I was sipping my gin'n'tonic, watching a hologram of a scantily clothed dancer and soaking up some serious party ambience at Stereophile, UAV, and Home Theater magazines' annual CES bash, held this year at the Venetian Hotel's Vivid night club, when a tap on my shoulder snapped me back to business. It was jolly Craig Oxford, president of former Nearfield Acoustics, the company responsible for the balls-to-the-wall, cost-no-limit, Pipedreams loudspeaker system.
Daniel J. Hodgson, Polk Audio's Senior Vice President, was very enthusiastic about the $3000/pair LSi25, a floor-standing, 3-way loudspeaker."It has a 1" VIFA ring-radiator, dual-pivot tweeter to increase dispersion," said Daniel. There are two midranges that surround the tweeter in D'Appolito configuration, and a powered 10" sidefiring subwoofer. The drivers have cast speaker baskets with aerated-polypropylene cones. He went on to point out the two small ports on the front baffle next to the midrange. "These two small ports are designed to eliminate resonance, which our company calls Acoustic Resonance Control," added Michael Cooper, Florida Regional Sales Manager for Polk.
If you've read Stereophile regularly over the past decade, you know that ProAc Audio's Stewart Tyler has a winning formula for designing loudspeakers. In review after review, this magazine's writers have celebrated the sonic profile he has created for ProAc speakers: a spacious soundstage with a big, coherent image; a clean, grain-free midrange; extended highs that don't intrude on the music; and tight, tuneful bass response.
Modern Audio Consultants’ Richard Gerberg showed me a new $6000/pair loudspeaker from English company ProAc, the two-way D28. The 60 lb floorstander, designed by ProAc founder Stewart Tyler , includes a 1" silk-dome tweeter and a 6.5" bass/midbass driver. I was able to audition the loudspeakers driven by a new $3000 Sugden 21 SE CD player, a $4000 Sugden 21SC integrated amplifer, and ProAc speaker cable. The D28’s sound was smooth, detailed, and musical. I particulary enjoyed playing Jamie Cullen’s Twenty Something album. Richard told me that the album had been recorded and edited using ProAc loudspeakers. Perhaps that was one reason the D28s sounded so good!
Paul Barton, founder and chief designer of PSB Speakers International, plans to manufacture a new series of loudspeakers he is calling "Imagine." This line will feature new finishes and styling. The enclosures will be curved, both front to back and top to bottom. To create this shape, PSB is laminating multiple layers of MDF, w2hich is then braced to a mold. Radio frequency waves are directed at the enclosure shell for 15 seconds that quickly sets the glue. Once the enclosure is stable, holes are machined as the exact places required, which eliminates the tedious job of making ultra-precise adjustments when an enclosure is built around the drivers. PSB also uses a method of adding color after the first coat of clear sealant is applied to the veneer, so the resulting finish shows the wood grain but also has a rich, red color.
I first heard Eugene Gigout's pipe-organ masterpiece, the Grand Chorus in Dialogue, in the Smetana Concert Hall of Prague's Municipal House (Obecnim Dome) on a Saturday evening before the 2002 flood. I recall seeing the delicate, youthful Michele Hradecka sway from side to side to reach the pedals. In response, a massive wall of deep organ chords shook the hall, the magical acoustic blending the delicate, extended highs with the thunderous bass. But this memory mixed the music with the beauty of Prague's soaring church spires, brilliant red terracotta roofs, and lavish palaces.
Sumiko teamed up a pair of Sonus Faber Amati Futura floorstanding speakers watch for JA's review in the March 2012 issuewith the $4500 REL Gibraltar G1 subwoofer to produce explosive, massive, but tightly controlled bass while playing the "Chinese Drum Poem" selection from disc 3 of the Burmester Demonstration Disc series. The REL G1 is a 108 lb, closed-box, front-firing 12" driver driven by a 600W, high-current amplifier. Sumiko's John Hunter set the gain of the G1 using a small remote. The G1 subwoofer fell totally silent when the music was free of deep bass content, as it should.
Makers of powered subwoofers fall into two camps: those that fit a high-powered amplifier and a single, large woofer into a relatively small, unobtrusive enclosure; and those that build two or more 10" woofers and an amp of moderate power into a larger, heavier enclosure.
At this year's CES, Sumiko's John-Paul Lizars introduced me to REL Acoustics’ new R528 SE sub-bass system. He described it as an "ultra-high output version of the R528" but also as a more compact version of the company's flagship Gibraltar 1 subwoofer. The R528 SE is half the weight (58 lbs instead of 108 lbs), 43% of the volume, and 61% of the cost of the G1 ($2750 instead of $4499). While the larger G1 has a 600W class-AB amplifier, the R528 SE has a 500W class-D amplifier. Both subwoofers utilize REL's aluminum-chassis, 12", carbon-fibercone woofer, but the R528 SE adds a downward-firing 12" passive radiator. Low-frequency response are not that different, with the R528 SE's 6dB point at 21Hz, and the Gibraltar 1's 15Hz. Many audiophiles and home-theater fans may end up favoring the more compact new subwoofer.