In what seemed tantamount to a divorce, I found Robert Lee of Acoustic Zen demoing a system without tubes. I don’t think this has ever happened in my experience, and quite frankly, I was worried. It was like finding one of my parents sleeping on the couch.
Robert laughed. I find that he laughs at me quite a lot, which is a little disconcerting, but probably apropos. Anyway, he was quick to point out all the technical wizardry he got to fiddle with in this particular demo, and then he introduced me to the be-hatted Bruce Ball of Questyle.
What my disbelieving eyes were seeing was some wireless networking. Wireless! Given that Acoustic Zen is also known for wire, I was pretty sure I laughed at this point. But it’s true — the connection from DAC to AMP was hidden in the aether. Off to the side, on a side table, sat the CAS192D converter. This DAC is capable of handling DSD all native-like, with no conversions or filtering required.
The box next to it is the T2 “head unit” for the amplifiers, sitting strapped to a pillar behind the speakers. Operating at 5GHz (instead of the crowded 2.4GHz), this transmitter takes signals via coax, optical or USB, and sends them on to the amps to make with the sounds at the speaker. No word on the range (as in, I forgot to ask), but you gotta admit that not having to run expensive wires from your conveniently located (i.e., not in a tall, imaging-destroying rack) stack off to the side of your speakers is quite nice. And the fact that the system can scale to up to 8 receivers for each transmitter does open quite a few possibilities.
The paired R200 receiver/amps are ICEpower Class D, not surprising given their size, and are good for 200 watts when run as a mono block (drops to 50 watts when run as a stereo amp).
The sound I was hearing out of the big $18k/pair Crescendos was a bit different than I’m used to, not surprisingly. Not bad by any means, but different. Imaging might have suffered in comparison to memory, but memory is a tricky thing. But what was obvious here was a significant improvement in control down low, with the focus of attention seemingly down-shifted accordingly. Those speakers are just devastating. Yum.
As for the wireless technology — I’ve said that this sort of thing is the future. Whether or not the future is now is one of those moot points that will only become obvious in hindsight. I for one am psyched to see this kind of evolution occurring and the freedom for wiring constraints is a good thing, where by “wiring constraints” I mean having to run python-sized cabling across the living room floor. Yeah, not doing that is pretty much awesome.