . .
. . . is a two-way speaker with internal amplification (the second speaker unit is slaved to the amp in the first) and features a 4" Polyglass cone mid-woofer and a 1" aluminum-dome tweeter. The price for the XS Book is 300€ per pair.
Good audio for the real world: Marantz debuted the NR1402 "Lifestyle" A/V receiver that features five channels of amplification rated at 50W each to power a 5.1-channel system. The NR1402 also has Audyssey MultEQ and four HDMI inputs. The retail price is a reasonable 449€.
KEF's new Blade began life as the Concept Blade, which was shown at High End a couple years ago. But at the time, it was never meant to be produced. Instead, it was meant to be an exercise in cost-no-object engineering. But the reception to the Concept Blade was so overwhelming that KEF worked for two years on the production version that's now simply called Blade. The Blade is . .
. . . a three-way design that features four inward- and outward-firing woofers that are all equidistant to the newly developed Uni-Q mid- and high-frequency driver. Essentially, the whole driver array acts as one big point source, a goal of KEF's since they started working on their Uni-Q technology decades ago. To our eyes and ears, the Blade looks and sounds cutting-edge.
In the past, we've had mixed feelings about the appearance of Sonus Faber speakers -- a number of the models look gaudy. However, our team agrees that the new Guarneri series looks sharp. The newest addition to the line is the Guarneri Evolution . . .
. . . a 15,000€-per-pair two-way stand-mounted design with chromed metal panels that "bracket" the enclosure, while the rest of the speaker comes in a variety of beautiful real-wood finishes.
The Triangle Color series features three models: The Floostander (1100€ per pair), the Bookshelf (560€ per pair), and the Center Channel (450€). The Color series comes in -- you guessed it -- piano lacquer in a variety of colors to complement almost any room.