Athena Technologies has been known for surprisingly high-value speakers tailored for home theater. At CEDIA, they unveiled a new LS Series, with the audiophile's taste in mind. The line features cabinets with curved sides so that the profile tapers at the rear, fiber-glass cones and aluminum-dome tweeters. The top-of-this-line, LS-500B is only $350 each! If the voicing is as stated and the finish quality is as remarkable as the floor samples, this line could have a huge market impact.
One reason the NAD M5—indeed, all of the Master Series components—sound so good, Mark Stone says, is the gigando special NAD class-A gain modules, which "offer tremendous dynamic headroom and nearly immeasurable distortion." JA is working on a review of the M3 integrated amplifier, which also uses these modules.
It's official. I am a nerd! I couldn't resist snapping the interior of Theta's amplifier, which takes an audio input as PCM digital and transforms it into PWM digital without ever changing it back to analog until the music arrives at the speaker terminals.
A speaker brand new to me at THE Show was YG Acoustics. Seen here with his four-way Anat Reference Studio ($60k/pair with a single subwoofer per side) is YG's Yoav Gonczarowksi, who says that he doesn't "voice" his speaker—the perfect speaker shouldn't have a voice but should just reproduce what's on the recording.
Wendell Diller demos the "just been completed" Magnepan Automated Speaker. Essentially a Maggie MGMC1 ($725) in a wooden frame with a remote-controlled magnetic latch. When you're not using the speakers, they fold flat against the wall, looking like minimalist wall art. When you fire up the hi-fi or HT, click the button and the Automated Speakers spring into position, angling off the walls for best imaging. Price not yet determined.
MartinLogan subwoofers? Yup—although the Kansas company is known as an electrostatic specialist, they've been making subs for a long while. The new $2995 Descent1 seems pretty spiffy, though: Top-mounted control interface (hidden under the logo plate), three rigid-chassis, aluminum-cone drivers, triple-servo monitoring, a sealed cabinet enclosure, and three 250W Vojtko amplifiers.
Lenbrook Technologies' Mark Stone pops with pride over NAD's Master Series $1799 M5 SACD/CD Player, which employs separate signal paths for CD and SACD. The player's CD resolution is 24-bit, 192kHz. Since it's aimed at audio systems rather than HT applications, the M5 includes comprehensive bass management for multichannel SACDs and front-panel–accessible preset 5.1 speaker configurations.
File this under Only at CEDIA: Themeaddicts, Inc. is offering a Magic Message Mirror (also available as a talking pirate skull). The MMM looks like an ordinary mirror, but is integrated with your whole home automation system. It can update you on any changes within the system's ability to monitor.
I missed a call when I was showering this morning. It was producer Elliot Mazer (right) asking me to visit him at the Music Giants booth, where he and Halcro’s Philip O’Hanlon (left) had something they wanted to me to see (and hear). Music Giants specializes in hi-rez music downloads and Elliot, it turns out, has been spending a lot of time working on transcoding SACD masters to 24/96 or 24/88.2 LPCM for record companies who are starting to realize that they might not ever get back their investment in the new formats from sales of physical discs.
Quietly tucked at the back of the main hall, Musical Fidelity had a lot of new stuff of great audiophile interest. First off is the new "audio Swiss Army Knife," as JA referred to it in his blog yesterday, the all-in-one, $9000 kW250. But among the other goodies on the Signal Path booth was the X-Package, consisting of the neat little X-RAYv8 24/192 upsampling CD player, the X-T100 60Wpc tube hybrid integrated amp, and the Triple-X power supply which powers both as well as an optional external DAC, tuner, etc. In their compact but non-resonant aluminum casings, this $3000 system was surprisingly potent.
Here's designer Andrew Welker showing off his new baby floorstander in Mirage's OMD series. The OMD 15 is said to share many of the sonic splendors of the flagship OMD 28 and its general configuration, as well, in a slightly smaller size but at 1/3 the price! At $2500/pair, it offers a 1" titanium-dome HF, a 5.5" titanium-deposit hybrid midrange supplemented by a passive radiator and a 5.5" woofer operating with a down-firing port. In high gloss black, this was simply spiffy.
Eminent Technology’s Bruce Thigpen has always taken an interesting slant on how to design audio products—his air-bearing tonearm was one of the best-sounding back in the day and his push-pull planar magnetic speakers are thought by some to be unbeatable. But at THE Show, held next door to the official CEDIA venue, the Convention Center, in the Denver Athletic Club, Bruce was showing off his infrasonic subwoofer. Yes, that’s a fan, which rotates at a constant 800rpm. The wrinkle is that the audio signal is used to vary the pitch of the fan blades. Feathered with no signal, when driven with audio the twisting blades produce a massive acoustic wave with very little power input. The bandwidth is limited by the fan speed to below 30Hz or so—you have to rotate it faster to reproduce higher frequencies but then its self noise increases rapidly— but it will reproduce frequencies as low as 1Hz with a very high spl.
For $129.95, the JBL Spyro 2.1 system—available in black, fuschia, or retro blue with chrome highlights, as well as white— hooks up to your MP3 player and provides 6Wpc of neodymium-magnet Odyssey satellite power and 24W of Atlas woofer action. But don’t you just love the stylin’ styling! Not just for Spyro the Dragon gamers.
It was only a couple of CEDIAs ago that Paradigm introduced its Signature series of high-performance speakers, and I was very impressed by the stand-mounted Signature S2 when I reviewed it for Stereophile in July 2005 (see http://www.stereophile.com/standloudspeakers/705paradigm/). But the Canadian company’s big news of the Show was that they have redesigned, not just the Signature series but their entire line! The new models use beryllium-dome tweeters and midrange units with aluminum cones treated with cobalt to add stiffness. The looks of the Signature series are still to die for, however.