This is Part 1 of a two-part blog. Click here for Part 1.
MartinLogan continued a process it had begun at CEDIA 2010, with the release of the full ElectroMotion surround system. The system is comprised of ElectroMotion ESL hybrid electrostatic main speakers ($2000/pair), the ElectroMotion C2 center channel speaker (Heil-type tweeter and dual conventional mid-base drivers, $799.95/ea.), and ElectroMotion FXL surround/effects speaker (dual Heil-type tweeters and a single conventional mid-bass driver, $649.95/ea.).
In part to show how good the $2k/pair ElectroMotion ESL really is, MartinLogan’s demo room was set up so that, using high-quality electronics and source material, listeners could compare the ElectroMotion ESL with the firm’s more costly Theos hybrid electrostats ($5000/pair), and with a new and as yet unannounced higher-end hybrid electrostatic model tentatively named the Summit X Jr. ($9000-$10000/pair). How did the little ESL fare in these comparisons? Better (by far) than it hand any right to, given the huge price differentials involved.
A major theme in the Monster booth at CES involved the release of a group of Tron-themed products, including headphones, an iPod dock/speaker, and—get this—a 5.1-channel headphone-oriented processor module that will, in some product packages, be bundled along with the Tron ‘phones and a surround-sound copy of the soundtrack disc of the film score for Tron.
I can’t help but think that, over time, headphones could potentially win more widespread acceptance as convenient vehicles for enjoying surround-soundtracks for movies. After all, a high-quality headphone system is simpler and much less expensive than a traditional surround—sound speaker system, and it can give you the freedom to enjoy dynamically, um, vigorous movie soundtracks late at night, and with bringing angry neighbors to your doorstep bearing pitchforks in hand.
NAD showed the very latest in its evolving series of MDC (modular design construction A/V components, including the T757 A/V Receiver ($1499), the top-tier T787 A/V Receiver ($3499), and the new T187 A/V Controller ($2499), which is essentially the front-end of the T787, but without onboard power amplifiers.
For those unfamiliar with the MDC concept, the key idea is to build A/V components whose video and audio sections are built upon modular, slide-out circuit boards. In this way, as new technologies evolve (for example, the shift from HDMI 1.3 to HDMI 1.4), users can upgrade their receivers and/or controllers, rather than having to replace them in order to keep pace with technology. Apart from the benefit of making NAD components more or less obsolescence-proof, the MDC option allows gives owners the freedom choose when to upgrade, and in what way or ways. For instance, a user might decide that new video features are a high priority, but that audio features don’t—for the time being—need to be updated (or vice versa).
Nola founder and chief designer Carl Marchisotto is known for his ultra high-end loudspeakers, but at CES 2011 Mr. Marchisotto explored the opposite end of the pricing spectrum, introducing his superb new three-way Contender tower-type floorstanding main speakers ($3400/pr.), which are indirectly based on the very popular Boxer bookshelf speakers announced at last years. But Carl didn’t stop there; instead, he also introduced a matching Announcer center channel speaker ($1500/ea.), so that home theater enthusiasts can now put together a sensibly priced Nola surround-sound system, using the new Contenders as L/R main speakers, the Announcer in the center, and the original Boxer bookshelf monitors ($1500/pr.) as surround speakers.