Vienna Acoustics were demming the latest version of Die Musik speaker, which we first saw and heard at the 2008 CES. VA's Patrick Butler played the role of DJ for me, operating the Jeff Rowland Design Group gear.
Source Interlink Media's Home-Tech Group's self-styled "Web Monkey" Jon Iverson (center) focuses his attention on the new Vivid G3Giya loudspeaker ($40,000/pair), which is scheduled to start shipping in April. Driven by a Luxman amplifier and hooked up with Kubala-Sosna Emotion cables, the G3Giya is a 2/3 scale version of the G1Giya that so impressed Wes Phillips in July 2010, with twin aluminum-cone 7.5" woofers loaded by the same proprietary ported transmission line, this time curled over more severely because of the speaker's reduced height. (The G1Giya used 11" woofers.)
2011 witnessed the 40th anniversary of the founding of English manufacturer Meridian and the partnership between electronics engineer Bob Stuart and industrial designer Allen Boothroyd. To celebrate Stuart and Boothroyd created anniversary editions of the DSP-8000 active speaker and 808 Signature Reference CD Player, of which only 40 of each model will be made. Bob Stuart looks suitably proud of the models, which are finished in exclusive “Ruby” finish—not available on other products in the range—even the drivers are treated with a new, polished bezel. Each system is signed by Stuart and Boothroyd, comes with a book illustrating Meridian’s history, and will be set-up in the customer's home by a Meridian engineer.
While Magico's recent high-performance speakers are notable for their all-aluminum cabinet construction, including the Q5 that was our 2011 "Loudspeaker of the Year," the new S5 ($28,600/pair) uses a more conventional enclosure to bring its price within reach of more than just the 1%. While it still uses a beryllium-dome tweeter, this is not made in house.
At the 2011 CES, Swedish company Perfect8 concentrated on their Force flagship speaker. For the 2012 Show, they brought their Point Mk.II ($115,000/pair with subwoofer modules), which, like its big sister, uses an enclosure fabricated from glass—or rather, from what Perfect8 calls "Super Silent Glass," joined without solvent-based adhesives. The upper-frequency module is a dipole, allowed to roll off naturally to integrate with the subwoofer module below it, which uses two 10" drive-units mounted on its sides to cancel mechanical reaction forces. The woofer's low-pass filter is set at 86Hz and realized in DSP; the module includes a class-D amplifier housed in the triangular section at the rear. Despite my reservations about glass as an enclosure material, both Diana Krall and Rimsky-Korsakov sounded uncolored and natural.
MSB has upgraded their Data CD IV disc player to the new Signature model with a machined metal disc drawer and updated networking. The Pro I2S digital output connects directly to the master clock in the DAC so the Data CD drive is controlled by the same clock that is running the DAC modules and motherboard for "hyper accurate data clocking when playing discs".
This is an interesting transport in that it plays CDs and also DVD data discs (such as Reference Recordings HRx discs) with .wav files up to 32/384! The transport sells for $7,995 and in this photo is paired with the Signature Transport Power Base at $3495.
Branching away from strictly audio products, the HDMI Streamer has two HDMI inputs and one HDMI output and a stereo audio output. The idea is to peel the audio off of an HDMI signal and send it to your analog stereo preamp while leaving the video intact for your TV. All perfectly legal says HRT. Available sometime around April for $229.95
The New York debut of Sonus Faber's stunning-looking Aida ($120,000/pair) was compromised by sub-optimal room acoustics and too much noise from outside the dem area. But the speaker, powered by Audio Research's new Reference 250 monoblocks ($25,900/pair) lived up to the promise in Las Vegas. But as I had found in New York, the true magic of the Aida was only to be found if you sat exactly in the sweet spot, when the speakers disappeared and the end of the room dissolved into the recorded acoustic. Certainly the team from WhatsBestForum.com sitting in front of my cameraHi, Steve!were enjoying what the Aidas' were doing.
The rest of the system comprised an SME Model 20/3 turntable/tonearm ($17,000) with a Palos Presentation cartridge ($3995), an Audio Research CD8 ($9995) and DAC8 ($4995), Reference Phono 2SE ($12,995) and Reference 5SE linestage ($12,995), all connected with Shunyata cables. Racks were the ubiquitous Harmonic Resolution Systems SXRs and power conditioning was also by Shunyata.
