But perhaps the visual highlight of the entire booth involved one of the first public showings of the spectacular new four-seat Ferrari FF, which incorporates a 1280-watt, 15-speaker, JBL-branded Quantum Logic surround sound system that is the first commercial application of this new surround technology. Day after day of the show, the gleaming silver Ferrari was surrounded by groups of admirers who just couldn’t get enough of the car (to see it is to want it, no matter how impossible a dream that might be).
Also on display at JBL were the firm’s Studio 5 series loudspeakers featuring true compression drivers in a range that includes three floorstanders (the 570, 580, and 590), a center channel, a dedicated sub, and more. For the show, the Studio 590s were paired with Harman/Kardon stereo electronics.
The KEF booth revealed an embarrassment of sonic riches, perhaps the most impressive of which was the firm’s new flagship Blade loudspeaker, which is the new, fully-“productionized” version of the famous Concept Blade speaker shown in past trade shows.
In somewhat oversimplified terms, the Blade takes the core concept behind KEF’s signature Uni-Q driver (where KEF positions a tweeter within a mid/bass driver for maximum coherence), but expands it to include the entire loudspeaker. Thus the large floorstander positions a very high performance Uni-Q driver at the exact acoustic center of a four-driver, side-firing woofer array, with the aim of giving the speaker the sound of one perfectly coherent, single full range driver. In the Blade, this approach works brilliantly—as the KEF demo made clear. KEF calls the Blade a “single apparent source” loudspeaker.
Having heard the KEF Concept Blade proof-of-concept speaker some time ago, I feel confident in saying the new production Blade sounds not just a little but a lot better than the Concept Blade did, with tighter, more well-defined bass, and a generally more open and vibrant sound. What is more, the Blade is capable of very high output, so that a brief “hey, let’s crank it up” demo track had show attendees swaying to the music as an admiring crowd quickly formed in the aisles adjacent to the KEF booth.
The Blade’s arrival coincides with KEF’s 50th Anniversary, which is being celebrated this year. The price: $30,000/pair.
Also launched at CEDIA were the firm’s new R-series models, which draw some technical influences from the Blade, but are much more traditional in appearance. A KEF spokesman said of the R-series models that, “we’ve gone as far as possible into ‘shoehorning’ as much Blade technology as possible into an affordable box.” The new R-series range sits just below KEF’s famous (and quite expensive) Reference range in the overall product pecking order. The R-series range includes two bookshelf models, three floorstanders, two center channels, a dipole surround, and a subwoofer. R-series models are available now, except for the subwoofer, which will arrive later on. The flagship R900 floorstanders will sell for $5000/pair, while the smallest R100 bookshelf speaker will sell for $1200/pair.
Klipsch Group focused its effort in three key areas for CEDIA 2011: Specialty-series subwoofers with wireless capabilities, Gallery-series thin-line loudspeakers, and headphones/earphones.
The Specialty series subwoofers, which include the model 110, 112, the all-new 115, the 308, 310, and the 311, all support Klipsch’s cool new WA2 (wireless access, 2-piece) wireless modules. The WA2 kit sells for just $129, meaning that signal cable-free subwoofer connectivity should be affordable for more users than ever before.