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.
Because of the restrictions placed on merchandise sales at CES, the usual Acoustic Sounds booth, stocking much-in-demand LPs, SACDs, and CDs, was nowhere to be found. But the Kansas company still had a display room showing the hardware lines it distributes, including Thorens, Sutherland, and Stirling. But founder Chad Kassem was most proud of the new Analogue Productions LP: the Ultimate Analogue Test LP. Produced by Clark Williams and Barry Wolfson, with input from George Marino and others, cut at Sterling Sound, and pressed on 180gm vinyl by RTI, the Test LP has a selection of tracks to enable the LP lover to optimally set up his system.
One of the things endured by engineers and journalists involved in the design and discussion of high-end components is the seemingly endless attacks from those who, for whatever reason, feel that there is something unhealthy, even vaguely immoral, in the whole idea of wanting to listen to music with as high a quality as possible. The Listening Studio's Clark Johnsen reminded me recently of a letter from Daniel Shanefield that I published in the January 1984 issue of Hi-Fi News & Record Review that illustrates the whole genre: "It is utterly useless to write an amplifier review based on listening tests. If there were anything other than mere frequency response variation, it might be interesting...most hi-fi magazines will...forswear attempts to review amplifiers for their 'inherent sounds.' There are still plenty of interesting things to talk about in reviewing amplifiers, such as features, power, cost effectiveness, beauty, etc." (Of course, Daniel Shanefield is not quite as authoritative a published amplifier reviewer as, say, J. Gordon Holt or Harry Pearson of The Abso!ute Sound.)
Some reviews seem ill-fated from the get-go: samples break; systems go wrong; test equipment gives anomalous measurements; and at times the reviewer starts to doubt his or her ears when it seems impossible to get the component being reviewed to sound anywhere as good as reported by other writers. Such was the case with this review of the Celestion 3000. When Celestion's Barry Fox visited Santa Fe three days before Christmas 1989 with early samples of the speaker, we were dismayed to find that the ribbon of one of the pair was crinkled and immobile, apparently due to the extruded-aluminum magnet frame warping in transit. Fortunately, Barry had brought a spare tweeter with him, to show how it worked, so we replaced the broken one in order to do some listening.