I corresponded briefly a while back with Gary Koh, CEO of Genesis. Gary has owned the company for the past five years, and moved it from its original home in Colorado to Seattle, Washington. When he took over the company, he was aware that his background was in computer software, not electronics. He decided that this could be an advantage. "Not being an engineer, I didn't know what was impossible. This explains to some degree the types of projects I've decided to take on, and those that have been achieved."
"We don't have a price yet, because the TAD Compact Reference One Monitor loudspeaker is a prototype," stated Andrew Jones, lead engineer for loudspeakers at TAD Laboratories, Inc., shown here in John Atkinson's photo. "I can say that it will be somewhere between zero dollars and $60,000, the cost of a pair of our full-sized TAD Reference One speakers."
After days filled with wildly-shaped loudspeakers constructed from all sorts of fantastic materials, I must say it was refreshing to see a familiar facethe DeVore Fidelity Gibbon 3, a speaker that looks like a speaker.
McIntosh had what was, for a high-end specialty audio company, a huge assortment of products on display at the Mandalay Bay, including several new models. The most interesting of these for me was the MC 2301 power amplifier. With price listed only as TBD ($24k–$30k being an educated guess), the MC 2301 is a 300Wpc monoblock, and, a first for McIntosh, fully balanced. Oh, and did I mention that this is a tube amplifier, using KT88s? Talk about returning to your roots.
Escalante Design's CEO and Founder, Matthew Waldron, and the company's design engineer, Tierry Budge, were on hand to introduce the $11,000/pair Pinyon, a lighter and less expensive version of their Fremont loudspeaker, which I review in the Febraury issue of Stereophile. Weighing 35 lbs each, the Pinyon includes two direct-coupled 6.5" woofers, and the same 1" ScanSpeak ring-radiator tweeter found in the Fremont. It comes with the Hoodooh Monitor stands that have a brushed aluminum inlay. Waldron had it playing with the 210 lb, 12", powered (500W), UINTA subwoofer, which is rated from 16–100Hz.
Totem was showing their special anniversary model, The One ($3595). Along with Naim electronics, the sound created was powerful, fast, and fun. We listened to "How I Love That Woman," a soaring instrumental by Bob Brozeman.
New Zealand-based Plinius is now using words drawn from the Maori language to name all of its new products. Making truly beautiful sounds in an all-Plinius line-up, the new Tautoro linestage preamplifier ($7300), set to ship in May, fulfilled its promise to "bridge the gap" from Plinius' top-of-the-line SA-Reference power amplifier to its CD-101 CD player and Koru phono stage (available as an option for $8600 total). When I asked Scott Markwell of Elite Audio Video Distribution how the preamp differs from its M8 predecessor, he pointed out that the M8 could only function as a linestage. "The more versatile Tautoro has an even bigger, more three dimensional soundstage. It also has much greater bass, more punch, and increased dynamics."
Now I know why Robert Deutsch wrote such an enthusiastic review of the Fujitsu Ten Eclipse TD712z loudspeaker in the January 2007 issue of Stereophile. This eye-arresting single-driver loudspeaker ($7000/pair with dedicated stands) delivered an absolutely beautiful rendering of Monica Salmazo's voice. Both top and midrange were exemplary, as was transparency. Though early instrument strings on the delightful Channel Classics SACD, Bolivian Baroque v.2, were either a mite too edgy or conveyed with unforgiving accuracy, the system did a wonderful job with the church venue's naturally reverberant acoustic. Soprano Kate Royal's voice on her marvelous EMI debut recital was drop dead gorgeous. Within their frequency limitations, these speakers are superb. And given that the source was a Denon 955 DVD player rather than a state-of-the-art unit, their triumph is even more noteworthy.
It was late. I was exhausted. After a delicious dinner, I stopped at the Venetian with the intention of picking up my laptop, camera, and other heavy things before returning to my hotel room and passing out. When I reached the 29th floor, however, I ran into Richard Vandersteen and his family. They were also coming from a dinner, also looking exhausted.
More than once, I've teased Convergent Audio Technology's Ken Stevens about calling his preamp SL-1 Ultimate. I mean, once you've got something that's the Ultimate, where can you go if it's improved—and there is no audio product that can't be improved, even if only to a minor degree. He subsequently introduced a preamp called the SL-1 Legend, but it was about double the price of the SL-1 Ultimate, and Ken said that it was sufficiently different from the SL-1 Ultimate that it could be considered a new preamp, deserving of a new name.
The Atohm Grand Thrill Series made its world premiere at CES 2008. Designer Thierry Comte is pictured here with the very handsome GT 1 bookshelf speaker which exhibited an almost uncanny ability to fill the room with deep, powerful bass. Highs were also impressive: crisp, clean, and fast. Overall, I felt the presentation was tightly focused and lively, without being overly sharp.
The Sumiko suite at CES provided a huge listening space to introduce the new Vienna Acoustics' full-range, four-way Die Musik loudspeaker ($25,000/pair). Designed by Peter Gansterer (see photo), a pair of Die Musiks produced some of the best sound I heard at the show. The speakers were positioned quite far apart against a side wall, and the listener sat on a couch closer to the plane between the speakers than the distance between the speakers. This created a very wide, coherent soundstage quite unlike any other than I heard at the show. Bass response, which was superb, actually could be credited, in part, to a huge REL Studio 3 subwoofer, which was parked and running in the nearest room corner.