If I had to name one “unforgettable” speaker from CES, the one I’d choose would be the Totem Element Ember stand-mount monitor ($4200/pair). Here’s why. Unlike most small monitors, the Element Embers show an almost uncanny ability to produce a big dynamically robust sound with—surprise!—very nearly full-range bass (bass that reaches down to or even below the 40Hz mark with real authority). How is this possible? Credit goes to Totem’s proprietary “Torrent” mid/bass driver, which looks like something that could conceivably have been built by Grumman Aerospace (meaning the word “beefy” doesn’t begin to do this driver justice). The result is a compact monitor that is full of subtlety and life, yet that plays with the heart of a tiger.
Loudspeaker designer Paul Barton is famous for speakers that combine sonic sophistication and value in equal measure, and many regard Barton’s flagship PSB Synchrony 1 as a modern masterpiece. But for CES Barton brought forth his new PSB Imagine T2 floorstander ($3500/pair)—a speaker that in many ways represents a cost-reduced “Synchrony 1 Junior.” Barton explained that the T2 is a “transitional 3-way, five-driver” floorstander, where mids and highs are handled by a dedicated tweeter/midrange driver array and bass is handled by a transitional three-driver woofer array. At very low frequencies, all three woofers play together, but as frequencies climb higher, the bottom-most woofer rolls off first, followed by the middle woofer. Up in the region where bass frequencies blend into the lower midrange, the upper woofer plays alone until output transitions over to the tweeter midrange array. As you might expect, this very sophisticated speaker sounds remarkably similar to its famous big brother—yet sells for considerably less.
For CES Morel has created “a new class” of the Octave speaker family in the form of the Octave 6 floorstanders ($6500/pair) and bookshelf models ($3500/pair), which leverage design concepts pioneered in Morel’s costly Fat Lady and Sopran loudspeakers. I had a chance to listen to the two-way Octave 6 bookshelf speakers just as the show was winding down, and I’m glad I did. While we could talk at length about the technologies in play in this speaker, what really carries the day is its remarkably suave, refined, and seductive sound—a sound that simply wins you over and makes you want to listen to music all night long. And isn’t that precisely what a good speaker should do?
GoldenEar Technology’s Triton 2 floorstander has garnered awards from The Absolute Sound and The Perfect Vision, and now it has a little brother—the Triton 3 ($1998/pair). The Triton 3 shares all key core technologies with the Triton 2 (including Heil-type tweeters, ultra-wideband midrange drivers, and built-in powered subwoofers), but presents them in a smaller, less costly package. Importantly, the Triton 3 has almost exactly the same suave, sophisticated, full-range sonic profile as its larger sibling (trading away only a barely discernible touch of very low frequency drive or “punch”). For those who found the Triton 2 too large or too expensive for their applications, the new Triton 3 offers a great right-sized/right-priced alternative.
Every once in a while speaker manufacturers manage to pull off trade show demonstrations that stop listeners in their tracks, and this was certainly the case with Definitive Technology’s demonstration of its diminutive SM45 Studio Monitors ($400), which were driven by an ARC electronics and an Oppo universal player. These tiny two-way monitors produced a focused and intensely evocative sound that could easily have put many of the costly monitors I heard in the Venetian to shame—a point made even more compelling by the SM45’s oh-so-manageable price. In a world where value is paramount, the SM45s are disarmingly good—not state of the art, to be sure, but close enough to give you huge musical rewards for your hard-earned dollars.