Promoted as "the first pocket-sized portable speaker good enough for the audio purist,” the Soundmatters FoxLv2 has had endorsements from renowned speaker designersincluding Michael Kelly (Aerial Acoustics), Gayle Sanders (MartinLogan), and Peter Tribeman (Atlantic Technology)and a rave review by Michael Fremer on AudioStream. There are three models, the price ranging from $149 to $229, the basic model accepting analog input only, the other two connected with Bluetooth (including aptX technology) as well. The top Platinum model has a longer battery life (20 hours vs 12 for the other two) and includes an AudioQuest interconnect. I have some interest in portable speakers, and have listened to a fair number of them, including the audiophile-oriented offerings from B&W, Arcam, and B&O, but somehow the FoxLv2 was not among them. CES 2013 gave me an opportunity to remedy this omission. The Soundmatters booth was in the iLounge section of the Convention Center, and when I got there it was surrounded by a full TV crew. There is apparently a lot of interest in this product.
And then there were five. At the end of the show on Friday evening, the remaining members of the Stereophile crew met for dinner at the same BLT Burger restaurant at the Mirage where they had eaten the night before the Show opened. Larry Greenhill, Michael Fremer, Kal Rubinson, Jon Iverson, Tyll Hertsens, and Jason Victor Serinus had already departed, so remaining were (left to right) myself, John Atkinson, Michael Lavorgna (AudioStream.com), Stephen Mejias, and Tom Norton (Home Theater, erstwhile Technical Editor for Stereophile). We don’t even look too tired!
Have you ever attended one of those speaker demos where a large pair of floorstanding speakers were supposedly playing, and then it was revealed that the speakers playing were small hidden ones? (I recall Joseph Audio doing one of these.) Well, it was something like that in the Totem room, but not intentionally. The speakers that I thought were playing were the Metal floorstanders ($12,000/pair) and I was particularly impressed by the deep, dynamic bass produced by these speakers.
And then . . . in discussing the performance of the speakers with designer Vince Bruzzese, I found out that the speakers playing were not the Metals but the much smaller bookself-type Fires ($6000/pair) . . .
Morel had two setups at CES: one featuring a pair of Soundspot SP 3 satellites and 8” bass unit ($1799/pair) and, in another room, a pair of Sopran floorstanders, the latter winner of the 2013 CES Design and Engineering Innovations award. The Sopran ($12,000/pair} is one-down from the $34,000/pairand, in my opinion, unfortunately-namedFat Lady. The Sopran is a three-way, five-driver speaker, proprietary drivers and a molded carbon-fiber composite cabinet that I find a refreshing change from the usual wooden box.
Vienna Acoustics' Mozart loudspeaker was introduced at the 1996 CES, and it has stayed in the line ever sincealthough not, of course, without some changes/modifications. (My review of the original Mozart was in the January 1997 issue). The current Mozart Grand SE ($3500/pair, a not-unreasonable increase from the $2500 of the original), introduced at this year's CES, has a spider-cone low-frequency driver of similar design to Vienna Acoustics' more expensive models, a modified tweeter, changes in cabinet construction, and crossover changes. As demoed by Kevin Wolff of US distributor VANA (see photo), the Mozart Grand SE had the same sort of beguiling sound that I remember from lo these many years ago.
John DeVore introduced a new speaker at CES that is said to take "fidelity and flexibility to a new level." The Gibbon X ($11,000/pair), the first three-way speaker in the Gibbon series, has a new midrange driver that incorporates DeVore's Adaptive Surround, a new tweeter in its own isolated enclosure, dual 7" woofers that are claimed to move more air than some 10" drivers, and a hand-built cabinet made from solid bamboo.
Larry Greenhill has reported on Revel's Ultima2 Salon, which, at $22,000/pair, is well beyond my CES coverage limit of $15,000,. But I can tell you about Revel's more affordably-priced offerings. Speakers in the new Performa3 series started shipping in December, the price range starting at $1500/pair (M105 bookshelf-type) to the top-of-the-line $5000/pair F208 floorstanders. The speakers feature new transducer designs, next-generation tweeter waveguides, stylish enclosures, and low-distortion ports. The design process of Revel speakers utilizes position-independent double-blind listening tests.
Wisdom's planar-magnetic drivers are used in some very expensive speakers, and they had a pair of their LS4 floor-to-ceiling wall-mounts at CES, which sounded superb, easily one of the best at the show. (It was in the "if you have to ask" price category.) Of more interest to me was the new Insight series of in-wall speakers, which use the same technology as Wisdom's more cost-no-object offerings. The drive units start at $1250 each (P2i) and go up to $5000 (L8i). That's more my speed!
Sarah Tremblay and Caroline St-Louis, representatives of the Montreal Salon Son & Image (SSI) show were at CES, promoting their upcoming show in March. Visitors to the Montreal show may be expecting to see Sarah and Caroline wearing blue wigs, but they've apparently abandoned that look. They're now dressed up as hockey playersthe Montreal Canadiens, of course. I'll be reporting on SSI 2013, along with, hopefully, Art Dudley. There's a chance that John Atkinson may attend as well. Boys and girls, if you all write to him about how much you would like him to attend SSI, perhaps he can be persuaded.