Moderately Priced Speakers. That's my assignment for this year's CES show reportas well as moderately priced turntables and other phono equipmentModerate being defined this time as priced from $4000/pair to $18,000/pair. Right at the top of this range is the $18,000/pair Raidho XT-2, an extremely slim floorstander that uses the same tweeter as the rest of the Raidho range and two 4" cone drivers.
With two years in research and development, Monitor Audio's Platinum Series II involvesaccording to Dean Hartley, Monitor Audio's Technical Director"advances in every area of design: electrical, mechanical, magnetic, acoustic and aesthetic."
At $15,995/pair, the Tempus III is the top-of-the-line from Ryan Speakers. Their speakers have impressed me before as offering high quality for the price, but perhaps not world-beaters. The Tempus III is different. It uses proprietary drivers, including a new beryllium-dome tweeter, two side-firing woofers, and a midbass that covers the range from 100Hz to 350Hz.
Taking a photo of a single speaker for a show report presents a challenge, especially if the speaker is narrow and tall. In the case of the new MartinLogan EM-ESL X, the flagship of the ElectroMotion series (at $3995/pair, I make it close enough to $4000 be part of my territory), I solved the problem by enlisting the help of the uncommonly photogenic Erin Phillips, Communications Manager for MartinLogan and Paradigm.
Getting near the top of the $4k$18k range, at $16,500/pair is the Magico S1 (Mk.II)which is actually the lowest-priced speaker from Magico. Although it looks similar to the original S1, the Mk II has a newly designed 1" diamond-coated Beryllium diaphragm tweeter and a new 7" mid/bass driver incorporating Magico's Nano-Tec cone material. As was the case for the Mk.I, the enclosure of the Mk.I is formed from a single piece of extruded aluminum, but with a new massive top plate machined to a 3D convex shape, and a thicker base plate.
The Monitor Audio Platinum II involves some major improvements in driver technology. Dean Hartley told me that they had moved a good way towards completion of these changes when the original Platinum Series speakers were introduced, but they felt that further improvements were possible, and they wanted to be absolutely sure they got it right, so they played it safe by going with the existing technology.
The day before the opening of CES is devoted to press conferences, mostly by the big boys: Sony, Samsung, LG, Panasonic, etc. These are generally of little interest to Stereophile readers, so our detailed show coverage doesn't start until the official CES opening.
When the presentation turned to audio, Sony's Michael Fasulo referred to consumers' desire for "an even better listening experience," and that this was illustrated by the progression from LP to compact cassette, and then to CD, and to MP3. I must admit that I was taken aback by this statement. These changes in recorded music media may well represent a search for increased convenience, but few audiophiles would argue that a change from LP to compact cassette or from CD to MP3 represents "even better listening experience."
But there is evidence for Sony's commitment to sound quality in their support of Hi-Res audio. Fasulo reported great interest on the part of major record labels in higher quality recording technology, a need that is met by Sony's development of Hi-Res audio.
TAVES 2015 presented the World Premiere of the ACA Seraphim Skogrand Edition speakers ($58,500/pair), with Skogrand cable CEO/Designer Knut Skogrand (above) on hand for the event. "Manufactured in a small workshop in the mountain hills of Norway," Skogrand cables are designed to "let any system perform at its full potential." This search for perfection does not come cheap: a 3m pair of SC Beethoven speaker cables costs $32,500!