Audio Without Limits?

A reader complained recently that exhibitors at audio Shows tend to demonstrate cost-no-object systems. He was right—they do. As Stephen Mejias has explained, exhibiting at a show is an expensive proposition and most companies go for broke with the systems they show, wanting to get the maximum “Wow factor,” hence return, on that investment.

Colorado retailer Audio Limits was no exception, its large room off the Marriott’s atrium featuring Venture Ultimate Reference loudspeakers ($135,000/pair) driven by FM Acoustics 115 monoblocks ($108,200/pair), an FM Acoustics 245 preamp ($25,800), with the source either a PC laptop running XX High End software, a Weiss Jason transport ($22,7070), or a Weiss Man301 network player ($9083 without DAC), Weiss Medea+ FireWire D/A converter ($21,799). Even the rack in this room was expensive: the XXR Harmonic Resolution rack at $15,095. Cables were by FM Acoustics (I didn’t ask the price) and an Audience Adept Response conditioned the AC.

But with these very large, beautifully finished, three-way, 6-driver speakers in an appropriately large room, the system produced a tremendous full-range sweep of sound, without any hint of strain, but also managed to sound delicate on such filigree detail as the double-tracked guitar arpeggios on Dire Straits’ “Laughter After Rain.”

john abramson's picture

no doubt stephen is plugged into the rmanufacturer/distributer rationale for cost no object exhibition rooms. it may be useful to 'unpack' this rationale. and make it problematic: does such an approach yield the hoped for results? is this the direction the industry, should take to ensure its own perpetuation and growth?

I wonder if it is time fo rethink the notion of a unitary audio industry and  for those mfg, etc who believe the future lies with an approach aimed at broadening the audiophile base by exibiting  equipment priced for people who are either not interested or with limited resources ( not merely reallocating their resources) and the 'younger' generation to have an alternative space to view products that are not beyond their reach, but within their grasp. no doubt the exibition space would be modest and less 'sexy', to use one of stephen's favorite words, .but  it would provide a welcoming venue for  marginalized audiophiles as well as the younger generation.

is such an alternative fiscally viable? would there be sufficient turnout to justify the time. money and effort, even for a 'peoples' space? no doubt there are other variables to bring into the calculus,. but if there is no dare, there is no win.

jjudy thinkin'

mrplankton2u's picture

I would also argue that when John said there was justification for exhibitors trying to maximize "WOW" factor - that such a factor is not exclusive to 500 lb monkey coffins. The KEF LS50 that impressed JA (with a $1500 price tag) is an obvious case in point. Some folks are "wowed" by huge behomoths dominating their living spaces that are capable of deafening albeit clean output and others are "wowed" by a small speaker whose performance belies its modest size and price. In this context, the "going for broke" statement is very telling because the industry has been moving in a direction where exhibition venues are outrageously expensive for what they deliver and manufacturers are devoting most if not all of their promotional efforts to products that only a select few would be able to afford and more importantly - would even want. The important question:

"Is this trend sustainable over the long term?" 

And if it is, what are the long term consequences?

From my personal experience, the majority of people who have the means to afford the very best systems available are interested in designs that blend into their home environments. Smaller, less obtrusive designs that produce accurate sound at realistic pressure levels are more highly prized than the monstrosities we tend to see at shows that are virtually impossible to move without a professional crew and which utterly dominate a living space. Knowledgeable folks know that subwoofers can be integrated into a home's architecture without drawing attention to themselves They also know you don't need 30 loudspeaker transducers to produce clean, accurate sound that is loud enough to cause hearing damage.

All that aside, the 2 inch tweeter Venture is using has me intrigued. The claimed useable bandwidth of this driver from 100hz to 60,000hz seems a bit far fetched at first blush. If there is some truth to the claim, than it would certainly be a revolutionary product that deserves a lot more attention than it seems to be getting. The company's promotional material doesn't seem to address how it gets around the technical challenges for a driver that can generate useful acoustic output at wavelengths spanning from less than a quarter of an inch to 136 inches!