Thiel's PR wonk Micah Sheveloff grabbed me as I walked past the room in the Sands Convention Center Thiel was sharing with Bryston to meet with Frank Göbl of Canton. "You've got to hear the new CS2.4 Special Edition." As Wes Phillips had been mightily impressed by the original CS2.4 ($4900/pair) when he reviewed it in November 2005, I looked at my watch. Enough time. I went into the dem room.
I can't believe that it's been 21 years since Thiel founders Jim Thiel and Kathy Gornik and I emptied the first of many bottles of fine wine talking about music and loudspeakers. But here they are, snapped outside the dem room they were sharing with Bryston and Wireworld, as passionate about audio, music, and the high-end audio industry as ever. And in the case of Kathy, looking even better than ever!
While I was cruising NAD's booth, I noticed the M2 Direct Digital amplifierobviously part of NAD's Masters Series. I asked one Nad rep to tell me about it. "Oh, we didn't bring itit's not going to be released until spring."
I went into the Blue Light Audio room at T.H.E. Show to hear the new Dartzeel amplifiers (Wes Phillips will be blogging on these presently) and to chat with designer Hervé Délétraz. But my attention was caught by Evolution Audio's beautifully finished MMMini Two speakers ($40,000/pair). Ostensibly a two-way design combining a 5" aluminum ribbon with a 7" ceramic-cone woofer, the stand also contains an 8"x12" subwoofer.
Loudspeakers from German manufacturer Canton have impressed Stereophile's review team over the past few years with their combination of careful, solid engineering and excellent sound. CES saw the launch of Canton's revised Reference line. The Reference 3.2 ($15,000/pair), seen here cradled by chief engineer Frank Göbl, features a new tweeter with a ceramic/aluminum /ceramic sandwich dome replacing the earlier version's aluminum/manganese-alloy diaphragm, which pushes up the primary dome breakup mode from around 21kHz to 30kHz. The tweeter dome is recessed within a short waveguide to optimize dispersion in its bottom octaves, and is damped by a small circular plate suspended in front of the center of the dome. The lower frequency drive-units, too, have been extensively revised, while the multilayer enclosure, with its gently curved side panels is acoustically inert, at least as far as the accelerometer measurements Frank showed me were concerned. I was sufficiently impressed to request a pair of Reference 3.2s for review.
Relatively affordable at $30,000/pair, that is, given the cost-no-object construction featured by TAD's new CR-1 "Compact Reference Monitor," seen here with its designer Andrew Jones and compared with the company's original floorstanding and superb-sounding Reference One from 2006. (Across the corridor from TAD, Ray Kimber was using four Reference Ones to demo his new IsoMike recordings in surround.)
I walked into Audience's room expecting to see the usal assortment of cables, power conditioners, and high-quality parts, but I was confronted with an entire Audience system, from a heavily modded Denon CD player to preamplifier, power amplifiers to loudspeakers!
The Wavemaster monoblock power amplifiers ($9000$10,000/pair) can put out 200W into 4 ohms. They employ an Audience discrete-component front end, switching power supply, and come with an Audience Power Chord. They accommodate single-ended and balanced inputs.
The speakers from Colorado-based Avalon Acoustics have either featured conventional, rectangular boxes (in the less-expensive NP series, like the Evolution 2.0 I reviewed last July) or the unique, multifaceted enclosures that I first saw in 1990's Eclipse, which are used in the cost-no-object designs like the Indra.
Taking pride of place in distributor Sumiko's suite on the Venetian's 35th floor were the new Vienna Acoustics Kiss loudspeaker ($15,000/pair). Part of the company's Klimt series, the Kiss is ostensibly a stand-mounted design, but the side-pillared, faintly convex stand is part of the design concept. One drive-unitthe flat, radially ribbed unit first seen in the Vienna Musik, covers the entire range of the human voice, 120Hz2.6kHz, and is married to a tweeter in its center and a port-loaded woofer. The latter features the ribbed, transparent polymer cone material used in Vienna's line, but has a multiple-radius cone profile to maximize stiffness and minimize mass.
"It's like the Pearl but in a more easily digestible form," explained Jeff Joseph, as he demmed the Long Island's company's new Pulsar speaker for me. The stand-mounted speaker keeps as much as possible of the cost-no-object Pearl's qualities, but uses a new magnesium-cone woofer from SEAS with the same throw as the Pearl's 7" unit.
While bunches 'o companies were hopping on the USB DAC bandwagon, Weiss quietly goes their own way, focusing on getting the audio out of your computer via FireWire. The company also sells professional audio equipment.
The omnidirectional MBL speakers, which use a unique pulsating quasi-spherical array of ribbons, make a strong argument for the benefits of this design approach. Featured in their room when I visited was the new 111F ($35,000/pair), which uses the "Radialstrahler" drivers for the treble and upper midrange, with conventional drive-units used for the lower frequencies. A big change from the earlier version I reviewed in 2002 was the use of side-firing direct radiators for the bass rather than the 111B's coupled-cavity LF enclosure. These are mechanically coupled to eliminate vibrational excitation of the enclosure.