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CES

2010 CES: Coverage 4

Perfect8, Quad/Merrill Williams, Magico/MIT/Technical Brain, Magnepan/Bryston

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The high-end audio world once again descended on the city of sin treating dealers, reviewers, press, manufacturers, and whoever else snucked in to a whole lot of exercise, walking long seemingly endless hallways to audition the next greatest system.

I realize that show conditions are not perfect but virtually every room is in the same boat on this front. The bottom line is that the show room is still a normal sized living space for most people – and stereo equipment is “supposed” to work in many rooms, not just the manufacturer’s testing facility. So while some dealers/manufacturers put a lot of effort into their rooms at high cost, as one of my history professors once said, “the mark is for results not the effort.”

Perfect8 Technologies

This room was offering up some very good sound to go along with the stunning appearance of the Swedish Perfect8 technologies. Given the massive system and the relatively small Venetian suite, I can imagine how much better the results could be in a larger room. The Perfect Technologies name comes from the idea of blending, in their view, “perfect” technologies – ribbons for the tweeter, a line array of open baffle small drivers and two large dual 12” subwoofers to handle the bass. Price mentioned to me was $375,000 for the loudspeakers and subwoofers. The speakers were able to deliver nuance and delicacy and big robust sound for rock and roll. I can say it is the best sound I have heard from ribbons, open baffles, or line arrays. Their spec sheet claims an impressive 8Hz to over 50kHz frequency response. I can’t measure it but I can say that the blend of these technologies worked. “The Force” speaker tower each weighs 200kg.
Ypsilon monoblock amplifiers MKIII’s run $93,000(pair). All told, the room was said to be a million dollars. It’s only money right?

Quad 2905/ Merrill Williams turntable

This was a pleasant and rather relaxing room as to be expected from Quad. A slight “from above” listening perspective and not a lot of drive, but buyers know this going in. Midrange and vocals are the strong points and free of irritation.

Magico/MIT/Technical Brain…
The Magico Q5 on display at $54,000 per pair fronted this room but it was perhaps the Technical Brain amplification that most impressed for perhaps being the finest solid-state amplification I have heard. I happened by during a cello recording and it was spooky real. I would have stayed longer but such is life. I can’t blame listeners in the room from playing albums all the way through. This was one of the top ten listening rooms I encountered at the show.

The Japanese Technical Brain TBP-Zero Monoblocks – these are complete DC transistor amp with no emitter resisters. 350w/8ohm; 700w/4ohm; 1400w/2ohm.

Technical Brain TBC-Zero preamp at top.

Magnepan /Bryston

This was a controlled listening environment and seemed to me to be clever marketing. Those wanting an audition had to wait outside the room for 10 minutes then allowed in to sit and listen to the demo. The operators controlled the listening volume and music program material. And because everyone went in at the same time to audition the demo, no one leaves until it is over. This marketing idea is a good one because when nobody leaves it gives the impression that everyone is riveted to the music. Other rooms had people coming and going and might leave the impression that “if others walked out half way through a track maybe it’s not so good.”

Regardless the Magnepan 1.7 is under $2k and given that it was fed relatively simple classical pieces at relatively low volume with the aid of a center speaker – stereo spread was quite effective and it seemed to be better off-axis than other Magnepan loudspeakers that have a head in the vice nature. The stage while wide was not particularly deep and while there was “air” around instruments there was not a lot of visceral pressure. I found some hardness and some brightness in the upper midrange and treble, and some frequency imbalances. All that said we’re talking about a sub $2k speaker, and in that light they have much to offer.

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