Classic Audio had the impressive Project t 1.3 Field Coil high efficiency Traxtrix woodhorn loudspeakers ($59,950) with Atmosphere amplification, Esoteric digital front-end and Kuzma Reference turntable. This, and the Silbatone Aporia among others, went a long way to crush the horns-are-bright-and-fatiguing myth. Then again, there are plenty of horns around that probably don’t help this belief system. Classic Audio sounded very sweet – a little laid back – next time I’m bringing some music with gusto and impact to give them a bigger test. Nevertheless, what I heard sounded very good. I have the impression that they would have kicked serious behind if they were placed fully in the corners.
Trenner & Friedl / Heed Audio / Viva Audio amplifiers
Ra-Ra-Sis-Boom-Ba. Trenner and Freidl brought their new RA BOX loudspeakers ($25,000). This is my first time auditioning speakers from this company. I poked my head in the room and saw a pair of boxes sitting up close to the wall and thought, “with looks like this, there must be something to it.” Rest assured there was – beautiful classical pieces playing at levels with ease and control. Nice. I asked to play something tougher. “Anything you like” was the response. That’s a good answer because I say it so many times – a system MUST play everything and play everything well or there is probably something wrong with it. If a dance/trance album sounds gutless then it’s not the fault of the recording. The recording engineers design it to rock to belt it out and the speaker’s job is to do what the recording engineer and the music on the disc is designed to put out. The RA-Box looks like a big single-driver loudspeaker or perhaps a 15-inch dual concentric, but no, it’s a two-way loudspeaker with bottom-firing ports. Andreas Friedl explained to me that the speakers can be placed near wall or in corners but the ports can be filled for regular free-standing positioning. The speakers fed by Heed and Viva sounded terrific, well -controlled and could play at idiotically loud levels with astounding bass response, an open treble band and utterly cohesive sound. To put it simply – WOW! It always impresses me that plain old boxes like these that don’t look as impressive as many others at CES can sound so ridiculously good. They possessed a live sensation that few other speakers at CES or T.H.E. Show possessed and could play all genres and all instruments to very high levels. Suffice it to say, these speakers were truly outstanding. And to give some credit to the front-end – this was my first time auditioning Heed Audio and Viva Audio and both got out of the way, which is what they’re supposed to do. Very nice sound and I look forward to auditioning gear from all of these companies in the future.
Sound Lab / Atmosphere
Soundlabs brought their new Millenium-1 PX full range electrostatic, being driven by Atma-sphere M-60 Mk 3.1 amplifiers. This room had some acoustics problems starting with being far too small I suspect for these large panels. The fellow running the room had claimed that tiny devices placed on the walls had helped immensely but was also not happy about the size of the room. The sound here for me had some problems at the frequency extremes with a clear boom and sizzle quality to the sound. There were some of the usual electrostatic qualities found here, like a nice sized stage and imaging but these guys were really hampered by the room.
Gershman Acoustics / VAC
Gershman Acoustics were demonstrating their relaxed flagship Black Swan loudspeakers that are simply there. Nothing is over the top or in your face and is one of those all-day listenable and enjoyable loudspeakers. Most of the music I heard here was of the jazz and rock variety and it sounded very good. VAC’s front-end was used by a number of rooms and here again helped to make some nice sounds. I have heard several other Gershman Acoustics speakers over the years and have enjoyed them in a similar manner – they’re voiced in a way that makes them tough to grumble – perhaps on the warm side, and if you have to err on one side or the other ,the warm side is arguably better. And of course they’re all so beautifully built. This room produced very nice sound all around.
Manley Laboratories / Gershman Acoustics
Manley Laboratories brought their new Stingray iTube integrated amplifier with remote ($3,500) driving Gershman Acoustics Sonogram loudspeakers (no literature on these in the room). The iPod part of this I probably would not go for. You can buy the same amplifier without the iPod doc for $3,000 and the sound was far superior through the CD player than sound through the iPod. The fellow running the demo with Eveanna Manley noted that iPod function is nice if all you want is background music or for a party and just let it go – and certainly that’s a fair point, and on that level may make some sense. I would like to have heard the amplifier with some bigger, beefier loudspeakers to see what could be done – but with compact disc there was some pleasing sound here.
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