In search of new or recently released 2-channel gems, I attended CEDIA Expo 2012, which was held in Indianapolis, IN from September 6-8, and will be preparing a multi-part show report.
This is the second section of my report and it will continue my coverage of new loudspeakers seen at CEDIA.
Note: To make things easier for online readers, I’m covering manufacturers in alphabetical order. As always, my apologies to any manufacturers whose worthy products I fail to mention here. Enjoy.
To celebrate its 30th anniversary, Paradigm is releasing two very limited edition speakers: the Tribute floorstander (200 pairs, $6000/pair) and the Inspiration stand-mount monitor (300 pairs, $2600/pair), both of which come finished in a distinctive deep garnet red (the gorgeous color is so dark that at first it appears to be black, though under direct light it reveals a deep, burnished red glow that is simply stunning). The Tribute is a five-driver, 3-way speaker sporting a 1-inch pure beryllium tweeter, a 7-inch carbon-anodized aluminum mid/bass driver, and three 7-inch bass drivers. The Inspiration, in turn, is a two-driver, 2-way monitor featuring essentially the same tweeter and mid-bass driver as used in the Tribute. Astute followers of Paradigm’s products will note that the 30th anniversary models merge technologies found both in the firm’s upscale Signature models (most notably, the pure beryllium tweeter) and in the mid-tier Studio models, but a brief listen led me to think the 30th anniversary models (and in particular the Tribute) offer a sound where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. But one word of caution: If interested in the 30th anniversary models, get thee to a Paradigm dealer right away! These models are likely to sell out very quickly.
With an eye toward making high-performance audio system acquisition much simpler for customers (especially for those who might never have dabbled in high-end audio before), Paradigm announced not one but two attractively priced, self-powered, 2.1-channel systems—both of which leverage technologies originally created for Paradigm’s popular Millennia One system. The less expensive of the two new systems is called the Millenia CT system ($699) and consists of a pair of 2-way satellites (which are essentially cost-reduced versions of the considerably more exotic Millenia One sats), plus a shallow-profile subwoofer that incorporates a 3 x 80-watt amplifier, with one channel for the sub and two for the satellites. The more expensive, but also better performing, option is the Millenia One CT system ($1199), which at first glance looks similar to Millenia CT package, but whose internal design more closely follows that of the original Millenia One system. Accordingly, Millenia One CT modules use better drivers, more rigid cast aluminum enclosures, and a bigger (3 x 100-watt) amplifier than those found in the Millenia CT system.
Many TAS readers know of Andrew Jones as the guiding force behind the high-end brand TAD, but may not be aware that the industrious Mr. Jones also plays a lead role in voicing many Pioneer audio products. This year, new California environmental rules for allowable formaldehyde content in speaker enclosures forced a redesign of Pioneer’s entry-level monitor and floorstanding speakers. As Jones began work on the project, he soon realized that he had an opportunity to revise not only the speaker enclosures, per se, but also to redesign both speakers from the ground up—all with an eye toward making clever, low-cost, sonically beneficial improvements.
The redesign effort yielded two new speakers that look a bit like their predecessors, but that sound much better: a small stand-mount monitor called the SP-BS22 ($130/pair, and yes, you read that price correctly) and a compact floorstander called the SP-FS52 ($260/pair). The speakers not only feature new enclosures, but new drivers including a waveguide-equipped tweeter and a new woofer with vented pole pieces. Jones played both models for me, using a cool little Pioneer Elite series stereo integrated amp (2 x 35 Wpc, with phono section, for $299), and my jaw dropped. Let me just blurt it out: If you can find better sound for less money, then do so (but I doubt you can do much better for the bucks). As a beaming Andrew Jones said with a wry but confident grin after the demo, “This is my idea of true entry-level high-end audio.” I can only say, “Amen to that!”