Jon Iverson, Stephen Mejias, and I were sitting in the Venetian's food court after the Primedia cocktail party on Saturday night with Mo-Fi's Coleman Brice and Music Direct's Bes Nievera, Jr. We'd wanted to grab some sushi, but Tsunami (what an unfortunate name) didn't have a reservation for five for another two hours and our second choice, an Italian restaurant (what else?) had just laughed when we asked. So we wound up eating pizza slices off of vinyl tables rather than sashimi off of bamboo.
Hansen is a new line of ultra high-end speakers from Canada, using proprietary drivers and said to feature extremely dense, non-resonant enclosures. The company is headed by Lars Hansen, who, as former president of the Dahlquist Corporation, is no stranger to the world of high-end speakers. The sound of the Prince ($27,000/pair, third model from the top) was simply excellent—an auspicious debut, I felt.
"Larry, I've just come from the Alexis Park." Tom Norton, editor of Ultimate AV" button-holed me. "I think the Pioneer speaker is worth a visit. It's one of the only new things I've found over there." Tom's words rung in my ears. Had to see it!
A line of speakers that impressed me when I auditioned them at the 2004 London Show was the Vivids, from South Africa. Designed by Laurence "Dick" Dickie, the engineer primarily responsible for B&W's groundbreaking original Nautilus design back in the mid-1990s, the Vivid speakers use proprietary metal-diaphragm drivers in enclosures formed from composite materials rather than wood. Seen here in one of the Audiophile Systems rooms, with VTL amplification and dCS's new P8i SACD player (review forthcoming), the Vivid B1s produced a clean, open sound. It was announced at CES that Vivid is being distributed in the US by Musical Surroundings.
Audiopax, the Brazilian manufacturer of the Model 88 single-ended tube amplifier that I reviewed most favorably three years ago, introduced the Model 55 amplifier at T.H.E. Show. Solid-state rather than tubed, the 55 is still single-ended and still features the unique "Timbre Lock" control. According to designer Eduardo De Lima, this MosFET design sounds very close to the Model 88. Price is $11,990/pair (compared to the $14,990/pair of the current Model 88 Mk.II).
I've always thought of Fujitsu-Ten as a company that manufactures car stereos. However, it turns out that they have a special division producing a line of home-audio speakers using single drivers of their own design. That's right: no woofer, no tweeter, no coaxially mounted woofer and tweeter—just a single cone driver, claimed to cover the range from 40Hz to 20kHz. In the top model, the TD712z ($7000/pair), this drive-unit is mounted in a rigid, egg-shaped enclosure. The sound of these speakers, driven by an Audion Sterling Plus Mk.II tube integrated amplifier ($2950), was simply stunning in its clarity and focus.
Sonics is the name of a new line of speakers designed by Joachim Gerhard, the founder of Audio Physic, and imported by Allen Perkins (Immedia), formerly the US importer of Audio Physic. The top-of-the-line is the PassionS, a tall, striking-looking speaker that consists of angled modules, with each driver having its own enclosure. The price is $32,000. Allen obviously loves its sound!
I was sipping my gin'n'tonic, watching a hologram of a scantily clothed dancer and soaking up some serious party ambience at Stereophile, UAV, and Home Theater magazines' annual CES bash, held this year at the Venetian Hotel's Vivid night club, when a tap on my shoulder snapped me back to business. It was jolly Craig Oxford, president of former Nearfield Acoustics, the company responsible for the balls-to-the-wall, cost-no-limit, Pipedreams loudspeaker system.
Sometime near the close of Sunday, when vinyl was being slipped into sleeves and room treatments were coming down, I wandered my way to the end of a hall at the St. Tropez, where I heard such sweet music emanating from the LSA Group/DK Design suite.
During CES, I kept hearing about GamuT's luxury digs offsite way out in the suburbs beyond McCarran International Airport. "It's incredible," Stephen Mejias assured me. "It has a pool, a pool table, beautiful kitchen, and a Danish chef who will make anything you want." That sounded nice, but Stereophile's busy show-blogging schedule prevented me from partaking of that particular pleasure dome. "No problem," Lars Goller assured me. "We keep the house until Tuesday. Come by on Monday after the show and we'll spend as much time as you want bringing you up to speed."
T+A's Siegfried Amft thinks different. That's obvious from his beautifully designed tube and solid-state products, an observation that cruelly ignores how good they sound. I was happy to see that Amft made it to the show, because I reckoned that meant he had something new and startling to demonstrate. He did: Criterion TCI 2 Active loudspeakers ($25,500/pair), sarcophagi incorporating twin carbon fiber 10" woofers in a selaed enclosure, a 7" specially tuned midrange cone, and a curved electrostatic panel that Amft claims can produce SPLs above 120dB "while maintaining superb membrane travel and distortion characteristics."
Andrew and Lukas Lipinski, manufacturers of the L-707 monitor I reviewed in December, were fed up with poor room acoustics and slow foot traffic at trade shows. So they eliminated the room! Ray Kimber urged them to take the empty spot in the Alexis Park lunchroom for their demo setup. Andrew set up one of the few multi-channel demo systems at the Show using six L-707s, including the one for rear height information seen in the photo. Despite the din of the lunch crowd, all I had to do was sit in the nearfield, and I was bathed in sound from Andrew's multi-channel recordings, such as his new Republique SACD. For the photo, however, they kicked back with Telarc's recording of Ladysmith Black Mambazo singing "Diamonds in the Soles of Her Shoes." It definitely rocked the lunchroom!