John Atkinson

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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 19, 2014 0 comments
Daft Punk's "Within" was playing when I entered Magico's suite at the Venetian. The sound produced by the pair of the new S3s ($22,600/pair) was large and dynamic, with rich low frequencies. A solo version of "God Bless the Child" followed, and Gregory Porter's baritone was uncolored, with a well-defined, palpable image hanging between the loudspeakers. Finally, the bass drum on Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man pressurized the large room with low frequencies, all this from a a pair of speakers, each with two 8" woofers in a sealed enclosure powered by 100Wpc of amplification, with source an Aurender server feeding data to a dCS Vivaldi DAC and a Vitus preamp.

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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 19, 2014 9 comments
Though English manufacturer Naim Audio has had some very affordable products in their line, like the original Nait integrated amplifier from the mid-1980s, their reputation for sound quality was established with relatively expensive models. But nothing in the company’s history prepared me for the Naim Statement six-piece preamplifier/twin monoblock system (center in photo) that made its debut at CES. To be available in July, the Statement, which comprises the NAC S1 line preamplifier and two NAP S1 power amplifiers, will be priced at $200,000 and is specified as delivering one horsepower (740W) into 8 ohms! Its weight matches its power: the preamp weighs 135 lbs and the power amplifiers each weigh 222 lbs.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 19, 2014 0 comments
“A kiss back to Sony,” was how Nelson Pass described the debut of a unique pair of Pass Labs monoblocks driving Sony’s SS-AR1 speakers in the Sony room at Venetian. And it was an affectionate kiss indeed—the sound in this room, with a Pass Labs XP-20 preamplifier and Sony’s HA-P1ZES media player, I thought one of the best of the 2014 CES. Yes, it had superb clarity and dynamics, with an impossibly low noisefloor on the 24/176.4k Reference Recordings file of Stravinsky’s Firebird, but these qualities were even apparent on a Red Book file of a Rossini opera excerpt. There was something just right about the sound.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 19, 2014 5 comments
No, the Model 7 is not new. In fact, the pair Richard Vandersteen was demming at the 2014 CES were the same pair Michael Fremer reviewed for this magazine in March 2010. And the amplification wasn’t new: the M7-HPA monoblocks were shown in prototype form at the 2013 CES and the only news was that they are now in production at the same price as the speakers, $52,000/pair including proprietary DBS solid-silver cables, to give a system price of $104,000. But with an LP of Diana Krall singing Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You,” the hairs on the back of my neck stood up, so powerfully physical was the presence of the singer in the room.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 18, 2014 1 comments
At almost 6’ high, weighing 507 lbs, and costing $480,000/pair, the Coltrane Supreme 2 from Swedish company Marten was one of the more extreme loudspeakers at the 2014 CES. But to my surprise, playing my own recording of the Jerome Harris Quartet playing Duke Ellington’s “The Mooche,” from the CD Rendezvous, it sounded delicately detailed, with a superbly stable rendering of the recording venue, Chad Kassem’s Blue Heaven Studio in Salina, KS.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 18, 2014 0 comments
The Enigmacoustics company from Irvine in California has become renowned for the self-energized, horn-loaded Sopranino electrostatic supertweeter they introduced a couple of years back. They were still promoting the tweeter at CES, demonstrating a pair with Magico speakers in one of their rooms. But I was more interested in their second room, where they were introducing a complete loudspeaker, the Mythology M1 standmount. Intended to sell for >$12,000/pair, the M1 adds the Sopranino supertweeter to a two-way design featuring a 35mm dome tweeter that crosses over at a low 1kHz to a proprietary 6” woofer in a rear-ported enclosure made from a laminated birchwood and glass, with an aluminum front baffle.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 18, 2014 0 comments
Second up from the bottom in YG’s speaker line has been the Kipod ($38,800/pair), named after YG founder Yoav Geva’s daughter Hailey, whose nickname was “Kipod” or “Hedgehog” in Hebrew. But as Hailey is growing up fast (as daughters do), it was time to name a new speaker after her; CES saw the premier of the YG Hailey. Priced at $42,800/pair, the three-way, floorstanding Hailey uses technology trickled down from the top-of-the line Sonja that I reviewed last July. YG’s “Billet-core” drivers, where the cones are machined from solid aluminum stock, are combined with a 1" dome tweeter in a machined aluminum enclosure that eschews the Sonja’s double-cabinet construction.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 18, 2014 0 comments
Both the speakers from Sandy Gross’s GoldenEar company that have been reviewed in Stereophile—the Triton 2, reviewed by Bob Deutsch in February 2012 and the Aon 2, reviewed by Bob Reina in November 2013—impressed us with the very attractive combination of price and performance. And at the 2014 CES, Sandy introduced me to the new flagship, the Triton 1, which will sell for $2499 each or $4998/pair when it comes to market in late April.
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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 18, 2014 1 comments
Has it really been a quarter century since Meridian introduced its first “digital active” loudspeaker, the D600, pictured left with designer Bob Stuart standing between the D600 and the DSP6000 from 1990. I reviewed the D600 in November 1989 and was mightily impressed by what I heard from a speaker that used Philips’ then-new S/PDIF receiver chip to allow it to realize DAC, crossover, and amplification in one, elegantly proportioned box.

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John Atkinson Posted: Jan 18, 2014 4 comments
I am sure that contributing to the superbly neutral, well-balanced, uncolored, full-range sound in this room was the acoustic treatment from Swedish company SMT, which provided a combination of absorbers and diffusors. And dig the treatment applied to the ceiling by SMT, with different-radius sphere segments. Other exhibitors could take lessons from Martin and its US distributor Dan Meinwald.

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