When I interviewed Thiel’s new owner Bill Thomas (right in photo) at the 2013 CES, he was bullish about the company’s future. However, I felt that future was going to be dependent on whom Bill hired to head up the Kentucky company’s engineering team. At the 2014 CES, Bill introduced me to that person, Mark Mason (left), who had come to Thiel from PSB, where he had worked alongside veteran speaker engineer Paul Barton. Bill and Mark are flanking the new TT3 speaker, which is intended to replace the CS3.7 as the company’s flagship when it comes to market in the late summer. Bill feels that with Mark now leading the engineering, Thiel can be taken to a larger customer base.
Back in January 2007, Bob Deutsch reviewed the single-driver Eclipse TD712z loudspeaker from Japanese manufacturer Fuijitsu Ten. He was impressed by what he heard from this idiosyncratic full-range speaker, but the brand never established a strong foothold in the US market. CES saw the reintroduction of Eclipse to North America, now distributed by On A Higher Note. A new version of the TD712z, the Mk.2, made its debut at the Venetian, along with the TD520W subwoofer. "Female voicesimply perfect!" I scrawled in my notepad, there always being special to the presentation when you dispense with a crossover.
The floorstanding Canalis loudspeakers in the Spiral Groove room, driven by Qualia digital source and amplification, were new to me, but were sounding clean, uncolored, and dynamic on the classic LP of Massenet’s Le Cid from Louis Fremaux and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, played on a Spiral Groove SG1.1 player fitted with an Ortofon Anna cartridge. Like all Canalis speakers, the new Amerigo ($10,000/pair) was designed by Joachim Gerhard (erstwhile designer of AudioPhysic and Sonics) and manufactured in the Bay Area by Spiral Groove, and should be available in March.
Yes, those are moving-coil woofers. From Martin-Logan, the electrostatic company. ML’s new Motion Series speaker, to be priced at around $3000/pair when it is available in the late summer, is a big brother to the Motion 40 tower. The speaker uses the largest yet Folded Motion XT tweeter to come from MartinLogan, marrying it to a 6.5" midrange unit and a pair of 8" woofers. and although the company is still based in Kansas, its speakers are now made in Canada. Though it was demmed with Peachtree amplification, the speaker suffered from the suboptimal room acoustics.
Arcam used to CES to launch a “statement” integrated amplifier, the FMJ A49. Priced at $5000, the A49 offers 200Wpc into 8 ohms (with the first 50W in class-A), 400Wpc into 4 and features a class-G output stage, fully balanced topology, MM/MC phono stages, and a onboard power supply for Arcam’s rSeries of wired and wireless DACs. While Arcam’s lower-priced products are made in China, the new amplifier is the first products to be manufactured in the USA, at the parent company’s facility in Rochester, New York.
The German ADAM company has been developing the idea of the Air Motion Transformer HF unit, originally developed by Dr. Oskar Heil. The latest version of their tweeter, the X-ART tweeter, is featured in the Mk.II version of the Tensor Beta loudspeaker ($25,000/pair), which was being demmed with Cary electronics. The X-ART tweeter is married to a folded-ribbon upper-midrange unit, a new lower midrange unit and two woofers, all mounted on a solid aluminum baffle. The enclosure is made from 1” and 2” MDF panels, extensively crossbraced. Interestingly, waffle-shaped inner panels are loosely filled with steel shot, which absorbs vibrational energy. The speaker is also supported on fluid-filled feet to further absorb vibration.
Scottish manufacturer Tannoy was showing the Carbon Black version of the Kingdom Royal speaker ($85,000/pair), which adds carbon-fiber trim panels, individually machined metal components, and a “specially formulated” paint on the cabinet surfaces. The speaker combines a 12” Dual-Concentric driver with a supertweeter and a 15”, vented woofer with a corrugated surround for maximum linearity. The Kingdom Royal looked elegant indeed, and driven by Cary single-ended power amplifiers with Cary’s new streamer as source, the full-range, wide-dynamic-range sound was equally elegant.
On first glimpse, Nola’s Carl Marchisotto appeared to be demming the same Concert Grand Reference Gold loudspeakers he had shown at the 2013 CES. However, those were the preproduction protypes and the 2014 show featured the production version. Costing the same $197,000/pair, the speaker features a new ribbon supertweeter taking the response up to 100kHz and two new Gold Technology woofers operating below 40Hz. Driven by an Audio Research Reference 75 stereo amplifier and an Audio Research Reference 10 preamp, with source two United Home Audio Tape decks running 15ips, 2-track analog tape and hooked up with Nordost Odin cabling, the sound in this room had an impressive, full-range sweep that usefully loosened up as the show progressed and the speakers/system broke in.
With new US distribution, by the Katli Audio Co. from LA, the Taiwanese Usher loudspeaker manufacturer premiered its Grand Tower flagship ($37,800/pair) at CES. Combining Usher’s diamond-dome tweeter with two in-house 7" midrange units and two Eton 11" woofers, the Grand Tower weighs 500 lbs and has a claimed low-frequency extension of 24Hz, with a 90dB sensitivity. My experience of a percussion recording suggests that both specifications are valid!
The Belgian Venture company introduced its Vidi speaker at CES. Costing $30,000/pair, the floorstanding, three-way Vidi speaker combines two 4" midrange units with a 1" tweeter and two 7" woofers, these mounted on the speaker’s sidewalls. All the drive-units use AGC (Abaca Graphite Composite) diaphragms. The crossover operates with first-order slopes at 250Hz and 3kHz and the speaker is specified as having a frequency range of 30Hz to 40kHz. Used fullrange but with an AW500 subwoofer also operating below 70Hz, the beautifully gloss-finished Vidis did a creditable job with the the live Bootleg Series recording of Bob Dylan’s "Desolation Row," played back from a laptop running the XX HighEnd software feeding digital data to a Weiss Medusa DAC. The opening up of the soundstage as the initially mono recording, made with a Nagra tape recorder, was spliced to the stereo backup tape when the Nagra ran out of tape, was delicious.