In the Larkspur Room, Acapella was showing its $192k Triolon Excalibur three-way horn system with separate bass towers, driven by Einstein electronics. In the past Iâ€™ve liked the Acapella High Violin with Einstein gear, so it may be that the sound I heard was, as was the case with the big Focals, a huge speaker struggling with a lousy room. Whatever the reason this wasnâ€™t an entirely satisfying presentation. Although tone color was rich and rather sweet, the Triolons were too forward and aggressive and â€œshoutyâ€ on dynamics. Deep bass from the towers was very good; soundstaging wasnâ€™t.
In Room 1110, Audience was showing its 16-driver ClairAudient Line Source Array ($33k plus $9k for the 12â€ subs, which are also available with 10â€ or 15â€ drivers), with a $25k Immedia Spiral Groove SG-1 â€™table equipped with a TriPlanar arm and Lyra Scala cartridge as the source. The sound was very nice, with good low-level detail and delicate textures.
In Room 1116, the first of two High Water Sound rooms, the $8k Odeon Rigoletto two-way floorstander with transmission line bass was being fed by a $20k TW Acustic AC-3 â€™table and the newly introduced $9k TW Acustic phonotage via Thoress electronics. The sound was very fine, indeed! Limited in the low bass, of course (the Odeon was a two-way, after all), but rich in tone color (in part thanks to the TW Acustic AC-3), alive in dynamics, with good midbass, nice staging, and a sweet treble.
In Room 1118, High Water was showing the $9k three-way Hornung Aristotles, which use a folded horn for the bass. On my Marc Cohn cuts, via the Raven Two turntable and Tron amplification, the sound was pretty good if a mite polite. I thought the midrange was a bit accentuated and the bass a little weak, but clarity was high.
In room 1121, the Serbian company Raal Advanced Loudspeakers showed its $80k Requisites, omnis comprising faceted columns of cone/ribbon drivers and woofers in cast bronze cabinets! The Raals didnâ€™t have bad focus (for ominis), although the sound was a little dark and a little vague on â€œKeys to the Highway,â€ with a touch of â€œcupped-handsâ€ coloration. That said, they showed better than I wouldâ€™ve thought given their old-fashioned faceted-omni design. Not great, but not at all bad.
In room 1122 the German company Volent was showing its $5k VL2 two-ways, with a ribbon tweet and cone mid/bass that looked very much like the titanium driver in the original Magico Mini. The sound certainly was Mini-like in many ways. Limpid, transparent, lively, a little thin in tone color but very fast. This is a speaker I think TAS might want to consider for review.
In Room 1124, the Swiss loudspeaker company Boenicke was showing a $10-12k ribbon/cone line source with a folded horn woofer. Light, bright, lively, without any edge, it made a very neutral, transparent sound. There wasnâ€™t much bass, but the rest was commendable.
In Mesa Verde A, Harbeth was showing its latest version of the classic 40.1 nearfield monitor (now $13k!). Perhaps it was the room, perhaps it was where I was sitting (which wasnâ€™t particularly nearfield), but the Harbeth didnâ€™t show its bestâ€”one-note in the bass, colored in the mids, with virtually no stage width, although the 40.1 had good depth and excellent transients. I know from the past that this classic is much better than it showed here, so I assume something about the setup was playing small havoc with its sound.
In the Hyatt Thunder Pass room, Legend Acoustics of Australia was showing its $35k four-way Tikandi Maestro with a DEQX digital processor dspâ€™ing the whole she-bang. In spite of eqâ€™ing, the speaker was very loud in the bass and rather dark-hued overall.
In Room 9002, Feastrex was showing a $59k trial model of a horn-loaded single-driver loudspeaker with field coils in a gorgeous cabinet coated with many layers of Urushi lacquer. As exotic as you could find at a show filled with exotica, the speaker, alas, didnâ€™t show particularly wellâ€”a bit hooded on â€œKeys to the Highwayâ€ (although very detailed), a little rough and boxy on â€œRainy Night in Georgia.â€ Although the speaker was better close-up than at a distance, this wasnâ€™t a neutral sound.
In Room 9030, Audio Federation was showing a giant four-chassis speaker system from the Swedish speaker company Marten, the $295k (!) Coltrane Supremes driven by Lamm ML-3s (which sounded marvelous at CES). The sound was exceptionally sweet, smooth, and detailed but also, I thought, a little bland. Iâ€™m sure this is a swell speaker (Iâ€™ve liked Martens in the past) and I know the Lamms are great amps. I assume the room was taking a small toll in liveliness. Even at that, this was very fine sound.
In Room 540, I heard the $60,900 Tidal Contriva, a large floorstander with all-ceramic drivers in an enclosure beautifully finished by a piano-maker. In the room it was in, the Contriva was a bit boxy, very detailed, quite warm and lovely sounding in timbre, but not as â€œthereâ€ as some others at the show on either the Guitar Gabriel or Captain Luke tracks. Where it not for the touch of added warmth and boxiness (perhaps room-induced), this would have been quite good. (Just as a point of comparison, the $39k Tidal Piano two-and-half-way sounded superb in Room 538â€”much more open, natural, and realistic. Perhaps it was the dCS Puccini used with the Pianos as a source that made some of the difference.)
In Room 574, the Austrian company Trenner & Friedl showed the $10k two-way Ella floorstander with a ceramic mid/bass and Vifa tweeter. Unfortunately, the Ella was sounding more like the Louisâ€”boxy, chesty, weighted toward the bass. Bad room acoustics, I think.
In Room 570, I heard an Apogee Diva ($13k) full-range ribbon, restored by TrueSoundWorks and driven by ARC and Pass electronics. The sound was superbâ€”boxless, open, airy, with very realistic timbre. One of the better sounds at the show.