At the Las Vegas Convention Center, Dynaudio was showing—and playing—its new self-powered MC15 mini speakers. In three setups, they were connected to a laptop, a gaming console and an iPod dock, each setup clearly indicating that its high quality sound was an improvement over the usual powered computer speakers. Sporting a 6" woofer, an Esotec soft-dome tweeter (with 1st-order crossover at 1.5kHz), and a pair of 50W amps, this $1299/pair package, including elegant table mount, would be even more suitable as the basis of a deskop system with a good disc player.
The Australian Ambience Reference 1800 ribbon hybrid loudspeakers ($13,995) use ribbons of their own design, combined with a vented bass section. The cabinet is sleek, with a narrowing toward the top. I quite enjoyed listening to these speakers, and, ever on the lookout for a cost-effective components, I was impressed by the fact that they were being driven by relatively inexpensive Vincent electronics (SAT-1 preamp, $1495, SAT-100 monoblock power amps, $2495/pair). Designer Tony Moore was on hand to demo the speakers.
Every CES has its impressive, cost-no-object audio systems, but one of the better sounds I heard at the Show, in terms of superb vocal articulation and an excellent overall balance, came fron a relatively affordable system in the Avalon suite in the Aladdin Hotel. Based on the Colorado company's new NP2.0 two-way towers ($1995/pair), which feature two Kevlar-cone woofers and Avalon's proprietary composite-dome tweeter, driven by an Ayre Acoustics AX7 integrated amp and a Cary CD306 player, the system showed that you don't have to drop megabux on a system to get musically satisfying sound.
Erstwhile Stereophile scribe Jonathan Scull, now firmly established in the worlds of public relations and marketing, conducted an in-room presentation of new Furutech products including an LP flattener, an LP demagnetizer and, with especial relish shown in the picture, an LP degausser. Also, shown were some beautiful AC receptacles and <$100 power cords with various connectors. Beautiful stuff.
Canadian manufacturer Simaudio is on a roll, with product introductions at just about every CES and Home Entertainment Show. This time, it was the Moon P5.3 preamplifier ($3500), with numerous "trickle-down" design features from the flagship Moon P7 and P8, and the Moon W5.3 amplifier (150Wpc, $4800). I managed to catch VP Marketing Lionel Goodfield with a less-serious-than-usual expression by telling him to imagine that they got a letter from Best Buy, saying that they want to carry the high-end Simaudio brand in all their stores and will pay full retail price just to have this privilege. :-)
In my opinion, the relation between speaker size and performance tends to be a curvilinear one: performance improves with size up to a point (assuming good design), but when speakers are really big they’re often disappointing, sounding merely "impressive" but not natural. I’m always delighted, therefore, to find an exception to this rule, and that was the case with the PBN Audio Montana Master Reference speakers at the outboarding THE Show at the San Tropez Resort. These speakers are 84" tall, weigh 500 lbs, and feature two 18” subwoofers, two 10" woofers, two 5.25" midrange units, and one 1.125" tweeter. Demoed by PBN President/Designer Peter Noerbaek and Vice-President Patty Noerbaek, these speakers, driven by PBN's own amplifiers, sounded impressive and natural. The price is $65,000/pair, but you do get a lot of speaker for the money. Peter Noerbaek says they sold four pairs last year—to people with baronial homes, I’m sure.
Ypsilon Electronics was a new name to me, so I wasn't sure what Jon Iverson and I would see when we entered its room. Whatever we expected, it wasn't the ginormous hybrid SET-100 monoblock amplifiers ($69,000/pair).
Von Schweikert Audio's VR-5 SEs ($25,000/pair) aren't new, but once again they impressed Jon Iverson and me with their verve and natural presentation of acoustic guitar. Nils Lofgren's "Keith Don't Go" kept us nailed to our seats for the whole 12 minutes—which, in CES Show mode, is equivalent to seven human years.