Scottish manufacturer Tannoy was showing the Carbon Black version of the Kingdom Royal speaker ($85,000/pair), which adds carbon-fiber trim panels, individually machined metal components, and a “specially formulated” paint on the cabinet surfaces. The speaker combines a 12” Dual-Concentric driver with a supertweeter and a 15”, vented woofer with a corrugated surround for maximum linearity. The Kingdom Royal looked elegant indeed, and driven by Cary single-ended power amplifiers with Cary’s new streamer as source, the full-range, wide-dynamic-range sound was equally elegant.
The Belgian Venture company introduced its Vidi speaker at CES. Costing $30,000/pair, the floorstanding, three-way Vidi speaker combines two 4" midrange units with a 1" tweeter and two 7" woofers, these mounted on the speaker’s sidewalls. All the drive-units use AGC (Abaca Graphite Composite) diaphragms. The crossover operates with first-order slopes at 250Hz and 3kHz and the speaker is specified as having a frequency range of 30Hz to 40kHz. Used fullrange but with an AW500 subwoofer also operating below 70Hz, the beautifully gloss-finished Vidis did a creditable job with the the live Bootleg Series recording of Bob Dylan’s "Desolation Row," played back from a laptop running the XX HighEnd software feeding digital data to a Weiss Medusa DAC. The opening up of the soundstage as the initially mono recording, made with a Nagra tape recorder, was spliced to the stereo backup tape when the Nagra ran out of tape, was delicious.
Shown in Tom Norton’s photo are the Platinum versions of Dynaudio’s Confidence C2 floorstander ($15,000, left) and C1 stand-mount (middle)loudspeakers in the new Platinum trim, which I had seen and heard at 2013 shows. But I was more interested in the news that the Excite 12 loudspeaker, which has been a reference for Bob Reina since he reviewed it in March 2010, has been replaced by the Excite X14 ($1500/pair). My photo wasn’t usable, unfortunately, but I auditioned the X14s in a system comprising the Octave V40 SE 45Wpc, tube integrated amplifier ($5300), T+A DAC S8 ($3250), with Amarra running on a MacBook, Dynaudio Stand 3X stands ($350/pair), and in-akustik Reference interconnects and speaker cables, and was impressed by what I heard.
The German ADAM company has been developing the idea of the Air Motion Transformer HF unit, originally developed by Dr. Oskar Heil. The latest version of their tweeter, the X-ART tweeter, is featured in the Mk.II version of the Tensor Beta loudspeaker ($25,000/pair), which was being demmed with Cary electronics. The X-ART tweeter is married to a folded-ribbon upper-midrange unit, a new lower midrange unit and two woofers, all mounted on a solid aluminum baffle. The enclosure is made from 1” and 2” MDF panels, extensively crossbraced. Interestingly, waffle-shaped inner panels are loosely filled with steel shot, which absorbs vibrational energy. The speaker is also supported on fluid-filled feet to further absorb vibration.
With new US distribution, by the Katli Audio Co. from LA, the Taiwanese Usher loudspeaker manufacturer premiered its Grand Tower flagship ($37,800/pair) at CES. Combining Usher’s diamond-dome tweeter with two in-house 7" midrange units and two Eton 11" woofers, the Grand Tower weighs 500 lbs and has a claimed low-frequency extension of 24Hz, with a 90dB sensitivity. My experience of a percussion recording suggests that both specifications are valid!
The Polar Vortex weather and its associated flight cancellations prevented Convergent Audio Technology’s Ken Stevens from reaching Las Vegas until the third day of the show. However, once he arrived, he set up a system featuring Vandersteen 5A Carbon speakers, connected by Stealth cables to his new JL5 Triode "Baby CAT" stereo power amplifier. This 100Wpc (8 ohms) amplifier costs $12,000 with amorphous core transformers and Black Gate capacitors, $10,000 with silicon-steel transformers. The circuit features what Ken calls "OptiBias"Ken describes this as "somewhere between constant current and constant power"which keeps the bias current of the output-stage KT120 tubes independent of fluctuations in the AC supply voltage. Those who feel tube amplifiers can’t rock hard in the bass should have experienced the Led Zeppelin track I auditioned in Ken’s room.
I’ve had a couple of conversations the past couple of years with mastering engineer Dave Collins about the D/A processor he was designing for Manley Labs, the company run by his wife EveAnna Manley. The 2014 CES saw the consumer debut of the Heart Monitor Controller 24/192 DSP ΔΣ [Delta-Sigma] DAC, which was being demmed in a system featuring Manley’s 25th Anniversary monoblocks, which use KT120 tubes. There are four digital inputs and Dave has kept the fully differential signal path as short as possible. Silicon includes a SHARC DSP and AD1955 DAC chips and harmonic distortion has been kept to a superbly low 120dB, and even that is the subjectively benign second. Price has yet to be decided.
Loudspeaker manufacturer Angel Sound from Las Vegas was a new name to me, but I was drawn into their room at CES by this striking-looking speaker, which resembles a flame. Called, according to my notes, the S8, the speaker uses ScanSpeak drivers, can be supplied in custom colors, and costs $180,000/pair. The system in use featured Angel Sound DAC, amplifier, and cables, with a C.E.C transport, but the adverse room acoustics prevented me from forming any real opinion of the speakers' sound quality.
Jon Iverson already reported on the Antelope DAC, but as I have just favorably reviewed their SCM 7 v.3 minimonitor for the forthcoming April issue of Stereophile, I was more interested in the active ATC SCM100SL Towers in the room. This speaker combines ATC's proprietary soft-dome midrange driver with a 1" tweeter and 12" woofer, tri-amped by ATC's Anniversary amplification. With a laptop running JRiver Media Center feeding data to the Antelope Zodiac-Platinum DAC with its Voltikus power supply, the 24/96 transfer of Steely Dan's "Babylon Sisters" was reproduced with tight, well-controlled low frequencies.
Like Stephen Mejias at the 2013 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, I have been impressed by the German Zellaton speakers when I have heard them, both at shows, and at a dealer event I attended in 2012 at Fidelis Audio in New Hampshire. With foil-covered drive-units, a crossover from Duelund Coherent Audio, and driven by Trinity balanced phono and line preamps and 200Wpc CH M1 amplification from Switzerland, the three-way Reference speakers sounded forceful and detailed.