Sony showed its $27k SS-AR1 four-driver, three-way floorstander with Pass electronics, and the sound was excellent—particularly on Cantate Domino.
And MBL showed its $263k D’Appolito radialstrahler flagship with separate push-push woofer towers, the always fabulous mbl X-Tremes, which were no less fabulous this year. Really, this MBL belongs in its own category. The X-Tremes sound like nothing else; do certain things with imaging and staging and dynamics that nothing else does; and have an immersiveness that simply can’t be beat. Of course, they are Best of Show contenders. They always are.
We come now to the speaker that has perplexed me, intrigued me, and awed me more than any other large multiway of recent vintage—Magico’s redoubtable Q7. I have heard this speaker at many shows and I’ve always come away impressed by its incredible bass, superb resolution, rich, robust tonal palette, and stunning dynamic range. Here, driven by Constellation Performance Series electronics, it sounded better than I’ve yet heard it sound at any trade show. There is no question that this is one of the world’s greatest loudspeakers, capable of reproducing just about any note at any level from whisper soft to thunderously loud without blur, distortion, or compression. And yet, and yet. I’ve heard virtually every loudspeaker Magico has made (often in my home), and not a single one of them has had the midbass, upper bass, and power range solidity, color, and impact of the Q7. At the same time, all of them were capable of a level of fool-you realism in the midband that I just don’t hear from the mighty Q (at least at trade shows). Oh, the speaker is incomparably powerful and gorgeous-sounding—and it without question earns a nomination for Best of Show. But, as I’ve heard it at MOC and CES, it seems more of an “as you like it” kind of speaker than a fidelity to sources or absolute sound one. Since the vast majority of our readers are in fact “as you like it” types, this should trouble no one (except, maybe, me).
The 35th Floor
Man…that was quite a climb. At the top of the tower, I heard the $109k YG Acoustics Sonja multiway floorstander. Although it looks sleeker and more stylish than YG’s previous flagship, the Anat Reference, I was led to believe that, outside of cosmetics, there wasn’t much difference between the two speakers. After hearing the Sonja all I can say is that I was misinformed. Driven by D’Agostino Momentum amplifiers, this was, far and away, the best sound I’ve ever heard any YG loudspeaker make. Simply glorious tone color, super bass, exceptional dynamics, and wonderful overall coherence. Naturally, the Sonja becomes a Best of Show contender—and a must-review product.
On 35, those pesky fellows from April Music (who proved me an idiot at RMAF) were back with the $80k Marten Coltrane multiway floorstanders, and once again their little Class D amp sounded fabulous—so clear, so neutral, so natural that for a second time I did an aural double-take. These things were simply superb on my Blue Tofu cut (with exceptional bass). Indeed, they were superb on everything I played. I don’t know what April Music is doing right, but they sure have a lock on Class D amplification. And they also earn my twelfth nomination for Best of Show.
Scaena, which so impressed me a couple of years ago at CES, was showing its new $150k Silver Ghost ribbon/cone line array (with outboard subwoofers). The Silver Ghost comes with a true ribbon tweeter, rather than a quasi-ribbon one, but, alas, this year’s showing was not a success. Although the Silver Ghosts were quite open, they were also too thin in the upper bass and power range, too ill-defined in the bottom octaves, and too bright on top. As a consequence, the winds and brass on my Brecht/Weill recording were shrill, and the gorgeous LP Venice was rendered less than gorgeous.
Wisdom showed the on-wall version of its $108k (with one woofer) LS4, Perhaps because of the wall-mounting, the speakers had a marked “cupped-hands” coloration. Not a good sound.
Lamm showed its ultra-pricey ML3 monoblock with a Wilson MAXX loudspeaker and, frankly, I think the speakers let these marvelous amplifiers down a bit. To my ear the MAXXes just don’t have any low bass. Oh, they’re swell in the upper bass (where Fender guitars mostly play), but they just seem to cut off below about 60-80Hz, making for a old-fashioned, one-note-bass kind of sound. (I’ve heard these Lamm amps sound fabulous on other occasions, so I’m not pointing a finger in their direction.)