Companies featured in gallery below: ADL, Audio-Technica, Audio Valve, Fisher Audio, Kennerton Audio Equipment, King Sound, PerfectSound, Ultrasone, Violetric, Progressive Audio, Fink Team, Marantz, Focal, Thorens, Musical Fidelity, Soulution, TechDAS
All prices in euros or US dollars unless otherwise indicated
ADL’s €1399 Stratos headphone amp-DAC handles almost any high-resolution audio signal, including PCM up to 32-bit/384kHz and DSD up to quad-rate (11.2MHz). Balanced and single-ended outputs are provided, as is a remote control.
The €329 ATH-MSR7NCs are Audio-Technica’s first noise-cancelling headphones in which the company has focused more on sound quality than on the efficacy of noise cancelling. They’re based on the ATH-MSR7s introduced a few months ago at the 2016 CES.
Audio Valve’s €4200 DAC-headphone amp, the Luminaire-DAC, is built to drive literally any headphones. The tube-based amplifier can drive standard single-ended or balanced headphones, electrostatic headphones such as Stax, and high-impedance 600-ohm headphones. With 5W of power per channel, it can even drive speakers. The DAC offers PCM compatibility up to 24/192, plus DSD up to DSD128 (double-rate, or 5.6MHz).
Fischer Audio’s FA-011 10th Anniversary Edition headphones are an open-back, dynamic-driver design and are handmade in Russia. They seem like a solid deal, considering the projected price of about €390, the nice materials, and the sound quality we heard during our brief listen.
Kennerton Audio Equipment is the step-up brand of Fischer Audio, like Lexus is to Toyota. The new Vali headphones, at a projected price of €1000, are a dynamic-driver, open-back design that, like the Fischer Audio headphones, are made in Russia. The knobs on the side of the headband let listeners fit the headphones to their head horizontally and vertically, then lock them into place.
King Sound’s M03 is the first headphone amp we’ve seen that allows electrostatic headphones to be used on the go. The $450 amp has a rechargeable battery that King says delivers about 13 hours of use. It works with electrostatic headphones using Stax-style connectors, including King Sound’s own electrostatic models, and is available in five colors.
PerfectSound’s €190 Reson dynamic-driver earphones use cables that are magnetically attached, making replacement easy and allowing the user to choose red, black, or white color rings around the enclosure, and to add ear hooks like the ones found on many sports earphones.
The €2499 Tribute 7s from Ultrasone could be considered the world’s most luxurious DJ-styled headphones. The earcup shells are made from anodized aircraft aluminum, and the earpads from Ethiopian sheep leather. A wooden presentation box and a slim carrying case are both included. The closed-back, dynamic-driver Tribute 7s are handmade in Germany, and only 777 sets will be available for sale.
Ultrasone’s €899 Edition M Plus headphones are a closed-back design intended to deliver enthusiast-grade sound in a lightweight, portable form factor.
With a whopping 16 output transistors per channel, Violectric’s €1400 HPA V280 should have enough oomph to drive any balanced or single-ended, dynamic or planar-magnetic headphones to extreme levels. The analog amp-based HPA V280 can be upgraded with an internal DAC.
Progressive Audio demonstrated the Extreme 1 Edition loudspeaker, which can be purchased in passive form (€4000/pr.; €6000 with a Swiss-made USM-brand stand, as shown) or as an active monitor (€7400/pr., excluding stands). The German company uses a coaxial driver in the two-way design. For the active versions of this and other speakers, Progressive manufactures the electronics in-house.
Fink Team is a new brand created almost spur-of-moment by Karl-Heinz Fink, who has designed speakers for Mission, Naim, and many other companies. The WM3 speaker shown at High End 2016 was originally designed and built for use in product-development experiments; however, Marantz wanted to use it for its High End 2016 demo, so a pair wound up here. Response was so enthusiastic that Fink has decided to produce it commercially, at a projected price of about €40,000/pr. It has a 15" woofer in its own separate enclosure, two 5.25" flat-diaphragm midranges, and an AMT tweeter.
Marantz introduced a pair of new components: the SA-10 SACD player (right, €7000) and the PM-10 integrated amplifier (€8000). The SA-10 has a USB input that will accept up to 11.2MHz DSD and 384kHz PCM. The PM-10 comes standard with an MM/MC phono stage and is said to be a dual-mono design. Both 10-series component designs were tweaked by Marantz's Ken Ishiwata for improved sound quality.
Think of Focal’s €18,000/pr. Sopra No3 tower speaker as the Sopra No2 with a little more bass. The No3’s 8" woofers are just a bit bigger than the No2’s 7-inchers, but according to Focal, the internal volume of the bass enclosure has been expanded by 65 percent, partially by enlarging it and partially by reconfiguring the internal structure.
Thorens created the TD 900 line of turntables in response to enthusiasts who felt the Thorens products of the past few years were too much of a departure from the company’s classic designs. The €5999 TD 903 (left), €6999 TD 905 (middle), and €9999 TD 907 (right) are fundamentally the same; both lower-priced models can be upgraded with the flagship’s features. The plate supporting the platter and tonearm is made from what Thorens calls TriCom: three different materials said to cancel each others’ inherent resonances. The lower-end models have glass platters and 9" tonearms, while the TD 907 has an aluminum platter, a 10" tonearm, and an internal air suspension system.
Musical Fidelity's new M6 Encore 225 and M6 Encore Connect look almost identical. The M6 Encore Connect (€4299) is a streaming DAC-preamplifier that comes complete with a CD ripper. The M6 Encore 225 (€5299) has all the features of the Connect, and also includes a 225Wpc stereo amplifier that is based on a Hypex Ncore module. The rear panel of the Encore Connect . . .
. . . has an Ethernet port for a network connection, as well as USB, coaxial, and optical digital inputs. These two new Musical Fidelity products are thoroughly up to date in terms of connectivity.
The Soulution 511 is the newest 5-series component in this Swiss company's line. It is a stereo amplifier with a 2400W switch-mode power supply with 500,000 microfarads of capacitance, rated to deliver 150Wpc into 8 ohms continuously -- and up to a whopping 3000W dynamically. The 511 can also be run in mono mode as well. The price is €25,000.
Soulution made the announcement of the first component in their upcoming 3 series: the 330 (€15,000), an integrated amplifier rated for 80Wpc into 8 ohms. Two XLR and two RCA inputs are standard, with phono stage and streamer-DAC options also available for additional costs. The 330 will be on the market by the end of this year.
TechDAS introduced the Air Force One Premium, the company's new top turntable model. The suspension now automatically levels itself, versus the manual adjustment of the One. The finish is also different, as you can see from the polished layer of aluminum not present on the original. The price is €104,000, excluding tonearm. A titanium platter is optional for €10,000 more.