I am sure that contributing to the superbly neutral, well-balanced, uncolored, full-range sound in this room was the acoustic treatment from Swedish company SMT, which provided a combination of absorbers and diffusors. And dig the treatment applied to the ceiling by SMT, with different-radius sphere segments. Other exhibitors could take lessons from Martin and its US distributor Dan Meinwald.
Both the speakers from Sandy Gross’s GoldenEar company that have been reviewed in Stereophilethe Triton 2, reviewed by Bob Deutsch in February 2012 and the Aon 2, reviewed by Bob Reina in November 2013impressed us with the very attractive combination of price and performance. And at the 2014 CES, Sandy introduced me to the new flagship, the Triton 1, which will sell for $2499 each or $4998/pair when it comes to market in late April.
The Enigmacoustics company from Irvine in California has become renowned for the self-energized, horn-loaded Sopranino electrostatic supertweeter they introduced a couple of years back. They were still promoting the tweeter at CES, demonstrating a pair with Magico speakers in one of their rooms. But I was more interested in their second room, where they were introducing a complete loudspeaker, the Mythology M1 standmount. Intended to sell for >$12,000/pair, the M1 adds the Sopranino supertweeter to a two-way design featuring a 35mm dome tweeter that crosses over at a low 1kHz to a proprietary 6” woofer in a rear-ported enclosure made from a laminated birchwood and glass, with an aluminum front baffle.
Having gotten used to John DeVore showing off his high-sensitivity Orangutan O/96 and O/93 speakers at recent shows, both of which have been very favorably received by Stereophile’s reviewers, driven by low-power Shindo and Line Magnetic amplification, I was somewhat surprised to see the new and more conventional Gibbon X towers driven by a high-powered VTL S-200 Signature amplifier in Triode mode via Auditorium cabling in his suite at the Venetian. The new Gibbon is projected to sell for $12,000/pair and features all-new drive-units: a ¾” tweeter asymmetrically mounted beneath a paper-cone midrange unit based on that first used in the DeVore Silverback, which features what John calls an adaptive surround, and two long-throw 7” woofers.
Having heard a prototype of Zesto Audio's brand new BIA 120 class-A stereo power amp ($12,500), I was delighted to discover it looking and sounding extremely attractive in a system that included TAD Evolution One loudspeakers, a Zesto Andros PS1 phono stage, Merrill Williams audio REAL 101 turntable w. Tri-Planar U2 tonearm and Dynavector XV-1s cartridge, and a full complement of WyWires cabling. On Illinois Jacquet's album, God Bless My Solo, I noticed that the really nice, warm sound was a little bright on top, and that images seemed rather small for the speakers and room.
"I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore" may be one of the most famous lines from an American filmNetwork, 1976, to be precisebut it seems, on the surface, to have little relationship to MAD (Made in England), the British loudspeaker company whose products have earned praise from cellist Julian Lloyd Webber and Stereophile's European correspondent Paul Messenger, among others. Playing at T.H.E. Show was the MAD Grand MS ($12,000/pair).
When I entered the Daniel Hertz room, close to a full house was sitting at attention as someone was giving a spiel about room correction. As I wrote in my notes, "I don't know what's going on, but the choir is overloading and the sound is too warm." Said person, whom I only later learned, after I left the room, was Mark Levinson, then announced that he wanted to show off the system's dynamic range. "Any sound known to man this system can reproduce," or something very close to that, he declared as he proceeded to play sounds created by Norah Jones.
It's a l o n g story, but Fritz Speakers ended up at T.H.E. Show as a replacement for a company that couldn't make it. In tow were the Fritz Speakers S/R loudspeakers ($3500/pair), which combine a Scanspeak Illuminator tweeter and a 5" paper-cone driver. Bringing up the rear, as it were, were a VPI Traveler, modified Oppo, DEQX preamp, PTE phonostage, Wells Audio Innamorata amplifier, and WyWires cabling. On an LP by Tracy Chapman, I heard fine soundstaging, lovely bass, and a little ringing around the edges. The bright edge remained when we switched to CD.
John Larsen was on hand to show off his eye-catching Swedish-made Larsen 8 loudspeakers with SD feet ($6995/pair), which are distributed by Audio Skies. Meant to be placed against the wall for full control and bass response, they can descend to 23 or 24Hz, and ascend 20kHz. "They're designed to play with the room, not against the room," Larsen explained of a design that claims to eliminate distortion-creating first reflections. The angle of the tweeter also creates a wide soundstage that was given a run for its money on Telarc's recording of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture.
First, today's language lesson: lampa = vacuum tube (or a valve) in Polish. Hence the name LampizatOr for the young Polish company whose GM70 SET 22W tube monoblock integrated amplifiers ($8000/pair) are point-to-point wired in Poland, and whose motivating force, Lukasz Fikus, seems intent on causing quite a stir on audio forums with statements such as, "I DECLARE universal war against high-end equipment manufacturers: CD player, amplifier, cables, speakersNO MORE CRAP."
I’m happy that Simplifi Audio’s Tim G. Ryan introduced me to a new speaker manufacturer, Klangwerk of Zurich, because I really liked the sound of Klangwerk’s fully active, mastering grade Ella loudspeaker ($15,000/pair). Not only did the Ellas produce a very wide and tall soundstage, but they also descended to 35Hz (albeit 6dB). Paired with a Weiss MAN 301 network player, DNM Design speaker cables with HFT ends, and optional DSPeaker automatic room correctionclaimed to fix any stereo system in 5 minutesthe Klangwerk Ellas yielded lovely, smooth, and most enjoyable sound on an excerpt from Reference Recordings’ disc of The Tempest.
Manufactured in Sparks, NV by two families who "all have an insanity for music" and sold direct, two-year old Perla Audio's complete system was set up for extreme nearfield listening. Having entered to the assurance, "You're gonna love this," I made my way to the front, favored-by-Perla seat to hear the Perla Signature 50 integrated amplifier ($9000), PRS-2B ($8800/presumably for the pair) and PRS-2 ($7800/pair?) loudspeakers on $2250/pair stands, and Perla SB-400 subs.
Tom Compagna brought his new Quintessence Acoustics flagship QLS loudspeakers ($50,000/pair, $60,000 with active subs) to T.H.E. Show. "These are true ribbons, not quasi-ribbons," he said of his SOTA line source design, which uses nine 6.5" true ribbons and nine moving-coil mid-woofers. Frequency response is stated as 39Hz41kHz, ±3dB, extending down to 19Hz with the subs. With a claimed 95dB sensitivity, the QLS can handle up to 400W continuous, 1000W peak. Connected to Tom Maker's reference monoblocks and MG Audio Design flat ribbon cables, the speaker's bass was very impressive, but midrange predominance de-emphasized the top end.
I was hardly the only press person who waited until the last day of CES to make the trek to the Flamingo Hotel to cover T.H.E. Show, the alternative, lower-priced-than-CES location for high-performance audio exhibitors. It was easy to spot my colleagues, because, at least on Friday, the last day of the show, there were so few industry professionals and audiophile attendees vying for exhibitors' attention. The hotel's 4th floor claimed 23 exhibit rooms, not all of which I had time to visit, and at least one or two of which were locked. But attendance was so light that the place felt dead.
Eventually, with the help of a security guard, I found the escalator to the registration table and exhibits on the Flamingo Hotel's lower level. If the lighting and drab décor were depressing, what seemed to be very low attendance was dismaying. A quick stop at the two-open "ballroom" Marketplaces, which in previous years were filled with vendors and illuminated by big, celebratory signage, gave hint of what was to come. The program book says 10 vendors, but it sure looked and felt like less.