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.
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.
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.
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.")
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.
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.
Chord demonstrated the absolutely stunning Indigo Advanced D to A ($15,000). Yes, that's an iPod dock on top, but the Indigo isn't just another iPod dock. For one thing, you can only dock Chord modified iPods directly into it, allowing Chord to access the digital data in the iPod. The Indigo also has a A2DP radio "dongle" that can seamlessly stream digital radio ir music from anywhere in the room. Another dongle is supplied to stream analog output from unmodified iPods.
RBH Sound is best-known for its home-theater speakers, but CES saw the Utah-based company launch a "Signature" series of speakers that were demo'd in two-channel systems. I listened to a Telarc Aaron Copland recording on the three-way, sealed-box 8300-SE/R towers ($8449/pair), with a Boulder 1021 CD player and Boulder 860 power amplifier, and was impressed by the natural balance, extended low frequencies, and good dynamics.