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Top 10 Most Impressive
Demonstrations at CES/T.H.E. Show
This yearís CES and T.H.E. show were awesome with lots of cool new stuff to write about. But Iíve been a busy guy; my second child was born recently and I have a ton of gear to review. So Iíve decided to limit my comments to a short list of the best of the best this go 'round.
While much of this is old news, by now everyone knows that the Magico M5s were spectacular, what I consider to be one of the most important developments received almost no coverage at all. Mind you, I didnít get to see everything; the new Vandersteens were mighty impressive according to reliable sources, but somehow I missed them. Iím also not including the many deserving candidates I have covered before, the YG Acoustics Anat Reference II Studio loudspeakers currently under review in my listening room or the Thiel CS 3.7s for example. So with no further ado, on to the list.
Zu Essence Loudspeakers
Featuring Zuís fourth generation, 10" full range driver, married to a ribbon tweeter running from 10kHz up, the Essence speakers were wonderfully open and dynamic sounding much larger than their one foot square footprint would lead you to believe. At $5000/pair they were some of the best sound at the price. Between their 97dB efficiency and 12 Ohm impedance I canít think of an amplifier that wouldnít have an easy time driving them.
Having recently acquired Navison, Rives Audio was demonstrating the OTL 150 Reference monoblocks ($30K/pair) driving the Talon Thunderhawk loudspeakers, ($26K/pair). The combination was smooth, alive and warm and as seductive as it gets. The room was extremely well set up by Richard Rives and the sound was among the best of the show.
Aerial 20T Loudspeakers
Another very impressive demonstration was by the Aerial 20T V2 loudspeakers driven by Boulder electronics. Though Iím very familiar with the Aerial name, Iím not as familiar with the speakers themselves. The sound was tight, dynamic with deep, visceral bass. Boy did they play with authority! At $32K/pair they were among the best sound of the show.
Magico M5 Loudspeakers
Driven by Soulution Electronics the $89,000/pair Magicos were as sweet and resolved a speaker as Iíve heard. Music was conveyed with the kind of body and texture that could keep me engaged for hours. They were an easy candidate for THE best sound of the show.
Jaton A&V 803 Loudspeakers
At $6000/pair, ($6600 with upgraded finish), the Jatons were among the bargain champs at the show. They easily unraveled the densely layered bass lines of Marcus Millerís ďUncle John", something few other speakers even in this not insubstantial price range have been able to accomplish. The sound was tight, engaging, visceral and open. I believe a full review is forthcoming from a fellow writer here at PFO (see elsewhere in this issue)
Marten Coltrane Soprano Loudspeakers
U.S. Importer and set up master Dan Meinwald was coaxing spectacular sound from Martenís newest loudspeaker, the Coltrane Sopranos, ($45,000/pair) driven by E.A.R. electronics and fed by ľ" tape. The sound was relaxed, engaging and seductive. It was just the thing for weary ears and among the best at the show.
With a footprint of just over 6" x 9" and standing a bit over 43" tall, the Acoustic Technologies Classic-Series loudspeakers were making surprisingly robust sound utilizing a single 3" full range driver. Although they were lacking in ultimate weight, the sound was wonderfully articulate. The speakers are said to be available in the second quarter of 2009 at $2,450/pair.
Wilson Audio MAXX 3 Loudspeakers
Another contender for THE best sound of the show, the $68,000/pair Wilson MAXX 3s are, in my opinion, the best, most musically involving Wilsons yet. Driven by the Lamm ML3 Signature monoblock amplifiers, they delivered the kind of you are there realism and emotionally engaging sound that begins to approach the real thing.
Hansen Audio The King V2 Loudspeakers
I had been mightily impressed by The Prince V2s at the 2008 CES and was even more so by The King V2s. The effortless reproduction of dynamics, the sense of ease and naturalness of the tonality added up to listening nirvana. Driven by Convergent Audio Technologies electronics fed by a Red Point Model D turntable the $89,000/pair Hansens are another contender for THE best sound of the show. And thank you Lars and Wes for playing my discs!
VRS Audio Solutions
I have saved the best for last. Vincent Sanders is a genius when it comes to setting up music servers. I heard his optimized configuration of the Macintosh computer based Sonic Studio Amarra software and outboard DAC in my own system and it is by far the best sounding digital source I have heard, ever. But what really caught my attention at T.H.E. Show was the Trinnov Room and Speaker Optimizer. This very sophisticated digital correction device took a pair of modestly priced Audio Kinesis speakers ($4000/pair) set up in far less than optimal room and made the system sound more like the megabuck, mega systems heard over at the Venetian Towers. They made easy work of Marcus Miller.
I have long regarded digital room and speaker correction as the future of high end audio finally allowing hobbyists to get the room right without extensive room treatment. With music servers pumping out high resolution digital, audiophile concerns over A/D, D/A conversion should become a thing of the past. I was blown away by what the Trinnov did at the Alexis Park. It was easy to A/B the system with the Trinnov in and out of the chain and this wasnít a night and day difference. It was more of a last year, next year difference. This is going to change everything. Easily the most impressive demo of the show.