Mikey had brought along to the JBL Everest demo CD-Rs burned with dubs of his favorite LPs played on his Continuum Caliburn turntable. We listened to Ella Fitzgerald, Roy Orbison, Joni Mitchell, and John Lennon, but it was when Mikey asked Greg to play track one on the second CD-R that the listeners visibly relaxed and the room filled up with good vibes.
On passive display in the room adjoining their demonstration room was a single Magico Ultimate v.3 horn speaker, shown here with Magico's Alon Wolf for scale. A five-way design costing a mind-boggling $600,000/system, the speaker’s higher-frequency horns feature a Tractrix flare, the lower-midrange horn a trapezoidal flare, all of which blend smoothly into the baffle. A 15" sealed-box woofer handles frequencies below 125Hz.
On January 5, 2011, I was flying to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show (footnote 1). On January 5, 1914, Henry Ford announced that he would pay a minimum of $5 to eligible employees who worked an eight-hour day. (At that time, a good wage was $2.50 for a workday of 10 hours.) Ford was not being altruistic; he wanted to motivate his employees both to become more productive and to stay loyal to their employer. And there were strings attached: A Ford employee "must show himself to be sober, saving, steady, industrious and must satisfy . . . staff that his money will not be wasted in riotous living." But Ford also wanted his workers to be able to afford the products they made. It was Ford's action, I believe, that triggered the rise of the American middle class, and it was that middle class's combination of disposable income and increased leisure time that fueled the growth of high-end audio.
With new US distribution, by the Katli Audio Co. from LA, the Taiwanese Usher loudspeaker manufacturer premiered its Grand Tower flagship ($37,800/pair) at CES. Combining Usher’s diamond-dome tweeter with two in-house 7" midrange units and two Eton 11" woofers, the Grand Tower weighs 500 lbs and has a claimed low-frequency extension of 24Hz, with a 90dB sensitivity. My experience of a percussion recording suggests that both specifications are valid!
A new speaker from Vandersteen Audio doesn't happen very oftenRichard Vandersteen introduced his Model 2 in 1977 and the 2009 CES witnessed the debut of the Model 7, which, at $45,000/pair is the most expensive speaker ever from the frugal Mr. V.
The Belgian Venture company introduced its Vidi speaker at CES. Costing $30,000/pair, the floorstanding, three-way Vidi speaker combines two 4" midrange units with a 1" tweeter and two 7" woofers, these mounted on the speaker’s sidewalls. All the drive-units use AGC (Abaca Graphite Composite) diaphragms. The crossover operates with first-order slopes at 250Hz and 3kHz and the speaker is specified as having a frequency range of 30Hz to 40kHz. Used fullrange but with an AW500 subwoofer also operating below 70Hz, the beautifully gloss-finished Vidis did a creditable job with the the live Bootleg Series recording of Bob Dylan’s "Desolation Row," played back from a laptop running the XX HighEnd software feeding digital data to a Weiss Medusa DAC. The opening up of the soundstage as the initially mono recording, made with a Nagra tape recorder, was spliced to the stereo backup tape when the Nagra ran out of tape, was delicious.
As with other Shows, RMAF gave audiophiles the opportunity to stock up on LPsthe original hi-rez mediumboth old and new. This is the bazaar on the Marriott's ground floor, which was crowded throughout the Show.
"The Voice That Is" is the name of a Newtown Square, PA, retailer and when I walked into their room, I had no idea what equipment I was listening to, as it wasagaintotally dark! (I had to set my camera's "film speed" to a noisy 1600 to get a photo at all.) But the music playing, Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Tin Pan Alley" took me back a quarter century, when all you heard at audio shows was this cut. But it never sounded this good back then!
As my eyes accommodated to the darkness, I could make two pairs of Tidal speakers, the floorstanding Piano Diaceras ($37,690/pair) behind stand-mounted Ameas ($18.990/pair). Both feature ceramic-cone woofers and a diamond-dome tweeter but it was the Diaceras that were playing, connected with Argento cable to a Tidal Impact 140Wpc stereo amplifier ($35,990) and a Tidal Preas preamp ($27,990). Source was a MacBook Pro feeding USB data to a dCS Debussy D/A (my current reference, it shall be said, though in May I loaned it to Erick Lichte, who doesn't appear to want to send it back any time soon).
As if to confirm that it was 1987, the next track played was "Le temps passé" from the Michel Jonasz CD L'Histoire de Monsieur Swing. This is what I am talking abouta huge, stable soundstage, extending way beyond the speaker positions; smooth, grain-free highs, tight, tuneful, deep lows, and a pure, coloration-free midrangeand all of this in service of the music, adding to the experience instead of substituting for it. It doesn't get much better than this!
I first heard the Voxativ Ampeggio speaker ($29,750/pair) at the 2011 Montreal Show, where I was gobsmacked by what I heard. In a beautiful, high-gloss enclosure from the Schimmell piano company was a single drive-unit with an old-fashioned "whizzer" cone that resembled but wasn't a Lowther unit, which is was loaded with a rear-loaded horn. Such designs offer enormously high sensitivitythe speakers at Axpona filled the room with sound using a Fi WE421A single-ended amplifier ($3275) that offered just 4Wpc for its single dual-triode output tubebut my experience with Lowthers is that they can sound equally enormously colored. But the Ampeggios, seen here with importer Gideon Schwartz, just produced the same uncolored, dynamic-sounding music in Atlanta as they had in Canada. I'll be driving up to Artie Dudley's in upstate New York in a few weeks to listen to and measure the Voxativs in his room. Intrigued by what I'll find.
The German Voxativ Ampeggio Signature by Schimmel loudspeaker ($32,500/pair) was Stereophile's surprise Product of 2011, wresting well-balanced sound from its single drive-unit. At the 2013 T.H.E. Show, designer Inès Adler showed her Ampeggio Duo ($100,000/pair), which still uses a single full-range drive-unit, but this time field-coilenergized and with a wooden cone, said to have the same mass as a conventional paper cone but 100x stiffer. The large, wide, piano-lacquered enclosure horn-loads the rear of the cone and the speaker is claimed to have a 3dB point of 25Hz. Driven by KR amplifications, the 100dB-sensitivity Ampeggio Duos produced the kick drum on Dire Straits' "Sultans of Swing" with surprising weight.