Vegas07 Most Lethal Speakers: TAD
Technical Audio Devices (TAD) takes the crown for the most lethal speakers in Vegas. When I arrived at the massive TAD room, I was met by a half dozen firefighters and medics clearing the way for a stretcher carrying an unfortunate listener. Now, it's one thing if the heart attack victim is 90 years old, but the person they carried out was a young woman probably in her late 20s or early 30s.
Shocking, to say the least. After they rolled out the person, the music was blasting in good ol' surround sound from TAD's new Model 1s (formally the $50k Model 2s). These are the beryllium beasts from shows past with a few little cosmetic and technical changes.
As for technology, TAD's Andrew Jones champions short coil, long gap drivers. The vast majority of other drivers made are long coil, short gap. Why does this matter? Because of the low excursion. ATC and TAD drivers (as well as the many pro drivers making an appearance at the show) barely move even when driven to high levels. This is said to greatly reduce distortion. The Zu boys (also users of low excursion drivers) explained that to get good snap and dynamics from a driver, it can't be bouncing back and forth like a trampoline. I believe it since almost every speaker using low excursion drivers sounded excellent.
The TAD room was always packed and one of the most talked about. Hero shot of the Model 1s next page.
Digital, Exodus and Chilean Sea Bass
God-bless digital. When ICEpower came on the scene a few years ago, the entire audio world was, in a way, flipped upside down. For the first time ever, you saw companies like Jeff Rowland, PS Audio, Bel Canto, Rotel, Canton, Samsung, B&W and others dumping their own amp technologies for the likes of the cool running digital plug-and-play modules from Europe. Not only that, but new companies like Red Dragon Audio and many others were suddenly players because of ICEpower's drop-in simplicity.
But the big question was always this: why is one amp far more expensive than another when they both use identical ICEpower modules? Is there major frankensteining going on or is it simply expensive chassis, cabling and so-forth?
Whatever the case may be, the great hope was we'd see bare bones modules priced far lower than their fancy audiophile counterparts with something like 98% of the performance. As far as I know, ICEpower remains absent of a low-cost sleeper.
But Hypex is another story. Another digital amp company out of northern Europe, Hypex rocks modules for the DIY scene ala ICEpower with small kits, hyper efficiency and mondo wattages up to 700 (4ohms). The difference is that ICEpower uses switching power supplies while Hypex uses donut transformers (for mow).
And then there's the sound. Channel Island Audio is using Hypex modules (with modifications) for their $1599 D100 and $2299 D200 amps that have gotten everyone across the review scene all hot and bothered, saying (as they do) the Hypex juice is just as good, if not better, than the ICEpower, NuForce and other digital/switching offerings out there. Designer Bruno Putzeys is Hypex's heavy hitter, recently doing a custom job for mega-buck speaker company Kharma. Positive Feedback's Marshall Nack went gaga over the Kharma Matrix 150s, calling them absolute bargains. Priced at $6600 a pair, they're some of the most expensive digital amps around.
On the flip, we have DIYcable.com's new Exodus UCD-400 MCH line of amplifiers. Available with 2-5 channels in a single chassis, the amps all rock the UCD-400 module (the foundation of the CIA D200) for 200 watts into 8 ohms and 400 into 4 ohms. Price for the 2 channel kit unassembled is $795. Add $300 for Exodus to solder the sucker together for you.
So we're looking at $1095 for 200 watts of Hypex power. If power were Chilean Sea Bass, Exodus's market price is roughly $5.48 a watt. CIA starts at $11.50, NuForce at $15.63 and the cheapest ICEpower amp I can find (the PS Audio Trio A-100) at $6.63, most expensive (Jeff Rowland 201) at $19.60. The Kharma beasts are $66.00 a watt. Does this actually mean anything? Not really, considering the subjective differences in sound, different technologies and the voodoo territory of module tweaking.
What's interesting, however, is Exodus's new roadsters may be an indicator the digital revolution in hi-fi is finally moving the cost of entry into territory where mortals can participate. Hopefully this is the first of many companies making products with the latest digital technology at entry-level prices instead of replacing old school tech in much more expensive amps.
