The Tréo ($5995/pair), shown in prototype form at the 2011 CES, is the latest speaker from Vandersteen. Indications are that it offers the same sort of musical accuracy that characterizes all of Richard Vandersteen's designs. It's a three-way design, with a 1" ceramic-coated alloy-dome tweeter, 4.5" tri-woven composite-cone midrange, 6.5" woven fiber-cone woofer, and an 8" subwoofer. Like other Vandersteen speakers, the Treo is time and phase correct. Through the years, Vandersteen has moved away from the strictly functional appearance of the original model 2 and model 3, and the Treo is perhaps a culmination of this trend: the slim, truncated pyramid is stylish as well as functional. My notes on the makeup of the system playing are somewhat difficult to decipher (I need to take a course in remedial handwriting or start to carry an iPad with me), but I can tell you that it used Aesthetix electronics and a turntable source. The LP of Mary Black singing "Babes in the Wood" sounded smooth and engaging.
Revel's well-received Performa series of loudspeakers has been completely overhauled, with a number of advances in materials and manufacturing technologies. The new Performa3 series now consists of 10 models, including three floorstanders, two stand-mounted monitors, and various home theater speakers. The drivers are all new, and, according to Revel's Kevin Voecks, they have exceptionally low distortion, which contributes to clarity and transparency. This was very much in evidence with the pair of M106s ($1700/pair) and F308s (at $6000/pair, the most expensive speaker in this series) that I listened to.
Wharfedale is one of those venerated British names in audio. And while its image is perhaps on the old-fashioned side, there's absolutely nothing old-fashioned about the latest Jade series of loudspeakersunless you're thinking of old-fashioned craftsmanship. The price of speakers in the Jade series ranges from $1200/pair (stand-mounted Jade-1) to $4200/pair (floorstanding Jade-7), and the manufacturing is vertically integrated: they make every component of each speaker!
Episode Audio, exhibiting at T.H.E. Show, had some unusual-looking speakers, with the tweeter set well back from the front of the speaker, presumably to effect time alignment. They also claim wide dispersion horizontally and vertically over a wide range. The Episode-V ($12,500/pair) sounded good despite having a less-than-audiophile-quality Sony DVD/CD player as the source, and modestly-priced Onkyo electronics.
As they had at the 2011 Show, Magnepan's Mark Winey (left) and Wendell Diller (right) were demonstrating their system behind a curtain, so that listeners' preconceptions would not affect their opinions of the sound. It turned out that the speakers being demmed, driven by Bryston amplification, were a pair of the Minnesotan company's MMG planars ($599/pair), to which had been added a $5000 Tricenter center channel speaker. This seemed a bit odd to me, but Wendell explained that they were showing an unlikely combination that might be just what a specific customer needed.
The opening night of T.H.E. Show, cable manufacturer ZenSati ApS sponsored a recital by the Russian pianist Hagia Pastor, following a short speech on the state of the audio industry by yours truly. I am not ashamed to admit that Dr. Pastor put on a better show :-)
The great thing about audio shows is whom you bump into in the corridors. Here is legendary engineer John Curl, who has been designing the superb-sounding Halo series of amplification components for Parasounddig the name badge which, instead of the usual "Exhibitor," "Press," "Sales Representative," or "Consultant," simply and very appropriately says "Engineer."
Robert Deutsch reported below on PBN's $14,999/pair Liberty speaker. My attention in the company's large room at T.,H.E. Show was attracted by the large WAS2 (right), which costs $55,000/pair, with its piano-black lacquer-finished enclosure and mahogany hardwood front baffle, and weighs 1000 lbs/pair. It combines two 15" subwoofers, driven by a 1kW ICE-Power amplifier, two 8" coated paper-cone woofers, two 5.25 Nextel-coated paper-cone midrange units, and a 1.1" soft-dome tweeter. Frequency response is quoted as 18Hz22kHz ±1.5dB and sensitivity is said to be 94dB!
I always look forward to visiting Vladimir Lamm's room at a Show; my Brooklyn neighbor both has excellent taste in music and knows how to set up a system so that it works with the room. At CES, Vladimir was driving Wilson MAXX3 speakers ($68,000/pair) with his four-chassis ML3 Signature single-ended 32W tubed amplifiers ($139,200/pair), LL1 Signature dual-mono tube preamplifier ($42,690/pair), and LP2 phono preamplifier ($7590). Cabling was all Kubala-Sosna Elation series$92,500 worthwhich with the Onedof turntable with Graham Phantom II tonearm and Benz Micro cartridge, the Neodio digital front end, and Harmonic Resolution Systems racks, gave a total system costs of $599,000! (This is what you would pay for a 3-bedroom family home in our part of Brooklyn.)
If the Lamm room in the Venetian with the Wilsons was one of the first I visited at CES, the last room I visited was Tempo Marketing's in the Mirage Penthouse. I reported last October that Tempo had taken over US distribution of this Scandinavian brand. As well as the stand-mounted Cenya ($4000/pair), which I had heard at the 2011 RMAF, Tempo was demming the floorstanding, two-and-a-half-way Sara S ($7995/pair), shown in my photo. The Sara S combines two magnesium-cone SEAS mid-woofers with a SEAS tweeter in an enclosure that comprises a unique construction combining MDF and plywood.
Audio retailer Wes Bender Studio had a room set up in the Venetian to feature their selected product lines, and the Viola Crescendo caught my eye. It's both a preamp and DAC with both analog and digital inputs on the back. Digital includes 24/192 USB and SPDIF and the Crescendo should be available in the US in a Marchish kind of time frame. Retail is $19k and that includes an iPod touch.
dCS had no new products, but announced several updates at CES. The Debussy DAC now allows DSD to be passed over its asynchronous USB input. The USB update will also be applied to the Paganini and Scarlatti products this year.
dCS also revealed a new web site that it will be developing in the coming months at www.onlythemusic.com. "The idea behind the 'Only The Music' project is that great music playback is a combination of talented people, great music and cutting edge technology. The OTM site aims to highlight some of these people, wonderful pieces of music, and the bits of gear that help to create such great sound."
New to me at this show is the QAT MS5 music server using an iPad (shown here) or a slightly smaller custom RP5 touch panel for control. There is a built-in Teac CD drive and 1TB of storage (around 2,500 CDs using FLAC) and the system supports a multitude of file formats and data rates up to 24/192.
The product and interface looked pretty slick and the company's sales and marketing director, Vital Gbezo, said that QAT is currently looking for US distribution. The MS5 is priced at around $6,000.
Also available in February for around $3.500, the Paris DAC features Toslink, SPDIF and USB inputs and the processing is built around the AKM DAC chips. Both balanced and unbalanced outputs are available.
I entered the Oracle room and the Split Enz "I See Red" started singing in my head. This is not a shy red. This is a red that if seen out of the corner of your eye flashes and vibrates until you look right at it.
The new disc spinner is based on a Philips drive and the same processing as in the Paris DAC and also includes two SPDIF 24/192 inputs. It should be available next month for around $3,500