What would a high-end audio store party be without some live music? The musicians playing jazz at the Coup de Foudre party were keyboard artist Marie Claire Durand and bass player Martin Hezlop. They're also Graeme Humfrey's recording clients.
Single-ended triode amplifiers (SETs) have a considerable following, but even their most devoted fans admit that its maximum power output is not among an SET's strengths. You'd be lucky to get an SET that puts out 7Wpc, and some (like those using the 45 tube) are closer to 2Wpc. Highly sensitive speakers (eg, horns) will tend to offset the power limitation, and SETs usually sound more powerful than their measurements indicate, but the laws of physics still apply: 2W is 2W, regardless of the kind of amplifier that produces it, and an amplifier's manner of clipping and recovery from overload take us only part of the way toward achieving greater volume.
A sign that says "Warning! Extreme Lifelike Sound Levels" is like waving a red cape in front of a bull. Who would be dissuaded from entering a demo room just because you're going to encounter lifelike sound levels? Not me! And are they overstating how loud a sound they're talking about?
The Australian Ambience Reference 1800 ribbon hybrid loudspeakers ($13,995) use ribbons of their own design, combined with a vented bass section. The cabinet is sleek, with a narrowing toward the top. I quite enjoyed listening to these speakers, and, ever on the lookout for a cost-effective components, I was impressed by the fact that they were being driven by relatively inexpensive Vincent electronics (SAT-1 preamp, $1495, SAT-100 monoblock power amps, $2495/pair). Designer Tony Moore was on hand to demo the speakers.
The press conference that I personally found the most exciting on the Show's first day was by Ralph Glasgal (left) on his Ambiophonics system. I knew about Ambiophonics (a signal-processing system
designed to cancel out interference between a pair of loudspeakers,
creating something akin to binaural listening but from speakers instead of headphones), but somehow I’ve never heard a demonstration, or at least not a convincing one. The demo setup at HE2007 was rather unusual, with a pair of giant Sound-Lab electrostatics at one end of the room, and another pair of floor-standing TacT speakers at the other end, the setup intended to demonstrate how the system works with these two types of speakers. I only heard the demo with the Sound-Labs, but I must say I was quite blown away with the huge soundstage, precision of imaging, and sheer ease of the sound. The Ambiophonic processing was performed by the latest TacT RCS 2.2 XP ($6000) which also functions as a full-feature preamp, a digital room correction device, and a D/A converter. Tact’s President and Designer, Radomir Bozovic (right), was also on hand to answer questions about the Tact system.
Stephen Mejias has written about Anssi Hyvönen of Amphion, who believes that music reproduction doesn't have to be loud to be effective, and that, in fact, the hallmark of a really good speaker is its ability to be involving at low levels. Amphion's demos always provide for a soothing experience at shows, and so it was at CES 2012, this time using the new Argon7Ls ($5999/pair) with Nuforce electronics.
VTL's room is always an oasis at shows, playing music at levels that actually match rather than trying to impress the listener with mere volume, the system
meticulously set up. The same was true at CES 2008, a pair of Wilson WATT/Puppy 8s being driven by the new MB450 Series II tubed monoblocks ($9500/pair), the
"budget-priced" (a mere $50k) Continuum Criterion turntable, and VTL's new TP6.5 phono section ($8500) as the source. The MB450 and other VTL components are
pictured here with the company's co-owner, the ever-gracious Bea Lam.
Attending a show like FSI can be a tiring business, what with walking up and down corridors, and even when you sit down to listen you may experience tension, trying to discern the character of the sound. A few hours of that, and you can probably use a massage. If that's how you felt at FSI, the remedy was at hand: Jennifer Sunde and Mireille Beaudry are massage therapists who were at the show, offering a choice of Swedish and Shiatsu massage. Here they are in a brief break between clients.
And then there were five. At the end of the show on Friday evening, the remaining members of the Stereophile crew met for dinner at the same BLT Burger restaurant at the Mirage where they had eaten the night before the Show opened. Larry Greenhill, Michael Fremer, Kal Rubinson, Jon Iverson, Tyll Hertsens, and Jason Victor Serinus had already departed, so remaining were (left to right) myself, John Atkinson, Michael Lavorgna (AudioStream.com), Stephen Mejias, and Tom Norton (Home Theater, erstwhile Technical Editor for Stereophile). We don’t even look too tired!