Snell Phantom, $20,000/pair
On demonstration at RMAF was a nearly-finalized pre-production prototype of Snell’s new Phantom floorstander, designed by Dr. Joseph D’Appolito, which is essentially a downsized version of Snell’s flagship Illusion loudspeaker. The Phantom features a D’Appolito array—what else would you expect?—to handle mids and highs, plus a pair of (I believe) SEAS/Excel woofers. The sound: very refined, yet robust and full-bodied; especially in the area of bass extension and clout, the Phantom’s demonstrate the benefits of a true full-range design.
Audioengine P4, $250-$325/pair
A simple, well designed two-way monitor with a 4-inch woofer offering smooth, pleasingly engaging sound at a bargain basement price.
A DSP-corrected, self-powered, and—get this—self calibrating two-way stand mount monitor. Once DSP correction is applied, the sound becomes remarkably holographic, and the good news is that the DSP system can overcome what would normally be problematic room placement issues. Just add a preamp and source components and you’re good to go.
Emotiva ERT-8.3, $1598/pair
Emotiva sells direct via the Internet and, as a consequence, is able to offer astonishing value for money. A case in point would be the ERT-8.3 floorstanders, which are a five-driver three way design (two woofers, two midrange drivers and a fabric dome tweeter). The emphasis, here, is on achieving a fairly rich, reasonably well-detailed, full-range sound. Though perhaps not the last word in refinement, this is a lot of speaker for the money.
Three speakers that were not-new-for-RMAF, but that sounded wonderful were these:
Avalon Ascent ($8500/pair, as recently reviewed in our British sister magazine HiFi-Plus), which was making its US debut at the show.
Gradient Helskinki 1.5 (about $8000/pair, as reviewed in The Absolute Sound)
Von Schweikert Audio Unifield 3 ($15,000/pair--watch for an upcoming review in The Absolute Sound).