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Audio Electronics Debuts Four New Products at CES

Audio Electronics Debuts Four New Products

Audio Electronics Debuts Four New Products


  • Product Name: Constellation, Hercules, Nighthawk, Lightning
  • Manufacturer: Audio Electronics
  • Review Date: January 17, 2013 05:15
  • MSRP: $1,195 - $1,895
  • First Impression: Pretty Cool

Constellation Preamplifier

  • Input Impedance : 100K ohms
  • Gain: 19dB
  • Frequency Response : 10Hz to 20KHz
  • Signal to Noise Ratio : -88dB
  • Circuit Type : Pure, Class A Triode
  • Tube Complement : 2 – 6SN7GT
  • Output Impedance : 560 ohm
  • Inputs: 3 line level
  • Input & Output Jacks : Gold plated RCA with Teflon® inserts
  • Input Power Requirements : 117V or 220V 50-60Hz
  • Power Consumption : Operate: 25 watts
  • Dimensions : 13″ L X 14.25″ W X 7.5″ H
  • Weight : 22 lbs. 

Hercules Amplifier

  • Input Impedance : 150K ohms
  • Gain : 26dB
  • Frequency Response : 15Hz – 20KHz
  • Power Output : 30 watts ultra-linear
  • Signal to Noise Ratio : -91dB
  • Feedback : Zero
  • Sensitivity : .8V
  • Tube Complement : 2 – 12AX7 input & driver, 4 – EL34 output
  • Output Impedance : 4K or 8K
  • Input Power Requirements : 117V or 220V 50-60Hz
  • Power Consumption : Operate: 165 watts
  • Dimensions : 13″ L X 14.25″ W X 7.5″ H
  • Weight : 45 lbs.

Nighthawk Headphone Amplifier

  • Input Impedance : 50K ohms
  • Gain : 20dB
  • Frequency Response : 5Hz to 35 kHz
  • Signal to Noise Ratio : >90dB at 0dB gain
  • THD : <0.01%
  • Channel Separation : >70dB/10kHz
  • Output Power : 400mW/300 Ohms600mW/30 Ohms
  • Output Impedance :  5 ohms
  • Full Regulated Power Supply : Discreet regulators for audio circuits
  • Connectors (audio): 1 x phone jack
  • 4 x gold plated RCA connectors: 1 set for input and other used as pass thru
  • Dimensions : 14.5″ L X 8.5″ W X 4″ H
  • Weight : 10 lbs.

Lightning DAC

  • Collaboration with Gordon J. Rankin (Digital) and Cary Audio (Analog)
  • Asynchronous USB input, 24 bit/192kHz for both Mac and PC
  • XMOS USB processor
  • Wolfson digital receiver
  • ESS SABRE 9023 DAC chips, 1 each per channel
  • Supported input rates of 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192
  • High quality solid state audio buffer section
  • 1-Coax digital inputs
  • 1-toslink digital inputs
  • Rotary knob source selection
  • Regulated toroidal power supply
  • Estimated retail price: $1,295

Cary Audio is a well-known name in the high-end audio industry, but fewer people have heard of their direct to consumer brand, Audio Electronics. The goal of Audio Electronics is to provide similar quality as the main Cary Audio brand, but at a lower price point. This is partially done by selling direct to consumers, allowing them to cut out the middle-man. Another clear differentiation comes in the model numbers; Cary Audio might have some string of numbers that actually makes sense, but Audio Electronics' product names are exciting enough to make we want to buy them based on name along, like the Nighthawk and Hercules. Personally, we are excited to see how Audio Electronics develops because many high-end Internet direct brands consist of some guy in a garage making stuff by hand. We aren’t saying that business model is bad (everyone has to start somewhere) but it’s nice to see an ID brand that can stand on the solid reputation of a traditional brand. Even though Audio Electronics products are more affordable than Cary Audio, they are definitely still in the realm of two-channel enthusiasts. The least expensive product in their lineup is the Nighthawk Headphone Amplifier for $1195. If Audio Electronics sounds like the type of brand you are looking for, a door into the high-end world without the price tag, then keep reading for a run through of their current lineup.

Constellation Preamplifier

The Constellation Preamplifier uses the 6SN7 tube running in Class-A triode mode that is coupled to a fully-regulated power and heater supple. The transformer is a custom R-core power device designed specifically for Cary Audio.  It features three stereo audio inputs and two RCA outputs (on for left channel and one for right channel). It has 19dB of gain and a -88dB Signal to Noise Ratio with 100K hosm input impedance.  If you are in the mood for upgrades Audio Electronics offers upgrades for the capacitors, rectifiers, selector switch, and internal cabling. The Constellation Preamplifier retails for $1,495 and is currently available.

Hercules AmplifierHercules Vacuum Tube Amplifier

The Hercules Amplifier is a two-channel ultra linear sub amplifier that uses EL34 output tubes and boasts 30 watts per channel. It was designed with a very simple signal path and a specially built power supple and custom transformers to heavily bias the amp into class-A. Thanks to an automatic standy circuit that bumps up the voltage to the tubes gradually (for a longer life) there are no pops or noise when powering on the amp. The Hercules has a -91dB Signal to Noise Ratio, consumers 165 watts of power, and is rated for linear output between 15Hz – 20KHz.  The Hercules retails for $1,895 (upgraded parts available for an additional cost) and is currently shipping.

Nighthawk Headphone Amplifier

Ever Since Monster Beats hit the headphone market the number of high-quality headphones and headphone amplifiers has exploded. The Nighthawk is Audio Electronics solution for consumers who are looking for the best possible sound out of their headphones. It features a completely solid-state design and Class A discrete complementary output stage. It has a >90dB signal to noise ratio at 0dB gain, <0.01% THD, >70dB/10kHz channel separation. The Nighthawk retails for $1,195 and is available immediately.

Lightning DAC

The last product in Audio Electronics’ lineup is the Lightning DAC.  It features an Asynchronous USB input, 1 digital coax input, and 1 toslkink input. It supports up to 24 bit/192kHz feiles and has one ESS SABRE 9023 DAC chip for each channel. Outputs are limited to 1 set of RCAs. The lightning DAC is current not listed on their website because it does not strat shipping until February, but has an expected retail price of $1,295.

For more information visit Audio Electronics

Unless otherwise indicated, this is a preview article for the featured product. A formal review may or may not follow in the future.

About the author:
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Cliff, like many of us, has always loved home theater equipment. In high school he landed a job at Best Buy that started his path towards actual high quality audio. His first surround sound was a Klipsch 5.1 system. After that he was hooked, moving from Klipsch to Polk to Definitive Technology, and so on. Eventually, Cliff ended up doing custom installation work for Best Buy and then for a "Ma & Pa" shop in Mankato, MN.

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