Mark Levinson showed a design study for its Reference No.53 monoblock amplifier in its Hilton suite, which will replace the previous flagship, the No.33. Although details are not finalized, Levinson's Walter Schofield suggested that each monoblock chassis will be rated in the neighborhood of 500W into 8 ohms, and will be priced at approximately $20,000.
After encountering several rooms filled with overly warm, romanticized tube sound, it was a welcome shock to discover tube gear from Rogue that sounded far more neutral. Alas, the sound from Rogue’s Zeus amplifier (225Wpc, $7495) and prototype reference-level linestage preamp seemed a bit soft around the edges, lacking detail. However, who knows how much of what I heard was due to the plethora of Echo Buster paneling with which the exhibitors had tried to tame the room's acoustics. Paired with the Egglestonworks The Nine ($12,900/pair), introduced at the show, I heard much promise until competition from adjoining rooms forced me to retreat. What I did learn is the speaker uses an 8" Morel woofer, two of the same 6" Morel drivers featured in the company's earlier Andra 2, and an Eggleston favorite, the Dynaudio Ecostar tweeter. Available in virtually any automotive color, the speaker will start shipping in March.
Pathos products don't resemble anything else in the audio world, but the $35,000/pair 150W Adrenaline Class-A monoblock is stunning even in a room packed with other Pathos gear. It's a zero feedback design and it sounded even more stunning than it looked.
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.
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.
At the GamuT house, the first beauty that caught my eye was their new Phi3 loudspeaker dressed in drop-dead gorgeous zebra wood. "In Europe," said designer Lars Goller, "anything striped is really hot right now."
Proac's $6000/pair Response D-28 was making real music connected to Sugden's $3000 CD21SE and $4000 A21SE 30Wpc integrated amplifier. I eyed the 42.5" floorstander, noting its 1" silk dome tweeter and 6.5" midrange/woofer—but I saw no port.
With another act of blatant scoopage (I'm writing this as my colleagues are meeting for breakfast), I must let you know that, while ripping through the Venetian halls, late yesterday evening, making some final preparations before today's morning activities, I nearly fell on my face at the sound of such sublime elfin wonder coming from the Audes Room (suite 29-324, conveniently close to where Primedia's Home Tech Group resides, which is to say: I'll be back, again and again.)