Every CES has its impressive, cost-no-object audio systems, but one of the better sounds I heard at the Show, in terms of superb vocal articulation and an excellent overall balance, came fron a relatively affordable system in the Avalon suite in the Aladdin Hotel. Based on the Colorado company's new NP2.0 two-way towers ($1995/pair), which feature two Kevlar-cone woofers and Avalon's proprietary composite-dome tweeter, driven by an Ayre Acoustics AX7 integrated amp and a Cary CD306 player, the system showed that you don't have to drop megabux on a system to get musically satisfying sound.
When I reviewed KEF's top-line Reference 207 loudspeaker in February 2004, it featured a supertweeter perched atop the module housing the coaxial Uni-Q tweeter/midrange driver to achieve true ultrasonic performance. A redesign of the Uni-Q driver, the tweeter in particular, has meant that the supertweeter could be dispensed with for the Mk.2 version, launched at the 2007 CES.
When Stereophile webmaster Jon Iverson speaks, I listen, so when, in a conversation the night before the Show opened, he mentioned that he felt wireless speakers would be big in 2007, I looked out for examples.
English speaker company Monitor Audio has been producing a range of excellent affordable speakers since its managment buyout nine years ago, including the Silver RS6 tower that so impressed Bob Reina last March. Their suite at the Hilton, however, saw the Platinum series, an assault on the state of the speaker art from a design team led by Dean Hartley (above).
Mikey had brought along to the JBL Everest demo CD-Rs burned with dubs of his favorite LPs played on his Continuum Caliburn turntable. We listened to Ella Fitzgerald, Roy Orbison, Joni Mitchell, and John Lennon, but it was when Mikey asked Greg to play track one on the second CD-R that the listeners visibly relaxed and the room filled up with good vibes.
A number of Stereophile writers have been having unexpected musical moments with JBL's massive horn-loaded K2 9800 loudspeaker at recent shows, but the 2007 CES saw the US debut of the awesome Everest ($60,000/pair).
One of the bugbears of mounting speakers—and especially subwoofers—in a wall is that the drive-unit behavior depends on the less-than-rigid behavior of the sheetrock. Most manufacturers of architectural speakers get around this by using a back box to provide the correct acoustic loading. THX's Laurie Fincham (who is going to hate me for referring him as one of the grand old men of English audio) had a different idea.
Since my first CES, in 1979, I have always enjoyed the chance encounters in the corridors. Some of these turn out to be with people who, unknown at the time, end up being audio superstars. I don't know whether Larry Forbes will succeed, but he certainly has the passion. His Klee Cables use flat, thin conductors of different metals and he has applied for a patent for this conductor configuration, having not found any prior art. Well yes, Larry admits, Goertz did something similar, but that didn't involve different metals. You can contact Larry at Larry_Forbes@hotmail.com.
Italian manufacturer Simetel, who makes tube amplifiers with a distinctively "retro" appearance, showed its new Nightingale Gala two-chassis power amplifier in one of the Venetian's lower-level rooms. Tubed power supply is one chassis, the tubed amplification stage, using 300Bs, is is on the second. Projected price is $16,000, and Simetel has now set up its own US distributor. Designer and company founder Luciano Del Rio stands by the silver-finish Gala (black is also available), which was being demmed with Revolver Cygnis speakers.
The mark of a great large speaker is that it can sound small when the music demands it. Such was the case with the humongous La Sphère speaker from French manufacturer Cabasse, one of the many high-end companies who chose to “outboard” this year at an off-site hotel. With its four-way coaxial design, it resembles a scaled-up version of the Baltic that Mikey Fremer reviewed in September 2005, but is fully active with the crossover realized in the digital domain. Demonstrated in a large room with Cabasse’s own amplification and Bel Canto preamp and source components, it offered tremendous dynamic range and loudness capability on full-scale orchestral music and film soundtracks (for which the pair of Spheres was joined by a full surround system and a subwoofer using a 22” driver). For me, however, the magic was greatest when Christopher Cabasse (shown standing with his company’s creation) played a two-channel recording of solo violin and piano, proving that La Sphère can be a quiet speaker when necessary.