Vandersteen 5a/Aesthetix/Clearaudio Innovation
I have to say that I have never been all that enthused by Vandersteen speakers, finding them a little overly polite. This model however, while still leaning a little bit on the restrained side added a big dose of boogie to the mix and livened up the experience, such that I found this to be one of more interesting and rewarding rooms at CES. Refined, mostly cohesive, and some rock and roll ability. Quite nice, not inexpensive mind you, but quite nice. Nothing stood out and called attention to itself and that’s generally a very good thing. I wished I had had more time here, but I could say that about many rooms.
Rogue Audio/Wilson Sophia II/Bel Canto
I found this to be one of the better rooms at CES. I didn’t really care for the original Wilson Sophia, finding that it didn’t really have a cohesive top-to-bottom range and a noticeable gap handing off from midwoofer to tweeter. The price/performance ratio of the original seemed out of whack. The Sophia II is another animal despite looking very much identical. No doubt Rogue Audio has a lot to do with this, as my observation of the original Wilson was with a big name, high priced but not-so-smooth solid-state amplifier. The midrange and treble are coherent and possessed tremendous treble extension, volume capability and control. Truly stand-out performance here. The bass was slightly lightweight in comparison and thus sounded less cohesive than the best I’ve heard for similar money. Still with some room positioning I think this could be improved. Overall, on human voice the results were first rate, and putting trance music on gave the speakers no trouble. Rogue Audio was running the room and they were happy to play anything and at very high levels – kudos for having the confidence in your gear. This was my favourite room using Wilson Speakers and it was far from being the most expensive – a testament to the quality of performance despite the relatively low prices of the Rogue Audio front-end. This was a great room.
Audio Note UK
Audio Note’s chief, Peter Qvortrup, was here demonstrating a system around the “AN E/Spe He” and showing off the new Jinro Integrated amplifier, which is a $21,000 version of the Ongaku using less of the premium parts. With around 20 watts and playing very interesting music, something practically non-existent during the entire show, Peter was energetically and enthusiastically illustrating that notions of bass and volume capability with 8-inch woofers and few watts are practically silly notions indeed. Interesting music? How about Finish Symphonic metal? An operatic soprano fused with a hard metal band playing at ridiculous volume levels.
The bass lines began and Peter got up and walked over to the amp. I expected him to turn the volume level down but no, he turn the volume way up to thunderous hit-you-in-the-chest bass levels and a big grin came across his face with a “let’s see the other rooms do this” kind of expression. Indeed, very few rooms would I suspect. Other rooms were mostly playing soft jazz vocals and flute solos. The E’s can do all of that – no problem – vocal rendition was cohesive like the better single drivers but with real drive bass delineation and pristine, open, fast treble response. Peter then played some sort of noise metal – which lived up to billing. Then Peter played a rather brilliant track by The Evil Nine an Electronica Hip Hop album at crushing volume levels and there’s a ton going on here. Bass lines were full deep and incredibly focused starting and stopping without overhang. Terrific imaging and a large stereo spread. And thanks for playing some interesting music. Needless to say, I found this to be one of the best rooms at CES if music is the priority.
This room was Audio Note’s less expensive room carrying:
CD 3.1x player
M3 RIAA photo stage
Jinro integrated amp
AN/E SPe HE speakers
Herron Audio is new to me and the sound here was quite relaxed with some flashes of dynamic authority. The speakers are a prototype without pricing which makes it a little difficult to peg them. They were using a VPI Classic turntable, and all the rest of the electronics and speakers are made by Herron Audio. The speakers had an engaging sound and likely would have been better served in a larger listening room to open them up a little more. Still, this is a group to watch with relatively attractive pricing and clean overall sound.
VTSP -3A Vacuum Tube Stereo Preamplifier $6,550.00
VTSP-2A Vacuum Tube Stereo preamplifier $5,495.00
M1 Mono Power amplifiers (pair) $7,495.00
VTPH-2 Tube phono stage $3,650.00
Interconnects $225 per 1 meter
DiMarzio Super M-Path speaker cables $500
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