Here's something you cannot buy: The 40th Anniversary Sony VFET Amplifier from Pass Labs. Why can’t you buy it? Because the transistors inside it are 40 years old, and the two monoblock amps Sony showed off at the Venetian are the only two of their kind in the world, and since Sony no longer produces the "vertical field effect transistor," there won’t be any more of them. Nelson Pass, the owner and head designer at Pass Labs, scoured the world to get enough VFET transistors to build these two 250-watt (4-ohm load), class-A amplifiers.
While designing and building these amps, Nelson Pass utilized a pair of Sony SS-AR1s, Sony's top-of-the-line reference speakers, which are generally reviewed and rated among the best in the world.
This amp is not for sale
There was no other demo at CES that left a greater impression upon me. If I could own one sound system, this would be it. The best part was how Sony played the exact same track on its own TA-A1ES amplifier (utilizing FET transistors) and a pair of its still-amazing-sounding Sony SS-NA2ES loudspeakers before letting us hear the Pass Labs Anniversary amps. The character of the sound was the same, but the one-of-a-kind system had more of it.
This system had the best sound quality I heard at the show, bar none.
I'm no fan of opera music, but I can recognize what a feat it is for speakers to fully emulate the sense of being in an opera hall—before the opera music, we were listening to Beck's "Already Dead," and he sounded like he was right in front of us. A switch to opera made the soundstage appear to fall back a good 60+ feet, as if a stage had suddenly appeared what was once a wall in the room. It was a total 3D sonic illusion, the likes of which I almost never get to hear—and when I do, the system's MSRP is invariably in the six-figure range. Best sound of the show, IMO.