Sony’s John Bolin, meanwhile, gave us a tour of the perfectionist construction used in Sony’s SS-AR1 loudspeaker ($27,000) and a gawk at the insides of one of ten you-can’t-have-one amps that Pass Labs has built from Sony’s supply of NOS VFETs.
Paraphrased from Stereophile: The transistors, Sony Vertical Field Effect Transistors or VFETs were developed in 1972 to mimic the transfer function of a 300B triode tube. Sony and Yamaha both made amplifiers using this unique device, but discontinued them in the early 1980s when lower-priced power MOSFETs became available soon after. Nelson Pass many years later uncovered a stash in Singapore and bought all of them, enough to make the single pair of “Sony VFET Amplifier 40 Year Commemorative Edition” amplifiers at CES. This uses 24 pairs of VFETs as complementary followers and front-end/driver circuitry based on a Pass Labs’ XP topology.
A second trip allowed us to hear some of Cookie’s DSD served from Sony’s own HAP-Z1ES ($2000) through a Pass XP-20 preamp ($8,600), a pair of those VFET monsters, and a pair of the SS-AR1. Sweet, powerful, and detailed covers just about everything. Between the gear lust, the attention to detail, and the constant exuberance, Sony reminded everyone who walked into this room just why we love this stuff.