The $80,000/pair MartinLogan electrostatic hybrid, the Neolith, played with wonderful spatial imaging and translucent sound. The speaker's enclosure was painted in a glossy, thick automotive glass red paint called Rosso Fuoco, but is available in 6 other colors.
Stereophile's Jon Iverson grabbed me in the hallway of the Venetian Hotel's 35th floor. He was excited. "You've got to see Avantgarde's new loudspeaker on the 31st floorit's full of features not found in most other loudspeakers." I rushed down the back stairs of the Venetian, and found Avantgarde's Executive Manager, Armin Krauss, who walked me through the $18,500/pair, three-way, Zero 1 loudspeaker.
Burmester's upbeat and gregarious CEO, Dieter Burmester, was eager to give a live demonstration of his two newest loudspeakers, the $60,000/pair BA-71 and the smaller $30,000/pair BA 31 (above). The larger BA-71 uses four 160mm woofers while the BA-31 employs two woofers.
The huge $43,000/pair Acoustic Zen Maestro loudspeaker is an imposing 225 lb, 67"-tall, 4-way, floorstanding transmission-line speaker system that physically dominated its seemingly tiny-by-comparison exhibit room.
"This is our new top-of-the-line subwoofer," said James Tanner, as he proudly showed a non-playing Byrston Model T subwoofer that will retail at $4795 each. He described why Bryston built a 110' tower to confirm that sub's anechoic response does actually reach down to 12Hz.
As an audiophile, I've come to associate the size, weight, and price of a subwoofer as quick'n'dirty indicators of its quality. The subwoofers that have worked best in my large listening roomthe Velodyne ULD-18 and DD-18+, Muse Model 18, REL Studio III, JL Audio Fathom f113, and Revel Sub30each weigh more than 130 lbs and cost more than $2500. With some of my reference recordings, all of them have achieved what Robert Harley described in the April 1991 issue of Stereophile as the goals of a quality subwoofer: "seamless integration, quickness, no bloat, and unbelievable bass extension." Yet are back-busting weight, unmanageable size, and nosebleed cost essential to achieving those goals?
Subwoofer technology is moving fast, with automated room equalization and system integration now a reality. A wave of new products has appeared in the past five years, all using different approaches to solving the problems of optimizing subwoofer response in listening rooms.
For the first time in many years, I walked into a room at CES and was immediately blown away. Pass Labs personnel had suggested I listen to the amplifiers driving Sony loudspeakers, so I went to the 30th floor of the Venetian to listen. I had no expectations, other than knowing that five Sony SS-AR1 loudspeakers ($27,000/pair) were powered by five Pass Labs Xs300 amplifiers ($85,000/pair), all connected by Kimber Kable. What I didn’t know was that Sony had given the two people running that demonstration, Blue Coast Records’ Cookie Marenco and Super Audio Center’s Gus Skinas, carte blanche permission to play any one of the 150 Direct Streaming Digital (DSD) master titles from Sony’s library for the duration of the Show.
I sought out Manley Labs, manufacturer of tube amplifiers and preamplifiers, at CES. The system in their room included a Music Hall mmf-2.2le turntable, the Chinook phono stage that impressed Michael Fremer last August ($2250), a Steelhead phono preamplifier ($8000), a pair of Snapper monoblock 100Wpc tube amplifiers ($7650/pair), which use four EL34 output tubes, driving Neat Acoustic Ultimatum XLS speakers. EveAnna Manley mentioned after the show that she was working on a secret, prototype1 DAC that promises "to beat all comers." I greatly enjoyed the audio I heard in the Manley Labs room at CES. I had to agree with the saying on the rug that appears at every Manley abs exhibit: "Tubes Rule!"