Over the last year I eagerly awaited news from Classé about its forthcoming USB enabled product. I was unsure if it would be a stand alone DAC or another type of component. A couple months ago Classé's Dave Nauber and I exchanged emails about the new CP-800 stereo preamp processor with built-in DAC, USB inputs, Ethernet capabilities, and a ton more options. Today I finally saw the $5,000 (approximately) CP-800 and talked to an extremely bright member of the Classé engineering team about all the features of the new preamp processor. The USB inputs offer host (type A) and device (type B) connectors allowing a portable player (iPod, etc…) connection to the CP-800 and a computer connection that appears as a DAC. The most impressive part of the CP-800 is its unique asynchronous USB implementation. In my estimation 95% of USB implementations are adaptive and 5% are asynchronous. Of the 5% asynchronous USB DACs I know of no other implementation like that of the CP-800. Classé engineered this asynchronous implementation in house after lengthy research into the operation of USB audio. In addition to the standard asynchronous functions like pulling the data as opposed to accepting the data from a computer and dual oscillators for the 44.1 and 48 kHz sample rate families, the CP-800 isolates the sensitive master clock by using an FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) between the USB controller and DAC. Classé will soon release a white paper explaining why it believes this asynchronous USB implementation is superior to all other current USB implementations. The Ethernet input on the CP-800 is capable of two different user selectable methods of operation. Option 1 enables the CP-800 to functions a UPnP/DLNA renderer while options 2 enables the CP-800 to function as an Apple AirPlay capable device. Pros and cons exist for each option but I really like the ability to select one of the two options depending on the need of each user.
Walking into the Musical Fidelity suite at the Mirage it's impossible not to be impressed by the large Verity Audio Lohengrin II loudspeakers powered by the giant 1000 watt Titan and pure class A 100 watt AMS100 amplifiers.The digital front end was the equally impressive and expensive dCS Scarlatti stack. As expected the sound coming from this system was something I would happily live with until the manufacturers/distributors needed the equipment returned. Beyond the main room in the suite Musical Fidelity displayed the new $1,999 M1-CLiC Universal Music Controller, V-Link asynchronous USB to S/PDIF converter (review coming this week), and the new M6 500i integrated amplifier powering Verity Lonore loudspeakers. The M1-CLiC is an interesting product with many digital inputs including USB (adaptive device), USB (host) for iPod on rear and hard drive on front, Ethernet, S/PDIF (optical and electrical), as well as analog inputs. All inputs are user selectable via a modest graphical user interface. Navigation via this interface was surprisingly fast and responsive. A highlight of the visit was a demonstration put on by John Quick comparing Musical Fidelity's adaptive and asynchronous USB implementations. Depending on the level of execution of each interface the difference can range from unnoticeable to very apparent. The two components in use were the MuFi M6 CD Player with adaptive USB input and the V-Link asynchronous USB to S/PDIF converter connected to the M6 coaxial S/PDIF input. I was surprised at the magnitude of the difference between the two USB implementations. The asynchronous V-Link was clearly superior in clarity, separation and soundstage. The nice thing about this is the low price of the V-Link. If memory serves it should sell for $170-180.
At the Weiss Engineering suite I talked to Daniel Weiss and Weiss Asia distributor / Mastering Engineer Kent Poon who CA readers recognize from his wonderful Audiophile Jazz Prologue high resolution material. Much of the discussion in the Weiss suite surrounded the prototype MAN 202 Music Archive Network Player. The term prototype can't be stressed enough at this stage, but Weiss is working very hard to finalize the feature set and software configuration. This player has a nice, but improvable, iPad remote control interface. I browsed around the library selecting many Led Zeppelin tracks with ease. The MAN 202 offers a built-in DAC with many digital inputs including word clock in/output. If I were a betting man here in Las Vegas I would put money on this built-in DAC being awfully similar to the DAC202. The MAN 202 even retains the course analog / fine digital volume control that I like so much during my DAC 202 review period. This player runs on the incredibly stable and customizable Linux operating system. As far as most consumers are concerned they don't even have to know what operating system the MAN 202 uses as it never comes into play for the end user. There is no keyboard, mouse or monitor needed. This could certainly be one of those music servers that operates like a toaster and just works. I've already expressed my interest to Daniel Weiss about obtaining the MAN 202 as soon as it's ready for review.
Other photos from CES 2011 Day Three include a new CD Player / USB DAC from Mbl (Corona line of products), new stereo amplifier from Ayre, and the Soneteer Morpheus Music Center + Morpheus Server.