As much as I had hoped to write about new companies at T.H.E. Show this time around, I keep finding myself drawn to "old friends" for one overriding reason: their sound is the best I encounter. Such was the case with veteran audio designer Peter Ledermann's Soundsmith. Despite Peter's 1960s-holdover proclivity to turn his consistently impressive, housed-in-wood electronics into multi-colored light shows—thank God you can dim the lights or turn them off entirely—the former Director of Engineering at the Bozak Corporation continues to astound with the sound of his phono cartridges and the amazing frequency response of his small Firefly speakers.
Jon Iverson, our magazine group's self-proclaimed “Web Monkey”—that’s how his business card describes his role—mentioned that a reader, now living in Dubai, wrote him Tuesday night about Gallo Loudspeakers. "I'm hoping your CES 2008 show blog will bring me up to speed on the latest loudspeaker from Anthony Gallo," he wrote.
"Lightning strikes twice," says the blurb on Ayre Acoustics' new KX-R preamp, referring to the 1996 introduction of the Colorado company's original K-1 preamp, considered to be among the best preamps. The KX-R ($18,500 in aluminum finish) retains the zero-feedback, fully-balanced configuration of the K-1, but has a Variable Gain Transimpedance (VGT) circuit, with something called "equilock circuitry" for the gain devices. This was explained to me as a circuit design that does not attenuate the inputs at the front end, and thus improves the S/N ratio. The KX-R is a slim but heavy unit (41 lbs), and as you can see, it looks stunning.
"We wanted to do something special to celebrate our 30th anniversary in business," said Dynaudio's Michael Manousselis, "so we created the limited edition—only 1000 will be made—$16,500/pair, three-way, four-driver, floorstanding Sapphire loudspeaker. The Sapphire uses our finest technology in drivers, including the soft-dome Esotar2 tweeter and two 8” Evidence-grade woofers with magnesium-silicate diaphragms. The cabinet is designed to have no parallel surface, with the two-toned cabinet featuring 12 distinct surface planes and twenty-four adjoining lines"
I've never heard of Navision Audio, and when I looked at their amps and preamps, all featuring wooden chassis, I automatically thought "Italian." Well, it turns out that they're actually designed and manufactured in Viet Nam. Whatever their country of origin, they're beautiful pieces (the wood is "Barian kingwood," whatever that is), the NVS-211PSE power amp ($21800/pair) offering 80W of parallel single-ended triode using two 211s, and the NVS-003G ($8900/pair) an OTL design using the 6C33C.
Erin Binal of Bicome finished his lecture on Thielnet by stripping off the front grillw on the small, two-way, IP-addressable, powered SCS4D loudspeaker. There are twin ports above and below the coaxial driver. With the grille on or off, the SCS4D is rated with a frequency response of 48Hz–20kHz, ±3dB. Pricing was not specified. And yes, those are WiFi antennae.
"Our Asian and Pacific clients were strongly requesting it," said Mark Levinson's Walter Schofield, VP of Sales and Marketing, "so we designed an amplifier in the older Mark Levinson tradition with external heats."
While Day 1 at the Venetian was all hustle and bustle, the atmosphere at the Las Vegas Hilton was something different, was almost contemplative. Navigating the Venetian halls was an exercise in agility. I found myself weaving in and out of massive traffic with a skill perhaps common only to a weary New Yorker, making quick and random stops to chat friends and colleagues. But when I arrived at the Hilton, the silenceas we like to saywas palpable.
Meridian has completely redone its Signature Reference 808 CD player, now the 808.2 ($14,995). "We've changed its drive, drive navigation software, power supply, DSP, and clocking and buffering. I'd like to say that the only thing we've retained is the case, but we've improved that, too," said Bob Stuart.
KEF would begin their multi-room demo with their small, but surprisingly room-filling, KHT home theater range and work their way up from there. The stunning KEF Muons would be the great and final attraction of the KEF event, and they were all I was looking forward to, really. However, the highlight of the show turned out to be the brilliant sound of the Reference 201/2 stand-mounted speakers ($6000/pair). I was instantly reminded of the remarkable performance of the much larger Reference 207/2s, which I recently experienced in JA's listening room and which are now gracing our February cover. The music brought forth was captivating, seductive, gorgeous.
I was so impressed by the 9" Feastrex drivers designed by Haruhiko "Hal" Teramoto of Japan that I was excited to hear how the 5" Feastrex DF Monster alnico driver sounds in MaxxHorn's new Lumination loudspeaker. The speaker, which also incorporates the Tractrix horn technology developed by Johan van Zyl, is so new—the pair at THE Show had been finished a mere 12 days before—that only the dealer price ($18,500/pair) has been set. All speakers are hand constructed, with 3–5 pairs produced a month.
"It's the finest two-way loudspeaker we've built to date, "said B&W's Chris Smith," as he stood next to the short white tubular Signature Diamond. "We've decided to make it a special edition of just 500 pairs, each pair numbered." I was very interested because the previous two-way model, the John Bowers Silver Signature, was very well-reviewed by Stereophile back in 1994 and became John Atkinson’s reference for many years.