It was an audacious demonstration. For the launch of Aerial's 20T loudspeaker at the end of 2002, Aerial's head honcho and designer, Michael Kelly, had arranged to compare the speakers reproducing the recorded sound of virtuoso violinist Arturo Delmoni with the real thing. The setting was the ornate dining room of one of Newport, Rhode Island's many mansions, and, given the inevitable differencesdue to the facts that a violin has a very different radiation pattern from a loudspeaker and thus excites the room differently, and that the recording inevitably gives the listener a double dose of the room's acousticthe demo was successful. There was much subsequent argy-bargying between Stereophile's reviewers about who would review the Aerial 20T, but it was Michael Fremer who eventually wrote about it in April 2004.
One of the most impressive speakers I have auditioned in the past few years was the three-way Aerial 20T, which was reviewed by Michael Fremer in April 2004. I spoke to Aerial's Michael Kelly a while back about getting a pair for a Follow-Up review, but he declined, saying that he was working on an improved version.
In October 2005's "The Fifth Element." I said of the Harbeth HL-3P-ES2, a descendant of the BBC LS3/5A, "Gloriosky, these little speakers are just great to listen to!" Later, in April 2007, John Atkinson endorsed that remark.
It appears I couldn’t go for an entire show without hearing Bela Fleck and the Flecktones’ “Flight of the Cosmic Hippo”one of the last rooms I went into on the Sunday afternoon, shared by Affordable Audio and speaker manufacturer King Sound featured the unmistakable sound of Victor Wooten’s deep-voiced bass guitar! “Electrostatics don’t have bass?” asked Kingsound’s Roger du Naier, “Listen to that!” And Roger was right, the Prince III electrostatic kicking major low-frequency bootie, and without too narrow a sweet spot, the other Achilles’ Heel of big panel speakers. Surely this wasn't all due to the presence of Synergistic's little ART bowls in the room?
Every CES has its impressive, cost-no-object audio systems, but one of the better sounds I heard at the Show, in terms of superb vocal articulation and an excellent overall balance, came fron a relatively affordable system in the Avalon suite in the Aladdin Hotel. Based on the Colorado company's new NP2.0 two-way towers ($1995/pair), which feature two Kevlar-cone woofers and Avalon's proprietary composite-dome tweeter, driven by an Ayre Acoustics AX7 integrated amp and a Cary CD306 player, the system showed that you don't have to drop megabux on a system to get musically satisfying sound.
If the Legacy Whisper was an example of a superb speaker ill-marched to the size of the room in which it was being demmed at SSI, the combination of Dynaudio's new DM37 tower ($2000/pair), driven by T+A's new E-Series Music Receiver ($4200) vis Ocos cable, showed what could be achieved from a more modest system, well set-up in a suitable room. The 160Wpc (into 4 ohms) Music Receiver includes an Apple-approved iPod dock, which takes the digital music data from the iPod and also has a USB port and three Toslink S/PDIF digital inputs. There is also a high-quality FM tuner and T+A’s Streaming Client board allows Internet radio stations to be played.
The Magnepan room in the Atrium hotel had no fewer than three Californian retailers listed on its sign: Shelley's Stereo of Woodland Hills, Hi5 Stereo of La Habra, and Inland Sound of San Bernardino. But the sound in this room was not a case of too many cooks, the sidewall-mounted, motorized Magnepan MMC2 panels being reinforced by panel subs hidden in the room furnishings and a center-channel panel to give a presentation that sounded better than the total system costs of $4700 would suggest.
When I asked the price of the floorstanding Philharmonic 3 (front), which I had heard producing a big sound with extended low frequencies on a recording of Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man, driven by an AVA amplifier, I was expecting an answer of the usual "many thousands of dollars." Instead, I was told the speaker costs just $2800/pair!
That is a lot of speaker for the money. The 3 combines a Raal 10D ribbon tweeter crossing over at 2900Hz to a BG Neo 8 planar-magnetic driver in an open-back enclosure. The bottom enclosure, isolated from the upper with a 1/25" vibration-absorbing pad, handles frequencies below 650Hz and loads an 8" Scanspeak Revelator woofer with a transmission line. Less-expensive versions of the speaker, the Philharmonic 1 and 2, differ only in the drive-units used. Check out www.philharmonicaudio.com for the full technical story on these speakers.
Relatively affordable at $30,000/pair, that is, given the cost-no-object construction featured by TAD's new CR-1 "Compact Reference Monitor," seen here with its designer Andrew Jones and compared with the company's original floorstanding and superb-sounding Reference One from 2006. (Across the corridor from TAD, Ray Kimber was using four Reference Ones to demo his new IsoMike recordings in surround.)
"Air Motion" because the Adamsfamiliar to me from the German company's strong showing at pro-audio showsfeature modern versions of the Oskar Heil-designed "Air Motion Transformer" higher-frequency drive-units that a brief period of popularity in the 1970s. This uses a corrugated aluminum-foil diaphragm that moves somewhat like an accordian bellows, alternately squeezing and stretching the air between the folds. Adam, who is entering the North American high-end audio market, was proudly showing its top-model Tensor series at SSI, but I was also impressed by the active A5 shown in the photo, which crosses the AMT tweeter over to a moving-coil woofer at 2.2kHz and costs just $900/pair. With the $600 Sub 7 active woofer also shown in the photo, a pair of Adam A5s would make the basis for an affordable high-quality system.