I have made a point of visiting rooms at Shows featuring speakers from the Adam, the German manufacturer successfully extending their expertise with professional monitor loudspeakers into the world of consumer audio. In the room at Axpona, strategically treated with RealTraps, Adam were showing off their Tensor Beta towers ($31,000/pair) with Accuphase amplification and CD player via Transparent cable. The speaker's two Hexacone woofers are mounted on the front and back of the lower enclosure and driven by an internal amplifier. The midrange and treble enclosure is decoupled from the woofer cabinet with three sand-filled leather bags and both double-walled enclosures have the space between the walls filled with sand. The glory of this speaker is. . .
The German ADAM company has been developing the idea of the Air Motion Transformer HF unit, originally developed by Dr. Oskar Heil. The latest version of their tweeter, the X-ART tweeter, is featured in the Mk.II version of the Tensor Beta loudspeaker ($25,000/pair), which was being demmed with Cary electronics. The X-ART tweeter is married to a folded-ribbon upper-midrange unit, a new lower midrange unit and two woofers, all mounted on a solid aluminum baffle. The enclosure is made from 1” and 2” MDF panels, extensively crossbraced. Interestingly, waffle-shaped inner panels are loosely filled with steel shot, which absorbs vibrational energy. The speaker is also supported on fluid-filled feet to further absorb vibration.
Speaker designer Bill Roberts talks so fast, I could only write down every third word as he explained the design principles behind the Advanced Transduction Directorate loudspeaker. A four-piece, three-way system with an outboard crossover and line-loaded woofers, the 600lb Directorate has a very high claimed sensitivity of 96dB/W/m and bass extension of 3dB at 14Hz. Price is $30,000/system in light-oak veneer, or $25,000/system unfinished, as shown in the photo. With left and right speakers each driven by a 125Wpc Power Modules Belles 150A Reference stereo power amplifier ($2300), and a front end of CD files played with Sony Sound Forge running on a PC sent as digital audio to a Belles DAC and the new tubed Belles 22A preamplifier ($2500), the sound, even in an acoustically challenged room, had superb balance, dynamics, and transparency.
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.