I’m happy that Simplifi Audio’s Tim G. Ryan introduced me to a new speaker manufacturer, Klangwerk of Zurich, because I really liked the sound of Klangwerk’s fully active, mastering grade Ella loudspeaker ($15,000/pair). Not only did the Ellas produce a very wide and tall soundstage, but they also descended to 35Hz (albeit 6dB). Paired with a Weiss MAN 301 network player, DNM Design speaker cables with HFT ends, and optional DSPeaker automatic room correctionclaimed to fix any stereo system in 5 minutesthe Klangwerk Ellas yielded lovely, smooth, and most enjoyable sound on an excerpt from Reference Recordings’ disc of The Tempest.
First, today's language lesson: lampa = vacuum tube (or a valve) in Polish. Hence the name LampizatOr for the young Polish company whose GM70 SET 22W tube monoblock integrated amplifiers ($8000/pair) are point-to-point wired in Poland, and whose motivating force, Lukasz Fikus, seems intent on causing quite a stir on audio forums with statements such as, "I DECLARE universal war against high-end equipment manufacturers: CD player, amplifier, cables, speakersNO MORE CRAP."
John Larsen was on hand to show off his eye-catching Swedish-made Larsen 8 loudspeakers with SD feet ($6995/pair), which are distributed by Audio Skies. Meant to be placed against the wall for full control and bass response, they can descend to 23 or 24Hz, and ascend 20kHz. "They're designed to play with the room, not against the room," Larsen explained of a design that claims to eliminate distortion-creating first reflections. The angle of the tweeter also creates a wide soundstage that was given a run for its money on Telarc's recording of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture.
It's a l o n g story, but Fritz Speakers ended up at T.H.E. Show as a replacement for a company that couldn't make it. In tow were the Fritz Speakers S/R loudspeakers ($3500/pair), which combine a Scanspeak Illuminator tweeter and a 5" paper-cone driver. Bringing up the rear, as it were, were a VPI Traveler, modified Oppo, DEQX preamp, PTE phonostage, Wells Audio Innamorata amplifier, and WyWires cabling. On an LP by Tracy Chapman, I heard fine soundstaging, lovely bass, and a little ringing around the edges. The bright edge remained when we switched to CD.
When I entered the Daniel Hertz room, close to a full house was sitting at attention as someone was giving a spiel about room correction. As I wrote in my notes, "I don't know what's going on, but the choir is overloading and the sound is too warm." Said person, whom I only later learned, after I left the room, was Mark Levinson, then announced that he wanted to show off the system's dynamic range. "Any sound known to man this system can reproduce," or something very close to that, he declared as he proceeded to play sounds created by Norah Jones.
Having heard a prototype of Zesto Audio's brand new BIA 120 class-A stereo power amp ($12,500), I was delighted to discover it looking and sounding extremely attractive in a system that included TAD Evolution One loudspeakers, a Zesto Andros PS1 phono stage, Merrill Williams audio REAL 101 turntable w. Tri-Planar U2 tonearm and Dynavector XV-1s cartridge, and a full complement of WyWires cabling. On Illinois Jacquet's album, God Bless My Solo, I noticed that the really nice, warm sound was a little bright on top, and that images seemed rather small for the speakers and room.
Having gotten used to John DeVore showing off his high-sensitivity Orangutan O/96 and O/93 speakers at recent shows, both of which have been very favorably received by Stereophile’s reviewers, driven by low-power Shindo and Line Magnetic amplification, I was somewhat surprised to see the new and more conventional Gibbon X towers driven by a high-powered VTL S-200 Signature amplifier in Triode mode via Auditorium cabling in his suite at the Venetian. The new Gibbon is projected to sell for $12,000/pair and features all-new drive-units: a ¾” tweeter asymmetrically mounted beneath a paper-cone midrange unit based on that first used in the DeVore Silverback, which features what John calls an adaptive surround, and two long-throw 7” woofers.
The Enigmacoustics company from Irvine in California has become renowned for the self-energized, horn-loaded Sopranino electrostatic supertweeter they introduced a couple of years back. They were still promoting the tweeter at CES, demonstrating a pair with Magico speakers in one of their rooms. But I was more interested in their second room, where they were introducing a complete loudspeaker, the Mythology M1 standmount. Intended to sell for >$12,000/pair, the M1 adds the Sopranino supertweeter to a two-way design featuring a 35mm dome tweeter that crosses over at a low 1kHz to a proprietary 6” woofer in a rear-ported enclosure made from a laminated birchwood and glass, with an aluminum front baffle.
Both the speakers from Sandy Gross’s GoldenEar company that have been reviewed in Stereophilethe Triton 2, reviewed by Bob Deutsch in February 2012 and the Aon 2, reviewed by Bob Reina in November 2013impressed us with the very attractive combination of price and performance. And at the 2014 CES, Sandy introduced me to the new flagship, the Triton 1, which will sell for $2499 each or $4998/pair when it comes to market in late April.
I am sure that contributing to the superbly neutral, well-balanced, uncolored, full-range sound in this room was the acoustic treatment from Swedish company SMT, which provided a combination of absorbers and diffusors. And dig the treatment applied to the ceiling by SMT, with different-radius sphere segments. Other exhibitors could take lessons from Martin and its US distributor Dan Meinwald.
At almost 6’ high, weighing 507 lbs, and costing $480,000/pair, the Coltrane Supreme 2 from Swedish company Marten was one of the more extreme loudspeakers at the 2014 CES. But to my surprise, playing my own recording of the Jerome Harris Quartet playing Duke Ellington’s “The Mooche,” from the CD Rendezvous, it sounded delicately detailed, with a superbly stable rendering of the recording venue, Chad Kassem’s Blue Heaven Studio in Salina, KS.
Second up from the bottom in YG’s speaker line has been the Kipod ($38,800/pair), named after YG founder Yoav Geva’s daughter Hailey, whose nickname was “Kipod” or “Hedgehog” in Hebrew. But as Hailey is growing up fast (as daughters do), it was time to name a new speaker after her; CES saw the premier of the YG Hailey. Priced at $42,800/pair, the three-way, floorstanding Hailey uses technology trickled down from the top-of-the line Sonja that I reviewed last July. YG’s “Billet-core” drivers, where the cones are machined from solid aluminum stock, are combined with a 1" dome tweeter in a machined aluminum enclosure that eschews the Sonja’s double-cabinet construction.
Arcam used to CES to launch a “statement” integrated amplifier, the FMJ A49. Priced at $5000, the A49 offers 200Wpc into 8 ohms (with the first 50W in class-A), 400Wpc into 4 and features a class-G output stage, fully balanced topology, MM/MC phono stages, and a onboard power supply for Arcam’s rSeries of wired and wireless DACs. While Arcam’s lower-priced products are made in China, the new amplifier is the first products to be manufactured in the USA, at the parent company’s facility in Rochester, New York.
ATI (Amplifier Technologies, Inc.) of Montebello, CA, who also owns Theta Digital, were blowing minds with the nine channels of bass produced by the combination of their American Muscle AT6002 Morris Kessler Signature Limited Edition Stereo Signature Amplifier ($3995), which outputs 300Wpc into 8 ohms and is available in 2- through 7-channel versions; the finally released and revised Theta Prometheus monoblock amplifiers ($12,000/pair); the well-known, upgraded Theta Casablanca IV; and California Audio Technology loudspeakers.