Ever listen to a system costing $340,288? Ray Kimber's IsoMike venture put on such an exhibit at CES to preview their DSD recordings with "no limiting, no compression, no mixing, and no equalization." They had their SACD Hybrid Stereo/4-channel discs next door for sale.
What does $275,000 buy you these days besides a used Porsche Carrera GT with 20,000 miles on it? Yes, there is now a loudspeaker system with that asking price, which gets you 900 lbs of hardware, including two midrange—tweeter towers, two subwoofers, and two subwoofer amplifiers. Frequency response is rated from 8Hz to 50kHz, and the minimal load impedance is 3 ohms. Furthermore, the Force is made of glass.
"Wes Phillips said you would be coming by to take pictures of our loudspeaker," said Paul DiComo, Vice President of Marketing at Definitive Technology. Paul then took me over to a pair of the company's slim Mythos ST Super Tower loudspeakers driven by Pass Labs XA 100.5 100W solid-state monoblocks. Standing just over 48" tall, the speakers had a width of 6.75" and a depth of only 9.5" What a change from the massive transducers I had seen at other venues at CES 2008!
Escalante Design's CEO and Founder, Matthew Waldron, and the company's design engineer, Tierry Budge, were on hand to introduce the $11,000/pair Pinyon, a lighter and less expensive version of their Fremont loudspeaker, which I review in the Febraury issue of Stereophile. Weighing 35 lbs each, the Pinyon includes two direct-coupled 6.5" woofers, and the same 1" ScanSpeak ring-radiator tweeter found in the Fremont. It comes with the Hoodooh Monitor stands that have a brushed aluminum inlay. Waldron had it playing with the 210 lb, 12", powered (500W), UINTA subwoofer, which is rated from 16–100Hz.
Jim Thompson from Egg.Works, the firm that manufactures Eggleston loudspeakers, was eager to tell me more about the Eggleston Nine. I'd seen the firm's loudspeakers in many different CES suites over the years, but never had a chance to listen to them before.
The Sumiko suite at CES provided a huge listening space to introduce the new Vienna Acoustics' full-range, four-way Die Musik loudspeaker ($25,000/pair). Designed by Peter Gansterer (see photo), a pair of Die Musiks produced some of the best sound I heard at the show. The speakers were positioned quite far apart against a side wall, and the listener sat on a couch closer to the plane between the speakers than the distance between the speakers. This created a very wide, coherent soundstage quite unlike any other than I heard at the show. Bass response, which was superb, actually could be credited, in part, to a huge REL Studio 3 subwoofer, which was parked and running in the nearest room corner.
I corresponded briefly a while back with Gary Koh, CEO of Genesis. Gary has owned the company for the past five years, and moved it from its original home in Colorado to Seattle, Washington. When he took over the company, he was aware that his background was in computer software, not electronics. He decided that this could be an advantage. "Not being an engineer, I didn't know what was impossible. This explains to some degree the types of projects I've decided to take on, and those that have been achieved."
Paul Barton, founder and chief designer of PSB Speakers International, plans to manufacture a new series of loudspeakers he is calling "Imagine." This line will feature new finishes and styling. The enclosures will be curved, both front to back and top to bottom. To create this shape, PSB is laminating multiple layers of MDF, w2hich is then braced to a mold. Radio frequency waves are directed at the enclosure shell for 15 seconds that quickly sets the glue. Once the enclosure is stable, holes are machined as the exact places required, which eliminates the tedious job of making ultra-precise adjustments when an enclosure is built around the drivers. PSB also uses a method of adding color after the first coat of clear sealant is applied to the veneer, so the resulting finish shows the wood grain but also has a rich, red color.
"We don't have a price yet, because the TAD Compact Reference One Monitor loudspeaker is a prototype," stated Andrew Jones, lead engineer for loudspeakers at TAD Laboratories, Inc., shown here in John Atkinson's photo. "I can say that it will be somewhere between zero dollars and $60,000, the cost of a pair of our full-sized TAD Reference One speakers."
"The technology to create a full, wireless, 5.1 channel audio system simply wasn't available before, "said Mike Gough, B&W's Senior Project Manager on the Liberty System, "so we waited until it was possible to do it right." The Liberty employs a proprietary, robust wireless protocol with channel switching capabilities—called dynamic channel selection—to avoid interference from existing WiFi networks. Its wireless transmitter broadcasts 8 separate channels, allowing for full 5.1 in one room, and a stereo setup in a second room. Alternatively, the Liberty can support 4 separate stereo zones throughout the house.