It costs $42,000 but TAD's new C600 solid-state line preamplifier features dual-mono construction, an all-discrete signal path, a separate power supply, and fastidious attention paid to detail in both its design and construction. The amber LED display for example, is DC-powered rather than from the usual multiplexed supply, to eliminate EMI interference. And the sound, in conjunction with the D600 SACD player, M600 monoblocks, Reference One floor-standing speakers, and HRS rack to give a system price of $214,500? I'll leave it to Stephen Mejias to describe in his show wrap. Personally, it was a highlight of the 2012 CES.
At the previous Shows where I had auditioned it, MBL's extravagantly excessive (or should that be excessively extravagant) X-Treme system had been set-up in inappropriate rooms, Finally, at the 2012 CES, this 4-enclosure system, which basically comprises two of the true omnidirectional upper-frequency modules of the Berlin-based company's 101E Mk.2 speaker (to be reviewed by Mikey Fremer in the April 2012 issue) with two man-sized powered subwoofers, each using six 12" drivers mounted three on each side to cancel mechanically induced vibrations, was set up in a room worthy of it. (The Venetian room was 31' by 22' with a 10' ceiling.) Bi-amped with four file-cabinetsized MBL 9011 monoblocksthe total system cost was $565,000!the X-Treme produced a big-bottomed sound that was indeed extreme when required but also delicate when appropriate. Oh my!
Other than the soft ring of blue light at the top, Meridian's new M6 powered loudspeaker ($9000/pair) looks unprepossessing but hides a wealth of high technology within its black enclosure. The entire range from 200Hz to 25kHztwo decades!is handled by a single front-firing 3" driver at the top of the cabinet. This is a development of the drive-unit Meridian designed for the F80 music system and is coupled to a downward-firing woofer, which can be seen in the exploded diagram next to the speaker. The M6 has a digital input and the use of DSP for its crossover and equalization means it can be placed near room boundaries, maximizing its Spouse-Acceptance Factor. I listened to the Sheffield Drum Record from Bob Stuart's Sooloos server, controlled with the new iPad app, followed by Dire Straits, the pizzicato movement from Ravel's String Quartet. and the 2L hi-rez recording of Britten's Simple Symphony, and the M6 demonstrated surprising dynamics and clarity, coupled with an overall ease to its presentation. Yes, the lows were a bit too rich, but this is a fit'n'forget speaker system that non-audiophile music lovers will go ga-ga over.
Costing $165,000/pair, Magico's new Q7shown here with AudioStream.com editor Michael Lavorgna for scaleembodies everything the Californian company knows about speaker design: a proprietary beryllium-dome tweeter, nano-fibersandwich-cone midrange unit and woofers, housed in a sealed all-aluminum enclosure weighing 750 lbs! With the prototype Audeeva music server, Pacific Microsonics DAC, a Spectral preamp, MIT cables, and unidentified amplifiers hidden behind a curtain, the Q7s threw an enormous soundstage on a 176.4kHz/24-bit file of a Reference Recordings orchestral recording, with bass-drum blows that pressurized the room without obscuring a low-level bassoon that was playing at the same timemacro and micro-dynamics.
I first heard the attractive-looking BMC amplifiers at last April's Axpona in Atlanta, and was impressed enough that I asked Michael Fremer to review one of them (to appear in our May 2012 issue). At CES, BMC launched its first loudspeaker, the Arcadia ($36,300/pair). A three-way design, the bipolar Arcadia is symmetrical in both horizontal planes, there being an 11" woofer on each side and the trio of drive-units on the front are echoed by an identical trio on the rear.
Quintessence was a brand new to me, but it turns out that the company's Shadow V loudspeaker ($35,000/pair) was designed by PBN's Peter Noerbaek. Driven by PBN amplifiers and playing a Nat King Cole track from open-reel tape, this large, elegant 225 lb speaker sounded a little lacking in air at the top, but this may well have been due to the room being larger than optimal for the tweeter's dispersion. The sound was otherwise high quality, with an uncolored midrange and extended lows.
I was astonished to come across a room at T.H.E. Show featuring the Scientific Fidelity brand. Back in the early 1990s, SciFi had some of the most stunning-looking tube amps and preamps, as well as a speaker, the Tesla, that offered spectacular imaging, SciFi's founder, Mike Maloney, exited manufacturing many years ago and founded T.H.E. Show, which he subsequently sold to Richard Beers. I bumped into Mike at a CES a few years back, and he had become a best-selling author on valuable metals trading. But the brand was back for 2012 with the stunning-looking, three-way Stylust loudspeaker ($30,000/pair), which sounded clean and detailed driven by the triangular Trillium amplifier ($25,000). Although the gentlemen in the room didn't speak English very well, I gathered that Mike was still the creative force behind the brand.