I can't believe that it's been 21 years since Thiel founders Jim Thiel and Kathy Gornik and I emptied the first of many bottles of fine wine talking about music and loudspeakers. But here they are, snapped outside the dem room they were sharing with Bryston and Wireworld, as passionate about audio, music, and the high-end audio industry as ever. And in the case of Kathy, looking even better than ever!
Shunyata, which first made its mark with a novel line of US-made power cables named after various snakes and using a ferrite-based powder filling to absorb RF, has come out with five new serpentine products. According to sales manager Richard Colburn, the company has learned how to put more metal inside its cables, thereby increasing their gauge. The copper used is CDA-101, the only copper certified for its purity. Proprietary connectors are unplated brass, which company founder/designer Caelin Gabriel considers to sound the best.
Loudspeakers from German manufacturer Canton have impressed Stereophile's review team over the past few years with their combination of careful, solid engineering and excellent sound. CES saw the launch of Canton's revised Reference line. The Reference 3.2 ($15,000/pair), seen here cradled by chief engineer Frank Göbl, features a new tweeter with a ceramic/aluminum /ceramic sandwich dome replacing the earlier version's aluminum/manganese-alloy diaphragm, which pushes up the primary dome breakup mode from around 21kHz to 30kHz. The tweeter dome is recessed within a short waveguide to optimize dispersion in its bottom octaves, and is damped by a small circular plate suspended in front of the center of the dome. The lower frequency drive-units, too, have been extensively revised, while the multilayer enclosure, with its gently curved side panels is acoustically inert, at least as far as the accelerometer measurements Frank showed me were concerned. I was sufficiently impressed to request a pair of Reference 3.2s for review.
The Wavemaster monoblock power amplifiers ($9000$10,000/pair) can put out 200W into 4 ohms. They employ an Audience discrete-component front end, switching power supply, and come with an Audience Power Chord. They accommodate single-ended and balanced inputs.
With a factory in Brooklyn's Navy Yard, John DeVore's DeVore Fidelity is almost a neighbor, and he is that rare bird, an American speaker manufacturer who makes his own cabinets. Or rather, he benefits from leasing space to a high-end wood-working company. New at CES was the Gibbon 3XL (around $3500/pair), an impressive sounding two-way standmount that, unusually, features a cabinet made from bamboo. Bamboo is "green," in that it is a fast-growing renewable material, yet its combination of stiffness and damping makes it very suitable for use in speaker cabinets.
Robert Baird got the scoop on this one in the February issue of Stereophile. Check his Aural Robert column for details about the Sonic Focus technology included in this iPod dock and its surprising heritage.
Whenever I think of Totem Acoustics, I tend to associate the Montreal-based company with relatively affordable high-performance speakers like the Model One and The Forest. But designer and founder Vince Bruzzese has attempted to reach for the stars with his floorstanding WInd design ($12,500/pair, according to the cryptic spider scratchings in my reporter's notebook) . Acquisition of a new CNC wood-working machine has allowed him to update the Wind, and at CES, Totem was showing the latest version, finished in high-gloss automotive paints. (The speaker shown with Vince is finished in "De Tomasso Blue.")
Thiel's PR wonk Micah Sheveloff grabbed me as I walked past the room in the Sands Convention Center Thiel was sharing with Bryston to meet with Frank Göbl of Canton. "You've got to hear the new CS2.4 Special Edition." As Wes Phillips had been mightily impressed by the original CS2.4 ($4900/pair) when he reviewed it in November 2005, I looked at my watch. Enough time. I went into the dem room.
Allen Perkins' Spiral Groove has expanded beyond its excellent turntable, which has won major awards in Japan, to issue a new amp, DAC, and cabling. The patented cable line, close to final production, includes speaker cable, interconnect, and digital interconnect. Price has yet to be determined. Proof of its quality is that it used Spiral Groove's two tonearms and the entire line of Sonics speakers designed by Joachim Gerhard (formerly of Audio Physic) and now manufactured in Berkeley, CA. Having heard pre-production samples several of these products at Casa Bellecci-Serinus, I know that one of Allen's concerns is to eschew hard-edged digititis and over-hyped sound in favor of the more natural presentation of analog.
I went into the Blue Light Audio room at T.H.E. Show to hear the new Dartzeel amplifiers (Wes Phillips will be blogging on these presently) and to chat with designer Hervé Délétraz. But my attention was caught by Evolution Audio's beautifully finished MMMini Two speakers ($40,000/pair). Ostensibly a two-way design combining a 5" aluminum ribbon with a 7" ceramic-cone woofer, the stand also contains an 8"x12" subwoofer.