My experience with the Thiel CS1.7 at CES is a story in three parts. Part I: Maybe. On the first day that I was at CES, which was the day before the Press Day, I visited the Thiel room while they were still setting up. I saw a prototype of the CS1.7, and asked if they were going to do a demo of these speakers. "We haven't decided yet. We're not sure if the crossover is finalized. But if the speaker sounds as good here as it did at the factory, we'll demonstrate it." Fair enough. I took some pictures and promised to return.
DeVore is a name that's no stranger to Stereophile readers, two DeVore Fidelity models being listed in "Recommended Components," and designer John DeVore often mentioned in Stephen Mejias' blog. The Gibbon X ($11,000/pair) is a new three-way floorstanders, featuring all NewGen drivers, including a woofer that is 50% larger than the woofer of the original Gibbon and has double the linear voice-coil travel. The new midrange driver has a phase plug for improved transient performance, and has its own chamber. With the LP of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington playing on the system that included the Gibbon Xs (Well Tempered Lab turntable and arm, Audio Research electronics), I was sorry that I had to leave to continue on my rounds.
The Sonist Concerto 3 ($3495/pair) is a favorite of Art Dudley's, who praised its "SET-friendly" nature (April 2009). The system I heard in the Sonist room at T.H.E. Show used the Concerto 4 ($5895/pair), which JA wrote about in his report from the 2011 Atlanta Axpona, The Concerto 4 is claimed to have a sensitivity of 97dB, 2dB higher than the Concerto 3, and the bass is claimed to extend 3Hz lower, to 27Hz. (When it comes to the extremes of sensitivity and bass extension, even small gains are hard to come by.) With a Cary 306 Pro SACD/CD player as the source, Increcable Acoustic Lab TIA216 integrated amp (300B-based), Acoustic Revive power conditioner, and Exakte cables, the sound was clean, open, and "fast" on percussion.
Episode Audio, exhibiting at T.H.E. Show, had some unusual-looking speakers, with the tweeter set well back from the front of the speaker, presumably to effect time alignment. They also claim wide dispersion horizontally and vertically over a wide range. The Episode-V ($12,500/pair) sounded good despite having a less-than-audiophile-quality Sony DVD/CD player as the source, and modestly-priced Onkyo electronics.
Wharfedale is one of those venerated British names in audio. And while its image is perhaps on the old-fashioned side, there's absolutely nothing old-fashioned about the latest Jade series of loudspeakersunless you're thinking of old-fashioned craftsmanship. The price of speakers in the Jade series ranges from $1200/pair (stand-mounted Jade-1) to $4200/pair (floorstanding Jade-7), and the manufacturing is vertically integrated: they make every component of each speaker!
Revel's well-received Performa series of loudspeakers has been completely overhauled, with a number of advances in materials and manufacturing technologies. The new Performa3 series now consists of 10 models, including three floorstanders, two stand-mounted monitors, and various home theater speakers. The drivers are all new, and, according to Revel's Kevin Voecks, they have exceptionally low distortion, which contributes to clarity and transparency. This was very much in evidence with the pair of M106s ($1700/pair) and F308s (at $6000/pair, the most expensive speaker in this series) that I listened to.
The Tréo ($5995/pair), shown in prototype form at the 2011 CES, is the latest speaker from Vandersteen. Indications are that it offers the same sort of musical accuracy that characterizes all of Richard Vandersteen's designs. It's a three-way design, with a 1" ceramic-coated alloy-dome tweeter, 4.5" tri-woven composite-cone midrange, 6.5" woven fiber-cone woofer, and an 8" subwoofer. Like other Vandersteen speakers, the Treo is time and phase correct. Through the years, Vandersteen has moved away from the strictly functional appearance of the original model 2 and model 3, and the Treo is perhaps a culmination of this trend: the slim, truncated pyramid is stylish as well as functional. My notes on the makeup of the system playing are somewhat difficult to decipher (I need to take a course in remedial handwriting or start to carry an iPad with me), but I can tell you that it used Aesthetix electronics and a turntable source. The LP of Mary Black singing "Babes in the Wood" sounded smooth and engaging.
Taiwan-based Lawrence Audio has three speaker models: the Mandolin ($5500/pair), Violin ($7500/pair), and Cello ($19,000/pair). They're described as being "inspired by musical masters," and, come to think of it, all three speakers bear a resemblance to largish string instruments, with a "belly" that houses the woofer, and the part of the cabinet housing the midrange and tweeter look somewhat like the neck of a cello or string bass. The midrange driver and tweeter are once again based on the Heil design. The system I heard, featuring the Cellos, sounded very promising.
In my posting on Opera Loudspeakers, I wrote about company names, and how they might suggest something about the product and the priorities of a speaker's designer. In the case of Volent Corporation, I must admit to being puzzled. What does this mean? The Dictionary of Difficult Words defines "volent" as "exercising will power." How does a speaker do that? Finally, going through the company's website, I found the following explanation: "the name Volent [is] derived from the phrase, 'Voice of Excellence': signifying not only the quality of reproduced sound but also the vocal appreciation of music lovers."