Imagine how much prettier it would be if it were real. Imagine again how much prettier it would be if those bridges and roads and towers weren't there at all.
Every time I stepped from the slow elevator and onto the casino floor at Harrah's, where Stereophile's editors spent their sleepless nights, my hatred for Las Vegas was revitalized. This was like some kind of bad joke, some kind of post-modern torture. Oh, god, I am still here. I would turn right and see the same flashing lights, the same low ceilings, the same people who had been there the night before, still sitting, still smoking, still hoping, still staring blank-faced into spinning screens of cherries, spades, and jokers, and I would wonder why.
Why? Most people who visit Las Vegas seem to be looking for money, sex, drugs, or simple escape. Why are we here?
The Genesis Advanced Technologies 7.2f claims to be the "new affordable reference for bringing true-to-life music into your home." And they have a formidable amount to technology in the speaker to support this claim. At the top, there is the latest version of the circular flat-ribbon tweeter that apparently has been steadily improved since it was first introduced in 1992 (and which, for once, owes nothing to Dr. Oskar Heil). A solid titanium-cone mid/woofer claims to deliver exceptional clarity and low distortion within its range (and the "oil-can" resonance is far outside the range where the driver is utilized), and a servo-controlled powered bass from an 8" side-firing aluminum-cone driver, is claimed to extend the response down to 22Hz. There is also a rear-firing tweeter, which can be turned off if desired. There is control over tweeter as well as woofer level. The price of all this technology is a very reasonable $9000/pair.
Atlantic Technology's AT-1, which uses their patented H-PAS venting technology, was one of the hits of last year's CES, and the positive impression was confirmed in Erick Lichte's review (September 2011). The H-PAS approach has now been applied to the new AT-2 ($1800/pair). The 3dB point is specified as 41Hz, which I'm told is an anechoic figure. This normally translates to in-room response to the low 30s, and the sound of the AT-2 in the Venetian's less-than-ideal space seemed to confirm this.
Wharfedale is one of those venerated British names in audio. And while its image is perhaps on the old-fashioned side, there's absolutely nothing old-fashioned about the latest Jade series of loudspeakersunless you're thinking of old-fashioned craftsmanship. The price of speakers in the Jade series ranges from $1200/pair (stand-mounted Jade-1) to $4200/pair (floorstanding Jade-7), and the manufacturing is vertically integrated: they make every component of each speaker!
At the previous Shows where I had auditioned it, MBL's extravagantly excessive (or should that be excessively extravagant) X-Treme system had been set-up in inappropriate rooms, Finally, at the 2012 CES, this 4-enclosure system, which basically comprises two of the true omnidirectional upper-frequency modules of the Berlin-based company's 101E Mk.2 speaker (to be reviewed by Mikey Fremer in the April 2012 issue) with two man-sized powered subwoofers, each using six 12" drivers mounted three on each side to cancel mechanically induced vibrations, was set up in a room worthy of it. (The Venetian room was 31' by 22' with a 10' ceiling.) Bi-amped with four file-cabinetsized MBL 9011 monoblocksthe total system cost was $565,000!the X-Treme produced a big-bottomed sound that was indeed extreme when required but also delicate when appropriate. Oh my!
The BMC (see next story), Ypsilon, and Lansche brands are distributed in the US by Aaudio Imports. Larry Greenhill has already described the new Ypsilon Aelius monoblock amplifier and I auditioned the amplifier in one of the two Aaudio rooms at the Venetian with the new Model No.7 speakers from Lansche ($100,000/pair in satin-veneer finish; $108,000/pair in high gloss).
I first auditioned an open-baffle Granada speaker at the 2011 Show, which used a single Feastrex driver to cover the range above 200Hz and was being driven by a solid-state Musical Fidelity amplifier. For 2012, the Lotus Group was showing the less expensive G2 ($75,000/pair), which uses a more conventional midrange unit and tweeter, but still on an open baffle, still with a digital-domain crossover and room calibration realized in DSP. Amplification this year was provided by the humongous Audio Power Labs 833T amplifier that had impressed Larry Greenhill elsewhere at the Show.
