Morel had two setups at CES: one featuring a pair of Soundspot SP 3 satellites and 8” bass unit ($1799/pair) and, in another room, a pair of Sopran floorstanders, the latter winner of the 2013 CES Design and Engineering Innovations award. The Sopran ($12,000/pair} is one-down from the $34,000/pairand, in my opinion, unfortunately-namedFat Lady. The Sopran is a three-way, five-driver speaker, proprietary drivers and a molded carbon-fiber composite cabinet that I find a refreshing change from the usual wooden box.
I've had a fondness for speakers by Vienna Acoustics ever since I reviewed their original Mozart. I've heard their larger speakers at shows since then, and they've always sounded excellent. This was also the case at TAVES. The Music (how can you criticize a speaker named Music?) at $27,500/pair was combined with electronics by Esoteric and cables by Transparent (about $42,000 total), and a MacBook Pro as the source.
Music Hall's Roy Hall can usually be relied on to introduce some high-value components at each CES or HE show, and he didn't disappoint this time, either. The Music Hall Trio is a combination CD player, integrated amplifier (50Wpc), and AM/FM tuner (80 assignable presets, remote controllable). Not bad for $999—and, given Roy's track record, it's pretty certain to sound good, too.
Venerable British audio manufacturer, Naim, has an almost-equally-venerable new Canadian distributor, Plurison. Headed by the genial Daniel Jacqueson the right in the photo, with Doug Graham, Naim's International Export Manager on the leftPlurison's list of distributed brands includes Focal, Mordaunt-Short, MartinLogan, Pathos, YBA, Micromega, and a host of others. It must put Jacques in a quandary when he has to decide what product to take home to listen to on the weekend!
Analog stalwart Naim is now heavily into computer audio; new at SSI 2012 was their NDS streamer/DAC, which is to start shipping in May. This is their reference-level network player, which does all the things you expect a product like this to do, including Internet radio. The price of $13,000 does not include a power supply. In true Naim fashion, the NDS offers a choice of three power supplies, which range in price from $3k to $10k.
Naim had several products on static display, one of them looking like a small preamp but with an antenna sticking out in the back. I asked Terry Richardson of Audio Plus, North American distributor of Naim products, what this product was; he explained that it was called the Unity QUTE, and said that "it did everything except what a speaker does." Add a pair of speakers and you've got a sound system.
Conventional audio marketing wisdom has it that any new company with a single product, selling at a high price, will have a really rough time establishing distribution and picking up dealers. But this apparently did not deter Kim Neeper Rasmussen. The Neeper Perfection One is a two-and-a-half way floorstander of modest size, with a 1.5" ScanSpeak ring-radiator tweeter and two 5.5" custom ScanSpeak midrange/bass units, each speaker weighing 30kg (66 lbs). A major feature of the design is that the cabinet walls are all non-parallel to each other, an approach to resonance-control that Rasmussen considers to be vastly superior to the use of damping materials. The speakers are made in Denmark, and are priced at $20,000/pair.
Paradigm has some new active speakers, including the A2 ($300$350/pair, depending on finish) demoed here by Erin Phillips and Mark Aling using a Numark DJ mixing deck. Paradigm has also entered the earbuds market, with models ranging in price from $59 to $149. Like Paradigm's speakers, these were developed utilizing anechoic testing.
VTL announced a major upgrade to their TL-7.5 Reference Linestage Preamplifier (current gain technology, with dramatically lower noise floor), which is now the TL-7.5 Series II. They also have an upgraded version of the MB-450 monoblocks and a new 250Wpc MB-185. Pictured: VTL’s Bea Lam with the system that featured the TL-7.5/MB-450 combo driving Wilson Sophia 2s. Lovely sound.