At 95 lbs, Dan D'Agostino’s 300W into 8 ohms, Momentum monoblock amplifier ($50,000/pair) doesn’t even come close to the weight of the big Boulders. Featured on the cover of Stereophile’s CES issue, the Momentum could be heard in many rooms at CES. This compact, energy-efficient design was driving the new YG Electronics Sonja 1.3 speakers ($106,800/pair). The resulting sound was dynamic, effortless, open, and had a wide, deep soundstage.
"Wes Phillips said you would be coming by to take pictures of our loudspeaker," said Paul DiComo, Vice President of Marketing at Definitive Technology. Paul then took me over to a pair of the company's slim Mythos ST Super Tower loudspeakers driven by Pass Labs XA 100.5 100W solid-state monoblocks. Standing just over 48" tall, the speakers had a width of 6.75" and a depth of only 9.5" What a change from the massive transducers I had seen at other venues at CES 2008!
July came in this year like September: cool, crisp night air and bright, clear days. The humidity and temperature remained low throughout the week I spent setting up the Denon AVR-4800 surround A/V receiver. So, crouched down behind its crowded rear panel, wiring up eight loudspeakers and multiple inputs, I wasn't sweating from the temperature. Launching the new multichannel Denon AVR-4800's surround audio-visual system required hard work, trial and error, and an emergency trip to the UPS terminal in the Bronx. While there were great musical pleasures ahead, the path to music-surround knowledge was rougher than I ever imagined it might be.
I visited Burmester's President, Dieter Burmester, in the German company's Venetian Hotel Suite. As well as high-end audio products Burmester also manufactures high-perfomance music systems for the Bugatti Veyron and Porsche sports cars. I mentioned that I saw Dieter's likeness in a sketch for an interview with him and Richard Chailly that appears in the latest Christophorus, the Porsche's owner's magazine. That led to chat about our favorite automobiles, and from there to high-end audio. Dieter hopes putting high-end audio in the Porsche Panamera and 911 automobiles will introduce high-end audio to a younger but affluent generation now focused on limited-fidelity MP3 on their iPods.
If anyone was even in danger of presuming vinyl was passé at CES, all they had to do was come within earshot of the energetic DJ manning dual Stanton turntables at Intel's Las Vegas Convention Center booth. The DJ, Vince Pistricola, aka DJ Shortround, emerged from the Detroit music scene as a DJ and magazine publisher covering the latest in hip-hop with his Detroit Equipment Quarterly. As I took some time out to listen, DJ Shortround blasted through the din from thousands of rushing conventiongoers with a steady diet of techno. Although you'd think DJ Shortround's frantic scratching would wear out 10 phono cartridges an hour, he says that he has a "light" touch. And no he doesn’t have green skin—that was the effect of the lights!
It was one of those uncommonly warm late winter Sundays when you hardly need a coat. The fine weather had set aside any critical listening sessions, the door to the kitchen was open, and I was playing my audio system—then equipped with a pair of Spendor BC-1 loudspeakers—at moderate levels. Playing on the Linn turntable was an LP that the kids loved—"The Magic Garden Song," sung by the two female leads from the children's television show of the same name (footnote 1), My wife doesn't often comment positively on audio equipment, but that day she walked in from the kitchen to say, "Those voices sound real—as if two people just walked in our living room and started singing."
I can't resist reading about a company's flagship loudspeaker—the price-no-object product that embodies the most advanced ideas from a company's research and design department. Flagship loudspeakers tend to be large, heavy, and complex, and are designed to perform best in large rooms; often, each part of each driver is hand-built to the highest level of quality, with precisely tight tolerances. The cost? Don't ask. Some two-channel, audio-only flagships cost more than a BMW M5 sports sedan or a Porsche 911.
Film sequels are a mixed blessing. If an action movie holds my attention, I can't wait to see the sequel: same characters, same actors, new adventures. And if the first film was successful, studios are more than willing to oblige. So Jurassic Park begat The Lost World, which begat Jurassic Park III. But the results are often unsatisfying.
"That's an impressive soundstage for a two-way monitor," I thought looking at the diminutive Confidence C1 loudspeaker, but hearing a wide, deep soundstage. Dynaudio's 25 lb pound, two-way ($7000/pair plus $450/pair for two) features a 7" woofer and the Danish company's acclaimed Esotar2, 28mm, soft-dome tweeter. The drivers are mounted on a baffle that is said to be decoupled from the cabinet. Dynamic range was superb driven by Simaudio Moon W-7M monoblocks, thought JA, who thought that this system's reproduction of Stereophile's new Attention Screen CD was one of the best he heard at the Show.
Jim Thompson from Egg.Works, the firm that manufactures Eggleston loudspeakers, was eager to tell me more about the Eggleston Nine. I'd seen the firm's loudspeakers in many different CES suites over the years, but never had a chance to listen to them before.