The Mårten Django represented a new direction for the Swedish speaker manufacturer, in that at $15,000/pair, it is considerably more affordable than the Mårten Coltrane speakers shown at earlier Shows. It still uses a ceramic tweeter and a ceramic-cone midrange unit, with three aluminum-cone 8" woofers, but in a less complex enclosure than the more expensive speakers. Downward-firing posts reflex-load the woofers. Set up across the room's diagonal, and flanked by Swedish SMT acoustic panels, the Jacques Loussier Trio performing an arrangement of an Eric Satie Gymnopedie was reproduced with superb low-frequency weight and definition. Amplification was Mårten's own M-Amp, with an MSB digital source. The Djangos were also being used in US importer Dan Meinwald's room, where they were being driven by EAR tube amps and a prototype EAR SACD player to great effect.
Costing $165,000/pair, Magico's new Q7shown here with AudioStream.com editor Michael Lavorgna for scaleembodies everything the Californian company knows about speaker design: a proprietary beryllium-dome tweeter, nano-fibersandwich-cone midrange unit and woofers, housed in a sealed all-aluminum enclosure weighing 750 lbs! With the prototype Audeeva music server, Pacific Microsonics DAC, a Spectral preamp, MIT cables, and unidentified amplifiers hidden behind a curtain, the Q7s threw an enormous soundstage on a 176.4kHz/24-bit file of a Reference Recordings orchestral recording, with bass-drum blows that pressurized the room without obscuring a low-level bassoon that was playing at the same timemacro and micro-dynamics.
For the past few years, Colorado company YG Acoustics has been exhibiting in a large "air-wall" space in the Sands Convention Center. Their reason for doing so was that it was a great place for a new company to get foot traffic, but the downside was that it took heroic efforts to get sound quality that would indicate what YG speakers were capable of. For the 2012 Show, they had moved to a large suite in the Venetian Tower, and finally they were showing what their $119,000/pair flagship, the Anat III Signature, was capable of.
Harman Specialty Audio introduced the new Revel Performa 3 series of loudspeakers at the 2012 CES. Kevin Voecks, lead audio engineer in the design, was delighted at the increased performance of Performa 3 series, including the $4500/pair, three-way, F208 full-range floorstander and the $1750/pair M106 two-way bookshelf. The F208 replaces the more expensive, $7500 F32 Performa in the previous series.
Each Xs channel has two chassis, one for the power supply and the other for signal amplification. The amplifier acts as a voltage source, and is rated at 300W into 8 ohms, 600W into 4 ohms, and 1200W into 2 ohms. It is biased to ensure make certain that the amplifier remains in class-A mode into all loads. Each channel has 122 output devices with a total rating of 10kW, and the extensive heatsinking allows the Xs 300 to deliver 2kW into a load "all day long." Though the Xs 300 stack was a silent exhibit, the company was using the more modest $65,000/pair Xs 150s to drive the Pass Lab RM2 loudspeakers, which showed a wide dynamic range and outstanding detailing.
Quintessence was a brand new to me, but it turns out that the company's Shadow V loudspeaker ($35,000/pair) was designed by PBN's Peter Noerbaek. Driven by PBN amplifiers and playing a Nat King Cole track from open-reel tape, this large, elegant 225 lb speaker sounded a little lacking in air at the top, but this may well have been due to the room being larger than optimal for the tweeter's dispersion. The sound was otherwise high quality, with an uncolored midrange and extended lows.
Sonus Faber co-founder Franco Serblin has started a new, eponymous company and two of his speakers, the floorstanding Ktema ($39,995/pair) and bookshelf Accordo ($12,995/pair) were being demonstrated in one of the Axiss Audio rooms in the Venetian. Amplification was all-Air TightATM-3011 monoblocks, ATC-2 preamplifier, ATE-2 phono preamplifier, ATH-2A transformerwith the source a Transrotor Fat Bob S turntable fitted with an Audiocraft AC-3300 tonearm and an Air Tight PC-1 Supreme cartridge. The laidback sound of Norah Jones matched the superb looks of the speakers and the bass was full and warmwhich impressed me the more when I realized I was listening to the stand-mounted Accordos, not the larger Ktemas.