"DAL firmly believes that a full set of credible measurements, made by qualified engineering staff using state-of-the-art equipment and facilities, can reliably predict the potential of a loudspeaker to accurately reproduce the complex sounds of music."—Dunlavy Audio Labs
The first time I encountered Dunlavy's Signature Collection loudspeakers was at the 1993 Chicago Summer CES. I was familiar with, and had a lot of respect for, the speakers John Dunlavy had designed for the Australian Duntech brand, but I thought this new line clearly transcended his previous efforts—and at significantly lower prices. The model that I ended up reviewing—and, after the review (Vol.17 No.4), buying—was the SC-IV, subsequently honored as Stereophile's 1994 Loudspeaker of the Year and Product of the Year. In 1995, the SC-IV underwent changes, including a new woofer and a modified tweeter, resulting in some sonic improvements (see my Follow-Up review in Vol.18 No.3).
Dynaudio took a decidedly computer-oriented approach to providing a system for under $5000, with a choice between two powered wireless speakers: the Xeo 3 ($2300/pair) and the Xeo 5 (at $4500/pair, just under the $5000 limit). And these speakers are serious high-end products, not built-to-a-price budget offerings. You save on not having to buy an amplifier or cables (not always a trivial amount). The only catch is that there is no source component included; it's assumed that the consumer already has a suitable computer and/or iPod, iPad, or similar device.
I have a lot of respect for Dynaudio speakers, and have enjoyed listening to them at various shows, but I've never been as taken with one of their speakers as I was with the new Confidence C1 Mk.II ($8200/pair). With Naim amplification and digital source (including a Squeezebox Touch), the sound was simply exquisite, with highs that were revealing and yet not clinical. The legendary Esotar2 tweeter (shown in the photo) has apparently undergone some evolutionary development, and continues to maintain its status as the best dome tweeter in the world.
I think after every audio show I've attended there was some product that I realized too late I should have checked outtypically, when somebody later said to me "Did you hear the XXXX speakers? I thought they were great!"
After CES 2012, there was one productactually, a line of productsthat I had fully intended to seek out, but somehow this intention did not translate into action. It was on the plane returning home that I realized that I missed seeing the new wireless speakers from Dynaudio. I made a note to myself to make sure that one of the first rooms I'll visit at SSI 2012 would be Dynaudio's.
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.
SSI had a display of vintage gramophones and radios, courtesy of Montreal's Emile Berliner Museum. They've had this for several shows now, and it's always wonderful to see these artifacts that tell the history of our hobby. The Museum is member-supported, and publishes a pamphlet, His Master's Voice, four times a year, in English and French.
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.
Although a number of speaker manufacturers use Heil AMT drivers, only one company has the rights to use the name of the original speaker company that used Heil drivers: ESS. Headquartered in South El Monte, CA, ESS Laboratories LLC (which we might call “ESS Reborn”) also owns the rights to the original slogan, “Sound As Clear As Light.” Unlike the speakers by ADAM Audio, GoldenEar, etc., these speakers look just like the original ones from ESS. President and CEO of ESS, Ricky “Rico” Caudillo, seen in the photo, told me that he wanted to stay with the original, highly-successful designs, but in recreating these designs managed to improve them in a number of ways, most notably in producing wider dispersion. A brief listen to the LD12 ($3295/pair), modeled on the original ESS Monitor, left me with a very positive impression.