Thiel Audio had the benefit of several side-by-side rooms at the Venetian, one of which was reserved for listening with the door closed. Isolated from the noise of surrounding rooms, Thiel’s long-awaited CS3.7 speaker ($9900/pair in standard finishes when it’s finally released), and now actually boasting a grille, played an intriguing combination of two-channel and multi-channel music using Bryston electronics and Synergistic Research cabling.
Bel Canto's John Stronczer made a bold decision to demonstrate exclusively with a music server streaming Music Giants. He ran the output from his laptop to the $2495 e.One DAC3 digital-to-analog processor and then directly to a pair of e.One REF1000 1000W monoblocks ($1995 each).
Joseph Audio's Jeff Joseph didn't bring any new goodies to the show this year. He once again demonstrated the $2495/pair Insider. "I'm still trying to demonstrate how incredible an in-wall loudspeaker can sound—if it uses an infinite slope crossover, that is."
Lew Johnson pointed at the LP275M ($12,500). "This is something CJ hasn't done in a while: a high output tube monoblock. We use four pairs of 6550s to obtain 275W with our proprietary translinear transformers. We can configure it for 2, 4, 8, or 16 Ohm loads (standard is 4 Ohm). Like our most recent designs, we're using metal foil resistors and Teflon CJD capacitors. We'll be shipping them by February."
English speaker company Monitor Audio has been producing a range of excellent affordable speakers since its managment buyout nine years ago, including the Silver RS6 tower that so impressed Bob Reina last March. Their suite at the Hilton, however, saw the Platinum series, an assault on the state of the speaker art from a design team led by Dean Hartley (above).
The very first room I visited at CES featured VTL and dCS electronics powering Avalon Eidelon speakers via Transparent cabling. This was a good start. I had become an instant convert to VTL sound at HE2006 last May, where Wilson Sophia speakers, driven by VTL electronics via Cardas cable and a Jadis tranposrt and DAC delivered some of the best sound I heard at the show. Since then, I've heard VTL gear in three other environments, this being the fifth. Each time, it has sounded different, but always musical.
Ypsilon Electronics was a new name to me, so I wasn't sure what Jon Iverson and I would see when we entered its room. Whatever we expected, it wasn't the ginormous hybrid SET-100 monoblock amplifiers ($69,000/pair).
Rives Audio and Talon Audio (now owned by Rives) proudly introduced the Thunderhawk, a $25,000/pair, composite speaker consisting of the $10,000 Hawk positioned atop the Thunder cabinet. The latter’s woofer is available either with a passive crossover, or with the new Rives Sub Parc, fully adjustable active crossover, which includes a 1000W switching amplifier. Said to deliver full-range sound down to 18Hz, the system sounded absolutely seductive playing jazz vocalist Susanne Abbuehl’s Compass (ECM).
Zanden's Kazutoshi Yamada builds amplifiers like Medieval villages built cathedrals: To glorify the quintessence. Jon Iverson and I were lured into his room because his Model 9600s were so . . . shiny (hey, we're guys, we're not complicated). Then we heard 'em driving the Ascendo System Z-F3 loudspeakers. Wowsers.
Von Schweikert Audio's VR-5 SEs ($25,000/pair) aren't new, but once again they impressed Jon Iverson and me with their verve and natural presentation of acoustic guitar. Nils Lofgren's "Keith Don't Go" kept us nailed to our seats for the whole 12 minutes—which, in CES Show mode, is equivalent to seven human years.