So check out the rest of the Exodus goods and if you're down with burning some lead, DIYCable stocks the raw parts for building your own Hypex amp. Hell, stick your home brew Hypex amp in a platinum and calf skin chassis and sell it for $100 a watt. As they say, what's good for the goose is good for the gander.
Killer DIY Hypex Digital Amp
We don't normally cover a lot of DIY gear but, hey, when you're pinching pennies, why not consider a little quality time with the soldering iron? Here's underground site TNT-Audio with a review of the Hypex class D amplifier. Class D belongs in the new school of amp technologies, along with ICEpower, Tripath, NuForce and any of the other cool-running amps in tiny boxes with tubish sounds and growing respectability. CIAudio got some mad love by Positive Feedback and Stereophile last year and, guess what? The $1599 CIAudio D-100 uses the Hypex amp kit. Here's what TNT says of the UdD180-based amp:
If you still needed a further proof that amps based on new technologies (Class-D, or Class-T, or also Class-N, everyone seems to have his own private solution, or perhaps just name...) can sound better than traditional ones, here it is...
...we have a 180W amp, with that delicate touch of a triode butterfly and the power of a solid state bull, easy to build, very stable, accepting with equal ease both balanced and unbalanced inputs, at a cost that is far away from anything comparable...
...In any case, the bottom line is clear: it is really time to get acquainted with Class D.
180 watts with a touch of a triode butterfly? You don't say. Hypex amps go up to 700 watts. 700 watts of triode butterfly? Don't know but check out this monstrous, ongoing DIYaudio thread for more on Hypex (Jan-Peter of Hypex is a regular contributor, answering any and all questions). DIYCable also sells the Hypex UsD180 module for $85 a pop but make sure to read the TNT article for the other components you need if you're going to blaze this path yourself. Of course, if you're not down with DIY, check out the CIAudio goods. Everyone seems to agree that they're absolute killers for the price.
(CIAudio D-100 with the Hypex UcD180 below)
6Moons Tube Torrent
Here's 6Moons blazing trails in the tiny-powered tube underground. Of course, being 6Moons, the reviews are encyclopedic in depth and length. So here's the Cliffs Notes. First up, the $800 Almarro A205A with all of 5 watts (but they're big watts!):
As others are finding out, the little EL84-equipped Almarro A205A MkII is one heck of a good little amplifier and one that I highly recommend to low-powered valve lovers everywhere.
Next up is the $1995 Music Reference RM-10 with 35 watts of EL84 tube goodness:
No flash, no glitz, no wonky liberties, no silly excess. This is an amp backed by a designer with a test bench who knows how to use it. He wouldn't spring something on an unsuspecting public whose every measurable performance aspect couldn't be justified.
Finally, the $4200 SilverTone Audio Model 3.2 rocking micro-powered 300B tubes:
Based on what I believe attracts most prospective 300B enthusiasts to this tube in the first place, the SilverTone Model 3.2 is a very welcome addition to the genre and one that doesn't suffer the usual excuses made for bass weight or extension.
Read the reviews for all the goods.
Monarchy Gear at Dagogo
Here's a nice little preamp/amp duo from Monarchy Audio that isn't outrageously expensive. The M24 tubed preamp sports an upsampling DAC and goes for $1490. The SM-70pro amplifier brings 25 watts to the game for $980. Dadogo says this:
...The music is not necessarily audiophile fare, but real fun pop and electronic gems… and that’s OK with this Monarchy Audio combo. It is equally as fulfilling with other types of music as well, but I really found myself digging back into my electronic music collection, 90’s alternative and funk collections a little more than my vintage jazz or singer-songwriter.
That's what I like to hear. Read the review for all the goods.
Outlaw 970 and 7075 Home Theater Review
Outlaw is on a mission is to kick ass and take names in the home theater world. Here's AV Revolution with a review of Outlaw's 970 surround processor and the 7075 amplifier. Remember, a processor is simply a receiver without the amplification. Does it make a difference to have the goods in two separate packages?
During the track “Glosoli,” I was reminded of why some home theater enthusiasts swear by separates. From the highest highs to the lowest lows, the Outlaw combo was awe-inspiring.
