While on-wall/in-wall systems were ubiquitous at CEDIA, the in-room speakers stood out for their imaging and sound quality. Even the tiny Dynaudio 2.1 system consisting of a pair of Contour SR speakers ($2200/pair) coupled with the Sub 250 ($1k) made sounds that many bigger installations would envy. Add another pair and a Contour SC ($1900) to fill out a 5.1 system that can do music as well as movies.
I have been a proponent of methodical modeling and room analysis as aids in setting up audio systems and rooms. They work hand in hand: Modeling predicts a feasible room arrangement, and analysis, along with careful listening, determines how close the outcome is to that predicted. Of course, there should always be another round of modeling to see if the current setup can be improved with more work. The spiral continues, toward, one hopes, perfection.
Late in the day at the Show, most glasses were filled or in the process of being emptied. This stack on the BG stand, however, was empty. It had been erected to show that Radia's new 210i Active Subwoofer is almost totally vibration-free in operation. At the time I took this picture, this sub, with its opposed 10" Kevlar drivers and 500w BASH amp was pumping out gobs of bass, cleanly and tightly. I could detect no vibrations at all with my hand. What's the point? Well, you can put something on top of them (vase, planter, cigar humidor!) without exciting spurious vibrations. Heck, you could even put this $1500 sub in a cabinet, if that suits your needs.
Back in the 1990s, I lusted mightily for the large ESP speakers with their tall, slim shapes and their angled driver panels. A large-room demo of the Concert Grands with Sonic Frontiers electronics still reverberates in my memory. Unfortunately, just as I evolved to the point where I could consider buying a pair of Concert Grands, the company folded its tents. Recently, I heard a rumor that ESP might be returning, and an email exchange with founder and designer Sean McCaughan has confirmed the good news.
Because I'm suspicious of just twiddling knobs to make the sound "nice," I didn't rely solely on my ears when I used the Z-Systems rdp-1 that I review elsewhere in this issue for speaker and room contouring. Instead, I used the ETF speaker/room-analysis software from Acoustisoft to help me manipulate the equalizer properly. This program can measure the first-arrival, on-axis speaker response, as well as the room response with its early and late reflections and its resonances.
Just a short note to tell you that the smaller brother of the affordably priced but high-performance Pioneer Elite S-1EX loudspeaker that I enjoyed so much last March has made its way to these shores. The S-3EX is slightly shorter and narrower, with 7" woofers in place of its bigger brother's 8" drivers. Retained are the CST Driver technology, the Aramid/Carbon-composite–shell woofers, the clean design and construction and, presumably, all the sound except at subwoofer levels. Not retained is about a third of the cost with the S-3EX estimated at $6000/pair instead of $9000.
Another big name makes the move into wireless speakers with Focal's announcement of the Easya. It is a floor-standing 2½-way system which comes as a pair, with its hub/controller and remote control, for just $1799. Available colors are a snazzy gloss white or black and it sports an inverted-dome tweeter and a pair of 5" polyglass-cone drivers. Inputs are TosLink, coax and USB inputs as well as analog. Better yet, it sounded like a Focal . . . but, look Ma, no wires!
When PR guy Adam Sohmer first told me about the Fosgate Audionics FAP V1, I thought that the impressive-looking device would be the first all-tube preamp-processor—heck, the first tube anything—in my multichannel system. Then I looked closer at the user's manual I'd downloaded from Fosgate's website. Hmmm. No Dolby Digital, no DTS—just Dolby Pro Logic. Of course, the FAP V1 is Jim Fosgate's signature expression of Dolby Pro Logic, and I guess that counts for something. But the more I thought about it, the more interesting a prospect the FAP V1 seemed.
At the Furutech room, the news was about the latest ADL device, the GT40 Mk.II of which they said "The master of all trades just mastered another. . .DSD." That's right, their all-singing, all-dancing, multitasking GT40, reviewed by Art Dudley in September 2011, now adds DSD file playback to its playbook. That, of course, includes up to 24/192 PCM DAC and ADC, MM/MC phono input and a potent headphone amp. At $729, a small box to rule them all.
In Stereophile's "Recommended Components," most full-range Class A speakers—and even some in Class B—are behemoths. Some are tall, some are wide, some are deep, and some are just plain big. Most of us would find such no-compromise devices physically imposing and visually distracting in our listening rooms. Putting aside the infamous "Spousal Acceptance Factor," how can you ignore such speakers' presence and concentrate on the music?