John Larsen was on hand to show off his eye-catching Swedish-made Larsen 8 loudspeakers with SD feet ($6995/pair), which are distributed by Audio Skies. Meant to be placed against the wall for full control and bass response, they can descend to 23 or 24Hz, and ascend 20kHz. "They're designed to play with the room, not against the room," Larsen explained of a design that claims to eliminate distortion-creating first reflections. The angle of the tweeter also creates a wide soundstage that was given a run for its money on Telarc's recording of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture.
First, today's language lesson: lampa = vacuum tube (or a valve) in Polish. Hence the name LampizatOr for the young Polish company whose GM70 SET 22W tube monoblock integrated amplifiers ($8000/pair) are point-to-point wired in Poland, and whose motivating force, Lukasz Fikus, seems intent on causing quite a stir on audio forums with statements such as, "I DECLARE universal war against high-end equipment manufacturers: CD player, amplifier, cables, speakersNO MORE CRAP."
I’m happy that Simplifi Audio’s Tim G. Ryan introduced me to a new speaker manufacturer, Klangwerk of Zurich, because I really liked the sound of Klangwerk’s fully active, mastering grade Ella loudspeaker ($15,000/pair). Not only did the Ellas produce a very wide and tall soundstage, but they also descended to 35Hz (albeit 6dB). Paired with a Weiss MAN 301 network player, DNM Design speaker cables with HFT ends, and optional DSPeaker automatic room correctionclaimed to fix any stereo system in 5 minutesthe Klangwerk Ellas yielded lovely, smooth, and most enjoyable sound on an excerpt from Reference Recordings’ disc of The Tempest.
Manufactured in Sparks, NV by two families who "all have an insanity for music" and sold direct, two-year old Perla Audio's complete system was set up for extreme nearfield listening. Having entered to the assurance, "You're gonna love this," I made my way to the front, favored-by-Perla seat to hear the Perla Signature 50 integrated amplifier ($9000), PRS-2B ($8800/presumably for the pair) and PRS-2 ($7800/pair?) loudspeakers on $2250/pair stands, and Perla SB-400 subs.
Tom Compagna brought his new Quintessence Acoustics flagship QLS loudspeakers ($50,000/pair, $60,000 with active subs) to T.H.E. Show. "These are true ribbons, not quasi-ribbons," he said of his SOTA line source design, which uses nine 6.5" true ribbons and nine moving-coil mid-woofers. Frequency response is stated as 39Hz41kHz, ±3dB, extending down to 19Hz with the subs. With a claimed 95dB sensitivity, the QLS can handle up to 400W continuous, 1000W peak. Connected to Tom Maker's reference monoblocks and MG Audio Design flat ribbon cables, the speaker's bass was very impressive, but midrange predominance de-emphasized the top end.
I was hardly the only press person who waited until the last day of CES to make the trek to the Flamingo Hotel to cover T.H.E. Show, the alternative, lower-priced-than-CES location for high-performance audio exhibitors. It was easy to spot my colleagues, because, at least on Friday, the last day of the show, there were so few industry professionals and audiophile attendees vying for exhibitors' attention. The hotel's 4th floor claimed 23 exhibit rooms, not all of which I had time to visit, and at least one or two of which were locked. But attendance was so light that the place felt dead.
Eventually, with the help of a security guard, I found the escalator to the registration table and exhibits on the Flamingo Hotel's lower level. If the lighting and drab décor were depressing, what seemed to be very low attendance was dismaying. A quick stop at the two-open "ballroom" Marketplaces, which in previous years were filled with vendors and illuminated by big, celebratory signage, gave hint of what was to come. The program book says 10 vendors, but it sure looked and felt like less.
When WAVAC’s North American distributor, Covenant Audio Consulting, chose to stage the world debut of WAVAC’s eye-catching, directly heated single-ended triode HE-833v2 150W monoblock amplifiers ($79,900/presumably for the pair) with the massive SoundLab Majestic 845PX electrostatic loudspeakers ($35,000/pair), no one expected that high frequencies would project mostly from the top of the speaker, above the heads of seated listeners. Thus it was only when I stood that I was able to appreciate both the beautiful top and fine midrange transmitted by the HE-833v2s in conjunction with WAVAC’s PR-T1 transformer-coupled, three-chassis preamp ($30,900) and AC02 power conditioner ($22,900). Next time, I’ll bring my elevator shoes.
Krell used CES to launch no fewer than seven iBias high-efficiency class-A amplifiers. Called, by the company, "the most revolutionary design change in its 33-year history," the amps consume far less energy than traditional class-A amplifiers. iBias technology also reputedly eliminates crossover distortion, allowing low-level details, subtleties and spatiality to emerge without restricting dynamics. It does so by operating output transistors constantly at full power, so they never shut off, and adjusts power going to them according to demands.
Given that, for the first time since the dawn of the stereo era, cables were not part of my assignment, I never expected to find anything on my beat in the MIT room. But there, virtually dwarfed between MIT's top-of-the-line Oracle MA-X cabling and Magico Q3 loudspeakers, sang one of only two Spectral DMA-300 RS stereo amplifiers ($TBD) yet in existence. The sound through this stereo version of Spectral's monoblocks and Spectral's DMC-30 SS preamp and FDR-4000 CD player was spectacular.