Reference 3a / Antique Sound Labs
Reference 3a is now being designed and built in Canada and this is something their retired founder Daniel Dehay would likely approve of. Simple straightforward design – the Reference 3a Grand Veena driven by the Antique Sound Labs AQ 1001 MKII was a real nice sounding room with well above average inner resolution, a wide listening window, deep soundstage and effective integration of drivers which is an issue for speakers using many drivers. Some treble directionality but nothing that was overtly distracting and may be tempered with room treatment in a non-show condition. Factoring in the sub-$10k price of the speakers and tightly controlled bass lines, I would really love to hear them at home. At a relatively affordable price this was one of the better budget systems at CES.
Sanders Sound Systems
This electrostatic hybrid could play very loud. This room wasn’t getting the integration of panel and woofer that the Mystère /Martin Logan Summit had attained but this had a harder hitting but also harder, leaner sound. This will be highly taste-dependent.
Gallo brought their new Reference 3.5 loudspeaker and I have to say this is quite an improvement over the previous model. At $6,000 per pair, these speakers could absolutely pound, with deep powerful bass response that was impeccably tight and controlled. This was one of the few rooms where the guys running it would put it way up, to demonstrate high level replay with little audible colouration or distortion. A wide listening window was nice and the speaker handled pretty much anything we throw at it. The improvements to this model are in the crossover and tweeter which they said has been recessed a little bit so it wasn’t as discordant as the previous 3.1. The speakers at this price were some of the best around CES. Some felt they were a touch bright leaning and that might be fair criticism – but I didn’t find them to be overly unruly and it was refreshing to have some thunder and dynamics in the treble. Plenty of audiophiles are willing to accept a lot of speakers that sound nice with strings and small ensembles that are truly terrible with rock music (like numerous panel loudspeakers). And yet they will sneer at a speaker that is a true rock and roll dream, like the Gallo. And the Gallo does classical and voices better than those same panels do rock. The Gallo’s are an excellent all rounder and they impressed me. They’re relatively affordable, they take up little space, they look funky, they play very loud, and they’re open and exciting. Find yourself the right front-end to temper their exuberance slightly and you’ll likely be rewarded immensely.
Uniwave Tek & Chatêau Research/Chang Lightspeed Audio
Uniwave is a small Utah based company quietly going about its business and putting out some nice uncongested sound. This room had their patented ANACO 2 pre-amplifier ($4,800) and Digital ANACO 2 power amplifier ($6,800) rated as 1000 watts into 4 ohms per channel. The speakers are the M3 Elite Reference Monitors ($4,500) and the sound was smooth, open, and free of glaring issues. The Chang Lightspeed group were illustrating their Hyper Drive Technology and they demonstrated with quite effective results that the sound was weightier and more organic with their device than without. This is tough to do in show conditions with unfamiliar speakers and equipment. Nevertheless, taking out the Chang Lightspeed Hyper-drive device the sound thinned out and became less engaging. Their filters range in price from $525 to $3,750, start at $1900 with Hyper-Drive. The overall sound was crisp and clean but one may wish to augment with a subwoofer though bass was still good to 45hz-50hz.
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