The Swiss analogue manufacturer Thales has launched a new brand, X-Quisite. Here the X-Quisite Fire MC cartridge ($11,400) with gold coils was introduced in the active configuration. Its patented design uses a single piece of ceramic – they call it one-piece-ceramic – for the construction of the cantilever body and spool. In addition to the material properties of ceramics, this approach also minimizes cantilever vibration by removing the gasket – the highest load point, according to Thales – found in most stylus-holder assemblies. overhangs made of other materials. The body is finished in a special heat-treated titanium for a cool iridescent effect. The Swiss-made cartridge was mounted to a glossy teal Thales Simplicity II tonearm on a Thales TTT-Compact II turntable (above).
Visitors were greeted with an active but silent demonstration in a display case outside Wynn’s large Utopia C showroom at the Renaissance Schaumberg: a Thales Slim II turntable with a Simplicity II tonearm (below ) moving back and forth in the grooves of a special disc to show how the headshell moves to maintain the correct angle/tangency while the stylus follows the record side. This results in more accurate tracking for reading – the reported tracking error is specified at a maximum of 0.006°. In the active system, LP playback sounded smooth and even.
On the digital side, Wynn has launched the all-new Kalista DreamPlay X CD/SACD transport (shown above) and network streamer with wired (LAN/Ethernet) or wireless (Wi-Fi with antenna) connectivity. It does not have an onboard DAC but a second version “DreamPlay XC” with an integrated DAC and digital preamp will be available soon, Wynn said. Both come with a large vertical external power supply that looks more like a computer. Proprietary streaming platform is compatible with Audirvana and offers optional upsampling for PCM up to 24/192 over AES3 and S/PDIF, and DSD 256 playback over HDMI/i2S output. Control is via an included remote control or the round touchscreen on the front. I only played with it a little, but its interface seemed intuitive and elegant, with digital rotary dial effects. Alas, a high-end design often comes with a high price tag: the DreamPlay X sells for $68,800.
The French company Métronome Technologie which manufactures modern style components Métronome also manufactures the high-end products of their Kalista brand. On static display in a display case, another Kalista debut: their first turntable, which will cost $54,000.
Silver woven wires from Netherlands-based Crystal Cable adorned another display case – in this case, the new cables from the Crystal Cable Art series, which replace the Dream series. The active demo system also featured this new Art Series wiring which contains a new conductive material called Infinite Crystal Silver (iCS). As always, they look as good as jewelry and it looks like they sound great too.
Karan Acoustics provided the amplification for the system: a LineA preamplifier ($41,000) and a pair of PowerA monoblocks ($106,000) delivering a mighty 2,100 W into 8 ohms; it comes with Critical Mass Systems’ Center Stage footers. This power requires some grounding (especially in hotel conditions). A new flagship from Sweden, the Entreq Olympus Hero Floor Box ($18,000), filled this niche. It looks like a basic wooden box but… There are 10 binding posts on the back to connect individual components for grounding. Its job is to provide some power conditioning – as in noise cancellation – but without interfering with or adding any sound effects to other components. And inside? It’s rather mysterious but Wynn told me that there was a mixture of metals inside: copper, silver, gold and tungsten.
Finally, at the end of the active system chain were the lime-green Vimberg Mino D speakers — D stands for diamond tweeter upgrade. (John Atkinson reviewed the same Vimberg Mino speakers, except with the plain ceramic tweeter.) Vimberg is a sub-brand of the Tidal speaker brand; their products are made in Germany. I always remember the slanted back slope of Vimberg cabinets. But they sounded anything but laid back over hard-hitting jazz cornet and saxophone tracks. More expansive sound staging came to life on a few cuts of my Portishead Roseland NYC Live LP. A nice demo that is sure to improve with a bit of setup as the show progresses.