The Monitor Audio Platinum II involves some major improvements in driver technology. Dean Hartley told me that they had moved a good way towards completion of these changes when the original Platinum Series speakers were introduced, but they felt that further improvements were possible, and they wanted to be absolutely sure they got it right, so they played it safe by going with the existing technology.
Getting near the top of the $4k$18k range, at $16,500/pair is the Magico S1 (Mk.II)which is actually the lowest-priced speaker from Magico. Although it looks similar to the original S1, the Mk II has a newly designed 1" diamond-coated Beryllium diaphragm tweeter and a new 7" mid/bass driver incorporating Magico's Nano-Tec cone material. As was the case for the Mk.I, the enclosure of the Mk.I is formed from a single piece of extruded aluminum, but with a new massive top plate machined to a 3D convex shape, and a thicker base plate.
At $15,995/pair, the Tempus III is the top-of-the-line from Ryan Speakers. Their speakers have impressed me before as offering high quality for the price, but perhaps not world-beaters. The Tempus III is different. It uses proprietary drivers, including a new beryllium-dome tweeter, two side-firing woofers, and a midbass that covers the range from 100Hz to 350Hz.
Moderately Priced Speakers. That's my assignment for this year's CES show reportas well as moderately priced turntables and other phono equipmentModerate being defined this time as priced from $4000/pair to $18,000/pair. Right at the top of this range is the $18,000/pair Raidho XT-2, an extremely slim floorstander that uses the same tweeter as the rest of the Raidho range and two 4" cone drivers.
Constellation Audio’s impressive systemCygnus Media Server/DAC ($38,000), Altair 2 preamplifier ($78,000), and Hercules 2 monoblock amplifiers ($180,000/pair), as well as MIT cabling and Shunyata power treatmentfed the MartinLogan Neolith beauties ($80,000/pair) with enough power to make deep percussion sound real in the next room.
Constellation Audio's eye-catching set-upthe first time they've shown their reference system at an audio showincluded a prototype turntable with two arms that is expected to replace the Continuum Caliburn table. (Is Michael Fremer watching? You betcha.)
The company's smiling Irv Gross was happy to show me the new, shipping within 60 days Constellation Inspiration integrated 1.0 ($13,500). "This one has it all, and it's also our most affordable product," he said. "It's an Inspiration preamp combined with one half of an Inspiration amp, and it includes a headphone jack and theater throughput for easy integration in HT set-ups. It also outputs a legitimate 100 watts."
Now this was an interesting one. Just one room over from the expensive Constellation set-up sat extreme bargain-for-the-money Audio Alchemy, designed by the same man who oversaw Constellation's engineering, Peter Madnick. But since my beat was the high-priced spread, I turned from Audio Alchemy's great-sounding gear to the TAD CE1 loudspeakers ($24,000/pair), designed by Toru Nagatani (above).
15001600 parts, 14 circuit boards including six input boards . . . that's just the start of what gives Pass Labs' top-of-the-line XS Phono stage ($45,000) the right to the "excess" moniker. It's a while back that Nelson Pass told veteran preamp designer Wayne Colburn (above). . .
Germany's T+A introduced the DAC 8 analog to digital converter and preamp a couple years back as a compact and sportier version of its pricier siblings. New this year is the addition of a dedicated DSD processing section, new upgraded volume control and headphone amplifier.