One of the highlights of such annual events as the Consumer Electronics and Primedia Home Entertainment shows has been the demonstrations of loudspeakers from TAD, the professional division of Pioneer Electronics. Designer Andrew Jones is always generous in using recordings brought by visitors, and enthusiastic in explaining the technology behind these beautiful behemoths. Among these speakers' unique features are a beryllium dome tweeter mounted concentrically inside a beryllium midrange cone, and a cabinet built of stacked, carved horizontal sections, for incredible rigidity without using exotic materials or excessive mass. The concentric upper-range driver is a reminder that, some time back, Jones worked for KEF, where the coaxial UniQ driver was developed, but the materials and details of the TAD drivers are all new. While the TAD Model 1s are always good for musical and audiophile thrills, their price is in the upper five figures, which put them out of serious purchase consideration.
The last Classé power amplifier I reviewed, back in November 2004, was the imposing Omega Omicron monoblock ($20,000/pair), which made glorious sound with the Revel Ultima Studio speakers. But things change. First, my reference speakers are now B&W 802Ds. Second, my system now has three front speakers, supplemented by two B&W 804S speakers for surround sound. While a quintet of Omicrons would undoubtedly be dandy, five such monoliths would take up so much space that I'd be wondering about their effects on the room's sound. With so many channels, it seemed time to investigate whether a multichannel amp could carry the load.
Erstwhile Stereophile scribe Jonathan Scull, now firmly established in the worlds of public relations and marketing, conducted an in-room presentation of new Furutech products including an LP flattener, an LP demagnetizer and, with especial relish shown in the picture, an LP degausser. Also, shown were some beautiful AC receptacles and <$100 power cords with various connectors. Beautiful stuff.
At the Las Vegas Convention Center, Dynaudio was showing—and playing—its new self-powered MC15 mini speakers. In three setups, they were connected to a laptop, a gaming console and an iPod dock, each setup clearly indicating that its high quality sound was an improvement over the usual powered computer speakers. Sporting a 6" woofer, an Esotec soft-dome tweeter (with 1st-order crossover at 1.5kHz), and a pair of 50W amps, this $1299/pair package, including elegant table mount, would be even more suitable as the basis of a deskop system with a good disc player.
Photographed by Jason Victor Serinus in the Sumiko room on the 35th floor of the Venetian Hotel, this is the prototype of a new flagship speaker from Vienna Acoustics. Its signature elements are an innovative coaxial midrange/tweeter with a flat, reinforced, flat diaphragm for the midrange to eliminate any horn effect on the tweeter dome and an ultra HF unit to optimize polar response in the upper range. Note that the upper enclosure can be aimed to improve imaging.
California company Now Hear This (NHT), which has been around since 1986, has always taken a no-nonsense route based on good engineering principles and innovative thinking. Two of their strikingly good ideas were the use of side-firing woofers, and integrating an active subwoofer with a pair of small monitor speakers. Both philosophies culminated in the Xd series of DSP-EQ'd active loudspeakers, which I had the pleasure of reviewing in the November 2005 issue. My first reaction to the concept was "Why hasn't anyone done this before?" The results completely justified an approach that, I believe, points loudspeaker design in a new direction.
I've been tweaking my weekend multichannel system for years, but with my city system I've kinda faked it. I now realize that I listen more actively to the weekend system, and not only because that's when I have the time for it—the sound of that system is simply more engaging and psychologically immersive. So, with the growth of my library of SACD and DVD-Audio recordings to almost half the size of my CD collection, I told my wife that it was time to transform of "our" city stereo rig into a full-blown multichannel system.
The P-8 ($11,000) is the second of Simaudio's Moon Evolution series that has passed through my system, following on the heels of the Moon Evolution W-8 power amplifier, which I reviewed in March 2006. Fortunately, the P-8's arrival preceded the W-8's departure, so I was able to use them together as well as with other components.
While on-wall/in-wall systems were ubiquitous at CEDIA, the in-room speakers stood out for their imaging and sound quality. Even the tiny Dynaudio 2.1 system consisting of a pair of Contour SR speakers ($2200/pair) coupled with the Sub 250 ($1k) made sounds that many bigger installations would envy. Add another pair and a Contour SC ($1900) to fill out a 5.1 system that can do music as well as movies.
Quietly tucked at the back of the main hall, Musical Fidelity had a lot of new stuff of great audiophile interest. First off is the new "audio Swiss Army Knife," as JA referred to it in his blog yesterday, the all-in-one, $9000 kW250. But among the other goodies on the Signal Path booth was the X-Package, consisting of the neat little X-RAYv8 24/192 upsampling CD player, the X-T100 60Wpc tube hybrid integrated amp, and the Triple-X power supply which powers both as well as an optional external DAC, tuner, etc. In their compact but non-resonant aluminum casings, this $3000 system was surprisingly potent.