MBL's Extreme X-Treme
When I walked into the MBL suite in the Venetian, the recording of German pianist Martin Vatter, engineered by MBL's Juergen Reis, was playing on the MBL 101 X-Treme speaker system ($263,000, 3600 lbs, two 6' subwoofer towers operating below 80Hz, two double-101 omnidirectional upper-frequency towers). I was familiar with this superbly clean hi-rez recording, having auditioned it on MBL systems at other shows and also at home. But I had never heard it sound as though there was an actual grand piano in the room, which is what I experienced at this CES. Driven by two pairs of the massive MBL 9011 monoblock amplifiers that Michael Fremer reviewed in March 2012, this extreme system sounded better at this Show than I had heard it at earlier CESes.
There is something I find addictive about the quality of the omnidirectional highs produced by MBL's RadialStrahler drivers, but it seems difficult to match that quality in the bass with the German company's more reasonably priced models. With the X-Treme, the sound was seamless top-to-bottom, even if the lows were a little too high in level for absolute accuracy.
Yes, the price is other-worldy but if I won the PowerBall, this would be my exit-level, "I see God" system!