In July 2000, I reviewed the Mark Levinson company's first integrated amplifier, the No.383, and found that its sound had "clarity, transparency, liquid mids and highs, with dynamic contrasts." Also evident were the No.383's power-output limitations, the result of building large power supplies and heatsinks into a single case that had to fulfill multiple functions. Still, the No.383's price of $5900 was much less than the total cost of the equivalent in Mark Levinson separates. Later, in April 2007, I reviewed a similarly powered integrated amplifier, Bryston's B100-DA ($3195), which included a built-in DAC.
Several seconds after I began listening to it, I knew that Theta Digital's Prometheus monoblock amplifier ($12,000/pair) was different from other amplifiers. The violins and brass were more dynamic, and had more pace. The orchestra sounded more three-dimensional, depicted in relief by a degree of hall ambience I hadn't heard when I played the same recording through my reference solid-state stereo amplifier, a Mark Levinson No.334.
Powerful, massive, and expensive, Revel's Ultima Rhythm2 subwoofer ($10,000) swept me off my feet when I first saw it in Harman International's suite at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show. It outsizes, by 49 lbs and 2.6 cubic feet, Revel's previous flagship model, the Ultima Sub30, which I reviewed in the November 2004 issue. Its specs read like no other sub's: 196 lbs; 18" cast-frame woofer; dual 4" voice-coils; 4kW peak power from twin internal amplifiers that generate 1kW RMS; 115dB peak acoustic output; a fully configurable, high-resolution, 10-band parametric equalizer (PEQ); an internal crossover with high- and low-pass outputs; and PC-based setup via USB. The Rhythm2's patent-pending design is said to let just enough air move in and out of the cabinet to prevent any distortion-inducing pressure due to heating of the voice-coils. And its veneer, shape, beveled top edges, and bottom plinth exude the quality found in Revel's top-of-the-line floorstanding speaker, the Ultima Salon2, with which I was familiar.
TAD's chief engineer, Andrew Jones, always cheerful and happy, took great pleasure in introducing his newest design, the TAD CE1 Compact Evolution One, a contemporary styled bookshelf loudspeaker. This product produced my once-a-show epiphany for good sound.
Wilson Audio’s Peter McGrath and John Giolas walked me through the design of the new $15,000/pair Sabrina. The loudspeaker has same general form factor and is slightly taller than their original WATT-Puppy, which was also a $15,000/pair speaker when it was first produced more than 20 years ago.
Lamm Audio used two ML3 Signature amplifiers ($139,490) and two ML2.2 amplifiers ($37,290) to power a pair of Verity Audio Lohengrin IIS loudspeakers ($120,000) in one of the Venetian's largest exhibit rooms.
YG Acoustics introduced the second edition of their original 2-way Carmel loudspeaker, the Carmel 2. It is said to bring the sound of the more expensive $72,800/pair Sonja 1.2 at a more reasonable price, $24,500/pair.
Abbey Masciarotte, Tannoy's representative at CES 2015, showed me the company's floorstanding Canterbury loudspeaker. The Canterbury has a striking retro look and uses a dual-concentric 15" drive unit that mounts a high-frequency compression driver inside the throat of a 15" woofer.
GoldenEar’s Sandy Gross emailed before the show about Golden Ear’s new compact, sealed, self-powered Supersub XXL subwoofer ($1999), which would be premiered at CES 2015. The subwoofer has two inertially-balanced, long-throw 12" woofers in the horizontal plane and two fully inertially-balanced 12.75" by 14.5" passive radiators in the vertical plane.