Swiss company Manufacture Le Son was one of many that attended CES in hopes of securing US distribution. In tow was their LS002 Le Son (approx. $35,000), a dual-mono class-B stereo amplifier that outputs a bit more than 100Wpc into 8 ohms, and 180Wpc into 4.
There was a lot of major explication going on in the Marantz room, as in you'll hear some music if only you'll entertain our track-punctuating spiel, but when I did hear a bit of Chris Jones on the just introduced Marantz Reference NA 1151 network audio player/DAC ($3500), my interest was piqued by the depth and weight of the sound. Better yet was Sensemayá from the Channel Classics hybrid SACD of music by Revueltas. Here, the new Marantz Reference SA 1153 SACD/CD player ($4000) and Reference PM 1153 integrated amplifier ($5000), feeding Boston Acoustics M350 loudspeakers ($2500/pair), surprised me with their big soundstage and engaging depth. Even if the core sound of the lowest percussion wasn't totally fleshed out, the way the system delivered what highs and lows the speakers (45Hz30kHz ±3dB) could produce suggests this may be some of the best audio equipment Marantz has yet released.
I always have to remind myself that, despite Marantz’s “mass-market” reputation, the company’s Reference line products have more than earned their place on audiophiles’ equipment racks because they sound so good. Which leads to Marantz’s TT-15S1 turntable ($1500) and PM-14S1 integrated amp with phono stage ($2500). As best I can tell from my scribble, the table is a joint venture from Marantz and Clearaudio, and comes complete with arm and cartridge. What I am sure of is that system had a really nice midrange and lovely sound.
The Margules electronics and loudspeakers brand, long established in Mexico, is poised to make a big splash in the US. Picked up by Tempo High Fidelity, the same folks who distribute dCS, Verity, and Musical Fidelity, Margules will open ears once people hear their U280SC tube amplifier ($3900). Shown with the company's principal/designer, Julian Margules, the U280SC is a 23-year old design that now uses new transformers and semiconductors. A full class-A design that is claimed to be nearly as efficient as class-A/Byou can touch the tubesthe amp puts out 80Wpc in ultralinear mode (or 160W if two are strapped for mono) and 40Wpc in triode mode. The amp is so versatile that you can even have one channel output ultralinear, and the other triode. No bias adjustment is necessary.
I know. It sounds a bit like a Beatles flashback. (Note the psychedelic colors on Ron Hedrick's face, for reasons that only the Marriott lobby's lighting designer can explain). But this seems to be a very 2008 product. Marigo's Ron Hedrick spent 2 years building 120 prototypes before releasing his VX Mystery Feet for amplifiers, DACs, and other components ($699/set of three), and TR Mystery Feet for digital transports and CD players ($659/set of three). Each support foot consists of 32 parts, with 10 constrained layers of composite material that are first heated, then pressed at 1000psi. Hand-assembled, the feet include little brass inserts on the component end to distribute energy. You balance your components on the protruding little brass thingees on one end and pray there's no earthquake.
Roy Johnson of Green Mountain Audio (left) teamed with Ron Hedrick of Marigo Audio Labs (right) to create a system modest in appearance and generous in musicality. After pairing Green Mountain’s Eos HX top-of-the-line 2-way loudspeaker ($4995/pair) with a cheap Sony multi-disc changer and the Jeff Rowland Design Group’s Model 525 amp and Aeris DAC, they put Marigo’s Mystery Feet under the electronics, and used, in addition to Audio Magic power cords, Marigo Audio cables and, on CDs, Marigo’s new Ultimate High-Definition Signature Mat ($239).
There’s nothing like a good demo to change one’s opinion of what are now called Harman Luxury Audio components for the better. I had previously heard the pairing of JBL’s visually striking NDD66000 Everest loudspeaker ($60,000/pair) with Mark Levinson electronics at the speaker’s debut at CES a few years back. Although the buzz around the speaker was major, I recall thinking how dark and monochromatic the system sounded, and how it lacked the luminosity and color that I prefer.
Here, by contrast, the sound was some of the best solid-state sound I heard at the show . . .
I wish I could say more about the prototype MartinLogan Ethos loudspeakers ($6499/pair). But in a 5.1 home theater set-up that made extended listening to the Genesis 7.1 loudspeaker next door an impossibility, some extremely compressed, overly loud rock DVD that wasn't functioning properly truncated the listening experience. Other speakers from MartinLogan and Velodyne, electronics from Sherwood, and cabling from Nordost and Tara Labs completed a system that held promise of good sound from better source material. The subs sure did an excellent job of slaying Oscar Peterson next door.
Boldly proclaiming that its new the Renaissance ESL 15 A ($24,995/pair) combines a 45" x 15" electrostatic transducer with dual 12" aluminum-cone woofers, dual 500W woofer amplifiers, bass and mid-bass level controls, and Anthem room correction, MartinLogan proceeded to mate it with excellent Constellation Audio amplifiers and MIT cabling.