MartinLogan is famous for speakers that use electrostatic driversfull-range or in combination with dynamic woofersbut they have more recently broadened their offerings to include non-electrostatic models. According to MartinLogan's Peter Soderberg, their aim is to produce speakers that approach the sound of their electrostatic models, but at a lower price and easier to drive. He says that this has become possible with their version of the Heil tweeter (the original Oskar Heil patent having expired). He did a comparison for me between their top-of-the-line electrostatic CLX ($25,000/pair), supplemented by the Depth 1 subwoofer ($2000), and the new Motion 40 ($1995), which uses the Folded Motion (aka Heil) tweeter, in both cases driven by Anthem's new class-D amplifier, top-of-the-line Conrad-Johnson preamp, with a laptop as source. With Patricia Barber singing "Norwegian Wood," the tonal balance of these physically very different speakers was surprisingly similar. Peter Soderberg is pictured here with the CLX and the Motion 40, after what must have been an exceptionally amusing quip on my part.
No audio show would be complete without a new or revised speaker model from Gershman Acoustics. At SSI 2014, the new offering from Gershman was the Avant Garde R-1 ($8000/pair), replacing the previous R-44. It's a fairly unobtrusive tapered-toward-the-top floorstander, and was sounding lively and open with Audio Flight electronics. Gershman has also moved into component supports with their Levitation Vibration Control devices that use opposing magnets. As you can see in the photo, they now have a version of these devices for cables.
I've never heard of Navision Audio, and when I looked at their amps and preamps, all featuring wooden chassis, I automatically thought "Italian." Well, it turns out that they're actually designed and manufactured in Viet Nam. Whatever their country of origin, they're beautiful pieces (the wood is "Barian kingwood," whatever that is), the NVS-211PSE power amp ($21800/pair) offering 80W of parallel single-ended triode using two 211s, and the NVS-003G ($8900/pair) an OTL design using the 6C33C.
The GoldenEar Triton Two, which I reviewed in the February 2012, issue, is my favorite speaker at anywhere near its price ($2499/pair until February 1, when it goes up to a still-very-reasonable $2999/pair). The Triton Two now has a "little brother": the Triton Three ($1999/pair), is a smaller version of the Triton Two. The resemblance goes beyond the physical; listening to a pair of Triton Threes, I was very much reminded of the Twos: the same sort of expansive soundstage and bass that was very nearly as impressive as I'm familiar with from the Twos.
D&M Holding is the name of the company that owns Marantz, McIntosh, Boston Acoustics, and several other audio/video brands; they had a mini-exhibit of their own at the Mandalay Bay. There were some formal home-theater demos, but I didn't have time to sit through those. However, I did get a good look at the new SM-11S1 Reference Power Amplifier (110Wpc, $3999), SC-11S preamplifier ($2999), and SA-11S1 two-channel SACD/CD player ($3499) from Marantz. Gorgeous stuff. Michael Fremer has these for review.
As a former owner of KLH Nines and original Quads, I have a fondness for electrostatics. MartinLogan has taken the hybrid approach, using electrostatic mid/tweeters and powered dynamic woofers, and this has worked well for them. The latest feature of their approach is the use of DSP equalization, used in the Ethos. This is now being applied upmarket, and the speaker incorporating this approach, now in advanced prototype form (“two or three months from being ready for production”), on demo at CES was a speaker that is expected to sell for $9000$10,000/pair. The sign said Summit X Jr., but I was told that was just an interim name. The speakers certainly sounded most promising.
Sennheiser’s PXC 450 ($499.95) headphones are both the new top model in their noise-canceling series and the first using the Talk Through technology, which distinguishes between general ambient noise and the voice of a person talking to you. I tried them briefly, and was impressed both by the sound quality and by the acoustical isolation. They’re modeled here by Nicoll Public Relations’ Erika Pearson.
John Meyer's Newform Research's ribbon/cone hybrids have been around for a while, and, like Bruce Edgar's Edgarhorns, every revision I've heard sounded better than the previous one. The latest R645v3 has undergone some very significant changes: the midbass/bass box is now sealed rather than ported, with additional bracing and damping (Corian top), and the result is much-improved blending with the ribbon and greater transparency throughout the lower midrange. Sold factory direct, $3484 delivered makes the R645v3 an astonishing bargain in today's marketplace. The partnering electronics undoubtedly made a major contribution to the fine sound of the Newforms, and are interesting in their own right: they signal the return to the business of Richard Dolan, whose PM1 preamp was highly regarded in the 1990s. The Newforms were driven by Dolan Audio SMM-120 monoblocks (US$11,500/pair), with a prototype line stage (about US$7500), Shanling CD player source.