During a brief listening session I came away with mixed impressions (probably attributable to a far from optimal temporary sound room setup at the show). On the one hand, the Montis delivered MartinLogan’s vaunted transparency, transient speed, and detail, and exhibited very good electrostat-to-woofer blending—especially in the tricky lower midrange/upper-bass region. On the other hand, the CEDIA setup gave the Montis what I think may be an uncharacteristically bright, piercing sound that was far from relaxed, and that also lacked mid-to-low bass weight and punch. If past experience with MartinLogan hybrid electrostats is any indicator, however, I expect the Montis will ultimately prove capable of much better performance under real-world, in-home conditions. (CEDIA sound rooms can be notoriously fickle, because their walls and ceilings are frankly pretty flimsy and thus have somewhat unpredictable resonant and reflective characteristics.). The Montis will certainly be one to watch.
The British firm Monitor Audio has been moving from strength to strength of late with its Silver RX, Bronze BX, and Gold GX-series loudspeakers (each of which sounds markedly better than the speaker lines they replaced). But for CEDIA, Monitor new product announcement focused on various on new architectural speaker (which for the most part fall outside our window of coverage) and on a new series of i-deck tabletop stereo speaker systems.
Though very compact and stylish, the new i-deck 100 ($499) and i-deck 200 ($599) both look and sound like something more than traditional “lifestyle” products (although they fill that role quite nicely). Technology, in a word, is what sets the i-decks apart for other devices of their kind. For example, both i-decks use Monitor’s proprietary and comparative exotic C-CAM (ceramic-coated aluminum/magnesium) tweeter and mid-bass driver technology, while providing—get this—built in bi-amplification systems with digital active crossovers.
But the technology story goes even further, because the i-decks also incorporate a very sophisticated Automatic Position Correction system that automatic plays a set of test tones when the units are powered up, monitors those test tones with a built-in microphone, and automatically runs onboard processing to determine where in the room the i-deck is located and then uses DSP circuitry to calculate and apply correction curves so that i-deck delivers balanced sound no matter where users may have placed the units. Who knew you could pack such sophisticated circuitry into products that sell for between $499 and $599?
But wait; there’s more. The i-decks also include a bass level management system, which is essentially a smart “loudness contour” feature, plus what the manufacturer calls “sophisticated power limiters,” which detect possibly overload conditions and temporarily throttle back output levels to prevent gross clipping or other audible forms of distortion. Finally, the i-decks also provide pivoting iPod docks that can fit all types of iPods without requiring any adapters.
I can’t say for sure since I heard the i-deck 200 only briefly, but I think these products stand a very good chance of being “best in class” performers.
NAD offered one of the most expansive and comprehensive product rollouts I’ve ever seen from any manufacturer at a CEDIA show. Specifically, new offerings included:
• The Viso 1 ($700)—a compact, self-powered, Bluetooth-enabled iPod speaker (designed with considerable input from PSB’s Paul Barton)
• A new Masters-series Digital Suite including the M50 Digital Music Player ($2500) the M52 Digital Music Vault ($2000) incorporating a 3TB RAID 5 array, and the M51 Direct Digital DAC ($2000).
• New NAD-classic family digital audio products, including the DAC1 ($300) point-to-point wireless audio USB DAC, which doesn’t take bandwidth from you home network; the MDC DAC ($250), which is a plug-in MDC-format module that can add onboard DAC functionality to NAD’s MDC-ready C 356BEE or C 375BEE integrated amplifiers; and the new C 390DD Direct Digital Amplifier (2 x 150 Wpc, $2600), which is essentially a scaled-back version of the spectacular but also far more costly NAD Masters Series M2 Direct Digital Amplifier. The C 390DD features a very high quality internal DAC with 35-bit/844kHz upsampling.
• A family of new NAD A/V receivers including the T 748 ($900), T 757 ($1600), T 777 ($3000), and T 787 ($4000), plus a new A/V Controller called the T 187 AV Tuner Preamplifier ($3000).