I am very happy to see a new range of electronics from Pioneer Elite -- the Pure Audio Collection: four new electronic components to go with the recently introduced EX Series speakers, about which I cannot say enough good things.
First up is the SX-A9J stereo amplifier with USB input, good for 55 watts per channel into 8 ohms ($1099.99). Unusually it features both moving magnet and moving coil inputs and a preamp out.
The junior model SX-A6J skips the moving coil input and preamp-out and produces a more modest 45 watts per channel ($699.99).
Even more welcome are two SACD players, the PD-D9J ($999.99)
and its little brother the PD-D6J ($599.99). The D9J is more substantially built and features paralleled Wolfson DACs while the D6J uses the ubiquitous Burr Brown DACs. Pioneer has refined its Legato Link conversion technology in these machines. The data length is expanded from 16 to 24 bits and the resulting data stream is up-sampled fourfold. Pioneer claim that every inch of this system incorporates specially selected quality parts.
Cary Audio Design showed the new heavyweight transistor amp Model 7.250 ($8,000 US), which puts out 250 watts per channel into each of seven channels, a step up from its baby brother, the Model 7.125 ($4,000) that naturally puts out 125 watts per channel into 7 channels. These new models in their attractive cases are the real deal
-- not Class D. Drop one of these on your foot and you'll know it.
The most interesting room for me came courtesy of Peter Ledermann's SoundSmith. Peter introduced me to his two ranges of phono cartridges, both of which follow the path less travelled. First up is The Voice, a moving iron cartridge derived from the original 1960s design by B&O. Advantages of this design are the high output, compatible with moving magnet inputs, and superb tracking at low tracking forces due to the moving mass involved, far lower than in moving coil designs. The Voice ($2,200 US) features a nude contact line stylus and a single crystal ruby cantilever. Peter claims a frequency response for this cartridge of 20
Hz to 20 kHz (±1dB). It sits at the top of a range that also includes the Otello ($300), the Carmen ($400), the Boheme ($700) and the Aida ($900). These prices are for the wood-bodied cartridges. Acrylic bodies are available from $200 up to $1600.
But top of the line is the Strain Gauge cartridge, which features no coils, magnets or iron to generate a signal. The matching preamps simply measure the electrical current passed through each of the two channels in the strain gauge. This current varies directly with the progress of the user replaceable stylus along the groove walls. VTA and Azimuth are adjustable on the side of the cartridge body. Very low tracking forces are required in this high compliance design. The price you pay depends on which model of partnering preamp you select. All offer the same sound quality, but some offer upgrades like direct signal level information, force per groove wall, record eccentricity and downward tracking force and remote control. The top of the line SG-810 is a full function preamp offering 4 line inputs and tape monitor on top of the dedicated Strain Gauge input. Prices, including cartridge, range from $7,500 to $15,000.
Another new analog product is the Calibre Mk 101 turntable, introduced by Adrian Low of Audio
Excellence. It features a highly polished marble plinth and a 1.5" thick polished acrylic platter. The AC motor is electronically controlled and speed adjustable. The Calibre will sell for just $2000 including arm, not bad for a 50 lb component. A range of upgrades will be made available in the future. There are two finishes available, High Gloss Piano Black and Black Marble.
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