The floorstanding Canalis loudspeakers in the Spiral Groove room, driven by Qualia digital source and amplification, were new to me, but were sounding clean, uncolored, and dynamic on the classic LP of Massenet’s Le Cid from Louis Fremaux and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, played on a Spiral Groove SG1.1 player fitted with an Ortofon Anna cartridge. Like all Canalis speakers, the new Amerigo ($10,000/pair) was designed by Joachim Gerhard (erstwhile designer of AudioPhysic and Sonics) and manufactured in the Bay Area by Spiral Groove, and should be available in March.
Back in January 2007, Bob Deutsch reviewed the single-driver Eclipse TD712z loudspeaker from Japanese manufacturer Fuijitsu Ten. He was impressed by what he heard from this idiosyncratic full-range speaker, but the brand never established a strong foothold in the US market. CES saw the reintroduction of Eclipse to North America, now distributed by On A Higher Note. A new version of the TD712z, the Mk.2, made its debut at the Venetian, along with the TD520W subwoofer. "Female voicesimply perfect!" I scrawled in my notepad, there always being special to the presentation when you dispense with a crossover.
When I interviewed Thiel’s new owner Bill Thomas (right in photo) at the 2013 CES, he was bullish about the company’s future. However, I felt that future was going to be dependent on whom Bill hired to head up the Kentucky company’s engineering team. At the 2014 CES, Bill introduced me to that person, Mark Mason (left), who had come to Thiel from PSB, where he had worked alongside veteran speaker engineer Paul Barton. Bill and Mark are flanking the new TT3 speaker, which is intended to replace the CS3.7 as the company’s flagship when it comes to market in the late summer. Bill feels that with Mark now leading the engineering, Thiel can be taken to a larger customer base.
VANA’s Kevin Wolff was showing off the new Liszt speaker, which is expected to sell for $15,000/pair when it becomes available at the end of the first quarter of 2014. This impressive sounding speaker has been in development for two years and combines a new version of VA’s distinctive flat coaxial HF/MF unit with three woofers operating below 150Hz, these mounted in different sub-enclosures and loaded with two vents.
Jason Serinus has already reported on the excellent sound being produced by Joseph Audio’s Pearl Mk.3 speakers ($31,500/pair), which were being shown in their new, white finish and were being driven by the new Bel Canto "Black" electronics. But of more interest to this reporter were two new models from Jeff Joseph, who is shown in my photo with a pair of the Prism standmounts ($3699/pair) and a single Profile floorstander ($6999/pair).
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 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.
Jason Serinus mentioned the Rosso Fiorentino Florentia loudspeakers ($99,995/pair) in his report on the Graaf amplifier in the Avatar Acoustics room below. This four-way speaker enclosure features aluminum front panels and glass side panels and weighs 361.5 lbs. The midrange and treble units are mounted in an open baffle, while the top-mounted woofer and the twin 12" subs are mounted in sealed enclosure. The subs are driven by a 1500W amplifier and the sensitivity is claimed to be 89dB.
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.
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!