Thursday, January 11, 2007

CES 2007 Venetian High End Audio

The location of the high end audio gear is in a new location at the Venetian, which is a fantastic place, but we still missed the relaxing walk around Alexis Park Hotel and the easy walk to "The Show" (the "other" high end audio show) next door at the St Tropez.

We heard the Gradient Evidence Mk III speakers with Sonneteer transport and amplification first and the combination was wonderfully musical and refined. Highly recommended. In addition, the Sonneteer Sedley phono stage is available with a USB connection for backing up vinyl recordings to a computer. This is the highest quality way we have yet seen to record your records to your computer.

We next got to listen to the Symposium Panorama Loudspeaker prototypes. These use planar dynamic ribbon mid/high drivers of very low mass, with a separate twin driver aperiodic folded transmission line bass enclosure. They are huge and a bit ungainly looking and may not pass the WAF test, they are truely something to listen to. They take detail to a new level well beyond what cone speakers can provide. The bass enclosures match incredibly well which is very hard to do with planars or electrostatics.

Any chance possible to listen to the AvantGarde Acoustic Duo would be crazy to miss. These are not popular because they are beautiful and amazingly efficient, so that they can be driven by the most simple low wattage tube amps. They are popular because they sound so damn realistic. Presense is the definition of these speakers, as in the singer or instrument sounds like they are right there in front of you.

Finally, we went to the McIntosh room. Everyone knows them for their incredible amplification and transports, but they do make loudspeakers as well. I believe what we saw and heard was the new version of their line source XRT2K speakers with redesigned woofers which we were told are a huge leap forward for the woofer design. All drivers are sized in order to properly disperse their entire frequency range, with 2" midranges and 3/4" tweeters (lots and lots of both). Well the truth is in the listening, and the results are spectacular. I cannot say I have ever heard bass of this quality and volume. The soundfield was also remarkable, particularly for a line source. Moving about the room you could still hear the far end speaker sound field properly located. Dynamics to die for and loud clear and totally musical, these things may make people forget that McIntosh makes amplifiers. Well, ok, that's a bit much. Check them out if you ever get the chance.

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