mbl 101 Mk.II loudspeaker
God, how I love mbl's demos. Their rooms at RMAF have been major highpoints of the last two shows for me, and their exhibit at CES 2010 is just as fine. There was an incredible warmth and inner glow to the midrange, a tremendous presence and clarity to the sound of cymbals, just the right weight to an electric bass, and a wonderful transparency throughout the range that made me want to stay forever.
Jürgen Reis, their main designer for 20 years, was showing the mbl 101Mk.II loudspeaker ($59,990), 6010 D Gen 3 Reference preamplifier ($23,800), 9008 A Reference amplifier ($25,190), 1611 F Reference DAC ($24,750), and 1621 A Reference transport ($24,000). The DAC has a new USB input with master clock control, and is capable of 24/96.
In part because mbl loudspeakers are internally wired with Wireworld, in part because mbl wanted to demonstrate that you can great sound without spending a fortune on cabling, the Wireworld cabling used in the system was not top-of-the-line. I can only begin to imagine what this system would have sounded like had it been tied together by Nordost Odin.
It turns out that Juögen plays lead guitar in a heavy metal band, sings in a chorus that specializes in performing musicals, and has his own small recording studio. His frustration with what he heard from other loudspeakers led him to pursue and, I'd say, perfect mbl's omni-directional approach. I tested out how well the speakers image from other than the sweet spot by standing, then moving up a step to the higher level in the Venetian's two-tiered rooms. The music still sounded fabulous. I think this will probably turn out to be the only room at CES where I could have invited the designer to play his favorite crunch metal, in this case by Chevelle, and find the sound non-fatiguing. Just fabulous.
Larry Greenhill agreed that the 101 Mk.II's sonics were outstanding, in particular the imaging and the natural quality of the vocals when playing the Reference Recordings CD of John Rutter's Requiem.