Earlier this year, GoldenEar rolled out the Aon 3, which was the first model in what was destined to become the firm’s two-model range of compact, high performance stand-mount Aon monitors (click here to read my Playback review of the Aon 3). For CEDIA, however, GoldenEar rolled out the Aon 2 ($800/pair), which it the Aon 3’s little brother. The Aon 2, like the Aon 3, seems almost to be covered with a mix of active and passive drivers, showing just how hard the designers have worked to make good use of every available square inch of cabinet surface area. Accordingly, the Aon 2’s drive complement includes a Heil-type HVFR tweeter, a 6-inch wide-bandwidth mid-bass driver, and a pair of 6.5-inch passive radiators.
GoldenEar founder Sandy Gross explained that the concept behind both Aon models was to create affordable stand-mount or bookshelf speakers that could, in sonic terms, compete on a nearly level footing with higher-end monitors several times their price. Does the sound of the Aon 2 live up to this ambitious goal? Give them a listen and you make the judgment call.
At CEDIA, the British firm KEF showed a diminutive speaker that had already wowed listeners both at the Munich show and at T.H.E. Show Newport Beach; namely, the amazing little 50th Anniversary LS50 mini-monitor ($1499/pair). KEF explains that the concept behind the LS50 was to create a 21st century update on the BBC’s original, and now classic, LS3/5A mini monitor (a design that, as many TAS readers already know, was based entirely upon KEF-made drivers back in the day). Accordingly, the LS50 uses a “bespoke Uni-Q driver array” and features an extremely sophisticated bass reflex cabinet incorporating a distinctive curved front baffle and a heavily braced, constrained layer damping enclosure design. But having now heard the LS50 in action, my take on the speaker is that it is not so much an LS3/5A made new again (appealing though that idea might seem), but rather a substantially downsized version of KEF’s flagship Blade speaker, which I intend as very high praise. The LS50 is that rare mini-monitor whose sound might beguile even those listeners who normally gravitate toward larger, full-range speakers.
But to “spread the wealth,” as it were, KEF also chose CEDIA as the launching pad for a new desktop/computer audio-oriented speaker system called the X300A—a system plainly influenced by some of the design thinking behind the LS50. The X300A system ($799/pair) consists of two small monitors each equipped, naturally, with KEF’s Uni-Q driver arrays, and each fitted with dual Class A/B amplifiers (one for the tweeter portion of the array, the other for the woofer part of the array). For maximum convenience, the X300A features three inputs: a 96/24-capable USB input, a 3.5mm mini-jack analog input, and an optional Bluetooth dongle. Think of the X300A, then, as significantly a cost-reduced, but still highly capable desktop implementation of the LS50 concept. My thought: this system might be ideal for use college dorm rooms and other small listening spaces.
Many of MartinLogan’s new CEDI offerings were targeted specifically toward the home theater world, but on that will definitely appeal to 2-channel enthusiasts is the tiny Motion 15 stand-mount monitor ($799). The 2-way design combines a Heil-type driver with a 5.25-inch, high-excursion, aluminum-coned mid/bass driver. Interestingly, MartinLogan deliberately positioned the Motion 15s directly beside a pair of the firm’s second-from-the-top-of-the-line Summit X hybrid electrostats in its CEDIA soundroom, and invited comparisons between the two. While the Summit X was (obviously) the better speaker, the Motion 15 did an impressive job of channeling much of the “vibe” of the bigger speaker without losing too much musical information in the process.