Guess so. The 970 decodes practically everything in the world while the 7075 pumps out 7 channels of 75 watts. Price for each is a paltry $699 and can be purchased directly from their website.
Outlaw 970 and 7075 Review [AV Revolution]
Dared Mini Tube Gear
Funky little company I've never heard of, Dared is all up in that retro tube game. Shown is the Mini VP-300B monoblock amps at an extremely cheap $890/pair and the tubed SL-2000A preamp with remote (volume buttons only) at an amazingly low $399. The Mini line is only one of four lines of products, slotting in below their Flagship and Imperial lines and above their New Classic line. Review from Good Sound gives the downside of 300B tubes:
"Rock out at ear-splitting volumes? Look elsewhere...Enjoy intimate small-group jazz, pop, folk, or chamber music? Give these a listen right away."
Class-T Amplifier Showdown!
TNT-Audio has been on top of the cheapo ($39+) T-Amp phenom for a while now (check out our rundown on Tripath amplifier mania), so it's only fitting they publish a showdown between a few of the different DIY Tripath options out there.
TNT-Audio pits the granddaddy of the Tripath world, the Sonic Impact T-Amp, against the Autocostruire 2020-m, the 41HZ AMP-3, and, finally, the DiyParadise Charlize. Really, the article is less about which is better (given the discrepancy in prices) than simply showing the different ways one can mod class-T amps.
And even if you're not into modding, you should check out the article. As TNT-Audio says, "Unless you already own very expensive amplification, you will probably find the class-T's a significant upgrade...and with the cheapest costing not much more than a CD, there's no excuse not to!"
T-Amp Showdown [TNT-audio]
Spotlight: Sonic Impact T-Amp Madness!!!
What?!? You've never heard of the Sonic Impact T-Amp? Well, for those who aren't familiar with the T-Amp phenom, this Spotlight is for you. Priced at $30 or so, the SI is a tiny little battery powered amp pumping out a massive 6 watts. Made for cheapo speakers, the Sonic Impact wasn't born to be a contender. But for some reason beyond the comprehension of us mere mortals, the SI T-amp sounds amazingly good.
Don't believe me? Check out the next page for all the goods on the deal of the century and how you too can get involved in the T-amp revolution.
Odyssey Audio Complete System
This system from Odyssey Audio contains the Khartago amplifier, Etessian passive pre-amp, Groneberg cables and Epiphany loudspeakers and costs $1500 for the whole package. Having a manufacture pre-package a whole system is a great idea - takes out all the guesswork of matching components which, of course, wouldn't matter much if it didn't sound great. Check out Scott Faller's review where he proclaims:
"I'll end the article with what I kept hearing people say over and over about the Odyssey Budget System. 'If I had it to do all over again, this system would be a no brainer.'"
Not too shabby. Soundstage also has a review of the package with similar high marks.
Z.Vex World's Smallest Stereo Tube Amp
Z.Vex is their name and making tiny tube amps is their game. The iMP above provides a whole .75 watts into 8 ohms and boasts a bunch of other features that make it unique (which I won't go into here). Price is unknown at the moment, but if you are in the market for a micro tube amp for your headphones or really, really, ridiculously efficient speakers, drop by their mildly informative website and take a peek (or their forums which seem to have more info than the site itself).
UPDATE: Price is rumored to be $500.
Omega Mini-Me/Red Wine Clari-T Combo
For those arriving here from Gizmodo and elsewhere, here's a great little package that's priced for regular folks and will get you into that glorious single-driver club. Presenting the Omega Mini-Me speakers, the little siblings of the Grande 6 speakers we posted about earlier, and the Clari-T, the little sibling of Red Wine Lotus. $788 gets you in the door to this party.
There are no reviews of the package yet or the Mini-Me by itself, but there are a number of reviews on the Red Wine Clari-T. A review of the duo is forthcoming from Positive Feedback and, naturally, we'll keep you updated.
Now, that black you see on the front of the speaker isn't plastic, it's leather. Yup, leather. And while the picture isn't the best, the word is these are some great looking speakers. Louis of Omega Audio is master woodworker and really knows his stuff, as you can see from the picture on the next page...