Hi-Fi Highlights from the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show

  • Jeff Dorgay

The Meridian Prime headphone amplifier ($1,995) is the British company’s foray into high-end personal audio. The small, stylish enclosure mirrors the look and feel of Meridian’s G-series products. The amp features a full-blown Meridian DAC, complete with Meridian’s “apodizing” filter, which optimizes playback of digital music. For vinyl lovers who want to get up close and personal with their record collection, the Prime also offers a pair of analog inputs. (www.meridian-audio.com)

The legendary U.S. turntable manufacturer VPI has never been lax on innovation. And the company’s latest tonearm, the VPI JMW 3-D-printed tonearm ($2,500 for the 10-inch version; $3,000 for the 12-inch version) is now available as an upgrade on all VPI turntables. VPI produces the JMW, which was paired with the company’s $30,000 Classic Direct turntable at the show, using a 3-D printer normally reserved for advanced prototyping. The result is an analog-accessory masterpiece. (www.vpiindustries.com)

An evolutionary step after the .5 series of class-A power amplifiers from the mind of Nelson Pass, the new Pass Labs .8 series amplifiers ($12,800 to $40,000 per pair for the monoblocks amps; $6,400 to $13,500 for the stereo amps) continue the Pass trend of sonic ease and boundless power reserve. The .8 amps started shipping in January. (www.passlabs.com)

Naim takes a giant step beyond its award-winning 500 series with the Naim Statement ($200,000 for a set of two monoblock amps and a preamp). These components—the NAP S1 monoblock power amplifiers, which deliver 740 watts per channel into 8 ohms, and the NAC S1 Line preamplifier—were a perfect match for the mighty Focal Stella Utopia EM speakers that Naim paired them with at CES. The Statement amps are scheduled for first deliveries in July. (www.naimaudio.com)

The Minneapolis manufacturer Bel Canto flew into the stratosphere of high-end audio last summer with its Black MPS1 PowerStream monoblock amplifiers ($15,000 each). Now, with the Bel Canto Black ASC1 ($20,000), the company has completed the package. According to the company’s president, Michael McCormick, the ASC1 is not a preamp. Rather, it is an “asynchronous stream controller,” which comprises a high-performance master clock that controls all input signals and volume levels before delivering the music to the MPS1 PowerStream monoblocks. The sonic results were absolutely stunning. (www.belcantodesign.com; www.belcantoblack.com)

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