MBL certainly presents a unique perspective on music playback. They don’t really have the dynamic front-to-back visceral experience of typical dynamic loudspeakers. However, they possess a huge listening landscape and sound similar wherever I was seated – or standing in the room. Bass was solidly deep with built-in subwoofers and while some may grumble over some of the sonics here, I enjoyed their sonic interpretation of music and many will certainly find this to be their sonic heaven. The question I asked myself was “did I enjoy the different music I heard?” The answer is yes.
Rachel and Ian Grant brought a ridiculous amount of gear and certainly had something for everyone. They brought large dual concentric speakers that remind one of the Tannoy Prestige speakers for $6,000 right down to the LS 3/5a mini-monitors for $980. The speakers were one of the two best sub $1,000 speakers I heard at CES. Ian also brought his first amplifier that is an in-house design called the W30GT, named after classic American car engines. The price of this integrated is $1,950 and for a tube integrated, does nearly whatever you could possibly want. It has a headphone jack, pre and power amp outputs, a built-in phono stage and USB DAC. It sounded quite nice with the big floorstanders.
Wharfedale brought what looked like their entire line-up being run with a Quad front-end. As you can see from the picture this is clearly not the best way to show off the sound of their speakers. I was nonetheless impressed with one of their little sub-$1,000 Diamond 10 floorstanding loudspeakers. It had a nice coherent sound for the money and plausible bass response especially considering the large room and questionable set-up. It’s tough to find good little budget speakers and these sounded quite nice.
April Music/Aura Note/Magnepan
April Music was showing their affordable line of Aura Note, Eximus and Stello amplification and digital sources in two rooms both using the Magnepan 3.6 and 20.1 speakers respectively. If you like the sound of Magnepan you’ll probably like the results. A slightly thick midrange and frequency anomalies may be countered by the large soundstage if seated in the narrow sweet spot. Bass depth was adequate in both rooms and treble extension reasonably credible and non-fatiguing. Not a lot of three-dimensional depth or dynamics but stable imaging. I think the speakers would have been served by being further away from the side walls to open them up a little bit more.
The 20.1 with Eximus Legacy CD player with Stello Amplification
This room was an oasis of relaxation – they are mainstays at CES and have no agenda other than to give you some free booze or water and let you trip out to the music and light show. Nice relaxed room with some nice sounding Devore loudspeakers.
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