David Wilson seems excited about his new Series 8 Watt/Puppy speaker system, and, having heard the demo, I can appreciate why. The company gets bonus points for listing the music used on a poster outside the door of the dem room.
Take a dCS Scarlatti digital front end ($68,000), combine it with a pair of Nagra VPA tube amplifiers ($20,000/pair, pictured), and a pair of the new Verity Audio Amadis loudspeakers ($29,995) and you'll have a pretty good-sounding system, right?
The Monitor Audio Platinum II involves some major improvements in driver technology. Dean Hartley told me that they had moved a good way towards completion of these changes when the original Platinum Series speakers were introduced, but they felt that further improvements were possible, and they wanted to be absolutely sure they got it right, so they played it safe by going with the existing technology.
The display featuring Definitive Technology's StudioMonitor 65 speakers and Acurus A 2002 amplifier were not part of a designated "Under-$5,000 system," but, with the speakers priced at $1000/pair and the amp at $2499 (I didn't note the source or the preamp), it could have been. The speakers had a nice open sound, and played surprisingly loud in the large hall they were in. Saxe Brickenden (pictured) of Evolution Home Entertainment, the importer, was clever to set up the speakers on tall stands, so that the sound was at ear-level for people walking by.
The 2012 Best of Innovations award in the High Performance Home Audio category went to the Devialet D-Premier DAC/preamp/amp. It also got the award for Most Difficult to Photograph Audio Product. Note the reflection of my badge, intended to show that this is not just a manufacturer-provided photograph. Devialet is distributed in North America by Audio Plus Services and Stereophile has just received a sample for review.
John DeVore introduced a new speaker at CES that is said to take "fidelity and flexibility to a new level." The Gibbon X ($11,000/pair), the first three-way speaker in the Gibbon series, has a new midrange driver that incorporates DeVore's Adaptive Surround, a new tweeter in its own isolated enclosure, dual 7" woofers that are claimed to move more air than some 10" drivers, and a hand-built cabinet made from solid bamboo.
At the 2011 CES last January, DeVore Fidelity introduced the O/96 Oscar ($12,000/pair), the first of their Orangutan line, a high-sensitivity (96dB) floorstanding two-way speaker. I thought the speakers sounded pleasant enough, but seemed to lack some of the clarity and specificity of imaging that I've heard from other, lower-sensitivity DeVore speakers. However, the position of the speakers in the room was far from optimal (often the case at shows), so I reserved judgment. Just as well: the speakers at SSI 2011, driven by a Leben tubed integrated amplifier, sounded considerably better, more like the other speakers from DeVore, but with the dynamic freedom that comes with high sensitivity.
Tosh Goka of Divergent Technologies always manages to assemble a good-sounding system at shows, and this year's FSI was no exception. The speakers were the Reference 3A Grand Veenas ($8000/pair, which seems very reasonable for the technology and the sound), with Antique Sound Labs electronics and EMM Lab CD/SACD player.