You never know what you may encounter at CES. The well-organized displays
and new products from the big players in the Kingdom of the High-End always
attract the bulk of attention, with dealers making a special point to check
out products from manufacturers who have received glowing reviews. But there
are also a host of smaller companies, some of which are new upstarts hoping
to break into the admittedly finite audiophile market, whose products await
discovery in the proverbial room next door.
On my first day at CES 2006, I happened upon the Aurum Acoustics room in the
Alexis Park. It had been a bleary morning, with my room-to-room treasure
hunt for the most part turning up lots of organized noise occasionally
punctuated by little bursts of what might by some stretch of the imagination
be termed music. I was ready for a revelation – I was longing for it – and
Aurum Acoustics provided it in spades.
As I soon learned from Derrick Moss, the personable young President and
designer of Aurum Acoustics products, the company manufactures an entire, integrated
system whose components are tuned to each other. In addition to the Integris
CDP CD player/preamp and the Integris Active 300B active loudspeaker with
external stereo tri-amplifier, Aurum Acoustics offers an equipment rack and
two different power cables. (The power cables are the Golden Ratio cords
manufactured by Cardas, optimized for either the Aurum Acoustics Integris
CDP or Active 300B). Should the company ever release is its own line of
speaker cables, interconnects, power treatment, and vibration isolation
devices, it will supply everything one needs to reproduce music with
I was pretty amazed by what I heard. Auditioning some of my favorite CDs, I
discovered the sound remarkably transparent and beautifully extended on top
and bottom. It also sounded wonderful, simply wonderful. Timbre was true,
voices and instruments were alive, and soundstage depth and width were
thrilling. The sound was liquid, flowing with an ease usually heard only in
live performance in superior acoustic environments.
Because one infrequently encounters good sound in CES hotel rooms, I was
especially delighted to discover a new company that seemed to have its act
together. If I had not been on a mission – visit a ton of manufacturers,
line up new products for review, and say hello to as many of my old friends
as possible – I would have gladly kicked back and spent hours in the room.
After listening for a while, I explained to Derrick that, as much as I
thought reviewing his entire system would make for a wonderful adventure, I
preferred to leave my reference system mostly intact and review a single
item. Since my reference source consists of a highly modified Sony transport
and the Theta Gen. VIII DAC/preamp, comparing my front end to the Integris
CD/preamp made the most sense.
back in Oakland, I held off contacting Derrick, having learned from prior
CESs that it often takes manufacturers weeks to settle in after the show.
Before I could even get to the pile of cards and literature, Derrick
surprised me with an e-mail. It turned out that an Integris player was
currently in Oakland for evaluation by Alon of Magico, and was available for
me to review if I could turn it over fast before it continued on to LA. With
a deep bow to Albert Von Schweikert, whose VR-4jrs have been awaiting review
forever and ever and are next on the list (hallelujah, hallelujah), I leapt
at the opportunity to review the Integris CDP.
Features of the Integris CDP
The Integris CDP can function both as a CD player (it plays CDs, but not
SACD or DVD-A) and as a preamp. The
dimmable front panel vacuum fluorescent display informs the user of preamp
settings, CD transport playback, volume level, etc. The VFD's intensity can
be adjusted by 25% increments between 100% intensity and 0%.
The player offers both single track and full CD repeat, four options for
time settings (elapsed track time, remaining track time, elapsed total CD
time, and remaining total CD time). By the way one depresses the scan
button, one can choose between 3X and 15X scanning within a track. All other
functions you'd expect from a CD player are available save for programming.
This is a serious omission, one that would certainly affect my purchasing
Click Here to Go to Part II.