Finally, Definitive was celebrating the successful roll out of its new bi-polar speaker family, which debuted at CEDIA 2010, but that some dealers were hearing for the first time at CES. To demonstrate the system’s high-end performance capabilities, Definitive showed the flagship BP-8080ST ($2998/pair) as driven by a high-end Audio Research Corporation CD player and vacuum tube-powered integrated amplifier—a combination that sounded terrific.
Denon’s biggest new for CES 2011 was not so much a series of product, but rather new Apple AirPlay-compatible firmware ($50) that enhances the functionality of the firm’s existing AVR-991, AVR-3311CI, AVR-4311CI, AVR-A100, and RCD-N7 models. The Airplay firmware is compatible with iPod, iPhone, and iPad, but also allows those devices to serve as remote controls that can, in turn, stream content from iTunes-equipped Macs to Denon receivers. Very flexible.
GoldenEar Technology debuted as a company at CEDIA 2010, but the fact is that many dealers got their first exposure to the product line at CES 2011. GoldenEar had two demo rooms set up, with one showing the stunning flagship Triton Two floorstander ($2500/pair) as driven by costly and exotic Pass Labs amplifiers, while the other room highlighted the firm’s SuperCinema3 system ($1750), consisting of 4 x Supersat 3 satellite speakers, 1 x Supersat 3C center channel, and one Forcefield subwoofer. Interestingly, the Supersat system leverages technologies drawn directly from the big Triton Two.
Watch for my upcoming review of the Triton Two, which will appear in The Absolute Sound, and of a Triton Two-based 5.1-channel surround system, which will appear in The Perfect Vision. Just how good is the Triton Two? Here’s a hint: it will leave many (though of course not all) speakers in the $5k - $10k/pair price range struggling to keep pace.
At CES the British firm KEF gave a compelling demonstration of its T-Series Flat-Panel Speaker system ($1999), which had debuted at CEDIA 2010, but had frankly been hard to assess in that venue given that KEF’s CEDIA booth was an open-air display that was (naturally) subject to tons of external noise from the show floor. At CES, however, the setting was much quieter so that it became possible to hear what the system could really do. Many people equate “thin speakers” with “thin sound,” but the KEF T-series models dispel that myth in a great hurry, delivering a rich, silky-smooth sound that fairly oozes sophistication and refinement.
At CES, I asked a group of audiophile buddies to let me know if they heard anything affordable and exceptional that I also ought to hear. Early on in the show, one such buddy (whose ears I trust) texted me with this message: “Venetian room 30-323. KEF T-series 5.1-system at $2k sounds great.” That about says it all.
For CES, Marantz highlighted two new models that slot in near, though not at the very top, of its line of A/V separates: the AV7005 A/V Controller ($1499) and the MM7055 multichannel power amplifier (five x 140 Wpc, $1199), which were previously announced at CEDIA 2010. Both components strike me as being very well priced for the quality and performance on offer, especially when you consider that you could buy both of these classy-looking separate pieces for less (actually, a whole lot less) than some competitors charge for their top-tier A/V receivers.
Keeping pace with its sister brand Denon, Marantz also announced AirPlay firmware that is compatible with four Marantz A/V components: the AV7005n A/V controller, the SR 7005 A/V receiver, the NA7004 Network Audio Player, and the MCR-603 Networked CD receiver.