Acoustic Zen/Triode Corporation Ltd/Orb/DEQX
The new Acoustic Zen Crescendo ($14,000 pair) were sounding exceptionally good in this room, with Triode amplifiers of seeming exceptional sound and build, and for affordable prices. Other than the TRV-M88PP monoblocks that are priced at $13,900, all of their other amplifiers on their price list are under $4,200 (most under $3,000) and they’re not just pretty boxes – they’re made in Japan and sound glorious. There was some actual bass weight here and the sound was surprisingly tuneful and well integrated. I say surprisingly because it didn’t happen very much with speakers this size and with this many drivers. And again, the speakers while certainly not inexpensive at $14k, actually sounded the price. Nothing shouty or glaring, and while they were perhaps not the finest in the resolution department, the “music” was oh-so-nice. This was my first audition with Acoustic Zen and Triode and what a lovely first date.
The Swiss Ensemble Audio was a tight lipped room and was showing a new, complete in-house designed system with some unique design properties. They didn’t want to give too much away, but their modular CD player was interesting where you can pull the DAC side of the player out and have it upgraded should upgrades come. The system as shown ran $47,000 and they were mostly playing classical music. The sound was quite insightful and resolving, and more importantly, engaging. I noticed some added pressure in some frequencies which was slightly discordant but overall a very balanced sound. I insisted on trying some alternate bass heavy music and this is where the system had some trouble – they’re not really designed for that kind of music. There’s much to like here with regards to the sound but perhaps a larger speaker would have served their large listening room better.
If there was a “best overachiever” award, this room has to be considered one of the finalists. Firstly, the music here sounded terrific regardless of cost and the Prince II speakers are even more amazing when you factor in the $6k per pair price tag. I have not been a huge panel guy largely because I generally find their deficiencies unacceptable at the price points they usually reside. The issue I have is they generally lack dynamics and the visceral sense of an instrument in the room. This panel manages to get a lot more of that pressure than do most panel loudspeakers and are free of noticeable glitches and frequency anomalies. At $6,000 they should seriously scare the big name staple planar and electrostatic makers – because these sound just as good as those staples at a far lower price of entry. This is one of the few panels that I have wholly enjoyed listening to. As an aside – Kingsound had two rooms at CES and I actually preferred the sound of the less expensive “Prince II” based room over their bigger pricier model which may have been a little too large for the room.
Prince II with VAC amplification and Ayon CD player
Acapella was showing off their new High Violoncello II loudspeakers ($80,500) using mass-less plasma ion tweeters, with an Einstein front-end consisting of the “The Source” Tube CD player ($18,400), “The Tube MKII” preamp ($18,400) and “The Final Cut MK60” OTL tube mono amplifiers ($34,900 pair). Showing off is certainly what they were doing in this room. It’s tough to argue that there was anything better at CES and these were offering up a live sensation sound that very few rooms could muster. Due to the listening room’s two-level setup, I was advised to sit in the second level with the speakers at the other end of the room. I was happy to comply and was rewarded with considerably better sound. Large speakers need some distance and these were no different. The sound here was highly visceral with the thwack of drums and absolutely pristine top-end response – no hint of glare or other anomalies and huge impact without fatigue. It possessed wonderful inner resolution and decay and didn’t lose sight of overtones. Soundstage was large in all directions with solid, tuneful bass response. And they follow my demands that a speaker must play everything – classical to rock and do it well – these do both exceedingly well and will be happy with a wide array of amplifier choices. The jaw dropping price is justified by jaw dropping sound. Apparently this model is not even close to the top of the line.
Other Associated Equipment:
Fondato Silenzo Base, Isolation Platform $3,150 (each)
Big Block Resonances Control $1,500 (each)
Reference LaMusika Speaker cables 3.0m $25,000 (pair)
High LaMusika power cords $5,700 (each)
From Stage III Concepts:
Gryphon Interconnects 1.5m Balanced $7,950 (pair)
Zyklop Power Cord 2.0m $8,300
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