Having waxed ecstatic over the big Märten full-range loudspeaker on display at last October's Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, I was delighted to discover the somewhat smaller $30,000/pair The Bird on display in two virtually square, air-walled conference rooms at the Sands/Venetian Convention Center. The three-way speaker, with a 6 ohm impedance, boasts a frequency range of 28Hz–45kHz, and is 89dB sensitive at 2.83V.
Needing a shot of the real thing after a particularly disappointing dem from another manufacturer, I headed down the hall to hear Aurum Acoustics' total package. ($48,000 gets you the Integris CDP CD player, Integris Active 300B amplifier and speakers, Integris two-shelf Isolation Rack in matching veneers, 2m power cable, Aluminum Base kit, and Loudspeaker Grille Kit. As I said, the whole package.
While John Atkinson awaits a review sample of Parasound's just-released JC 2 two-channel analog preamp ($4000), photographed here (second from top) with Parasound president Richard Schram by Kalman Rubinson, I took the opportunity to discuss its genesis with Richard.
Wanting to hear more of newest addition to the line that includes the Andra II, successor to Stereophile's 1997 "Loudspeaker of the Year," I visited Egglestonworks' second The Nine room after the Show's first day closed at 5pm. Here I discovered a wonderful depth to the presentation, thanks to McCormack's UDP-1 universal player and DNA-500 amplification, as well as to the Kubala-Sosna cabling. The treble was also nicely focused. Alas, despite another round of Echo Buster room treatment and a striking-looking Grand Prix rack, The Nine's bass control was defeated by the room's square dimensions.
After encountering several rooms filled with overly warm, romanticized tube sound, it was a welcome shock to discover tube gear from Rogue that sounded far more neutral. Alas, the sound from Rogue’s Zeus amplifier (225Wpc, $7495) and prototype reference-level linestage preamp seemed a bit soft around the edges, lacking detail. However, who knows how much of what I heard was due to the plethora of Echo Buster paneling with which the exhibitors had tried to tame the room's acoustics. Paired with the Egglestonworks The Nine ($12,900/pair), introduced at the show, I heard much promise until competition from adjoining rooms forced me to retreat. What I did learn is the speaker uses an 8" Morel woofer, two of the same 6" Morel drivers featured in the company's earlier Andra 2, and an Eggleston favorite, the Dynaudio Ecostar tweeter. Available in virtually any automotive color, the speaker will start shipping in March.
The very first room I visited at CES featured VTL and dCS electronics powering Avalon Eidelon speakers via Transparent cabling. This was a good start. I had become an instant convert to VTL sound at HE2006 last May, where Wilson Sophia speakers, driven by VTL electronics via Cardas cable and a Jadis tranposrt and DAC delivered some of the best sound I heard at the show. Since then, I've heard VTL gear in three other environments, this being the fifth. Each time, it has sounded different, but always musical.
Rives Audio and Talon Audio (now owned by Rives) proudly introduced the Thunderhawk, a $25,000/pair, composite speaker consisting of the $10,000 Hawk positioned atop the Thunder cabinet. The latter’s woofer is available either with a passive crossover, or with the new Rives Sub Parc, fully adjustable active crossover, which includes a 1000W switching amplifier. Said to deliver full-range sound down to 18Hz, the system sounded absolutely seductive playing jazz vocalist Susanne Abbuehl’s Compass (ECM).
Thiel Audio had the benefit of several side-by-side rooms at the Venetian, one of which was reserved for listening with the door closed. Isolated from the noise of surrounding rooms, Thiel’s long-awaited CS3.7 speaker ($9900/pair in standard finishes when it’s finally released), and now actually boasting a grille, played an intriguing combination of two-channel and multi-channel music using Bryston electronics and Synergistic Research cabling.
In an enterprising attempt to serve music lovers via the Internet, Universal Classics has launched Decca Concerts. An unprecedented partnership between the label and some of the world's better-known symphony orchestras, the website gives classical music lovers the ability to download very recent live orchestral performances "from the world's most important musical cities." The performances are generally no more than 10 days old, depending on how much postproduction editing is needed.
The 2006 Grammy nominations are in, and audiophiles have much to rejoice about. In a year when far too many pundits are sounding the death knell for the CD in general and high-resolution formats in particular, there's a bumper crop of great sounding, high quality recordings vying for a listen.