There are many speakers’ names bandied about at shows and yet I do not often hear that of Rosso Fiorentino. It’s a name that should be spoken more often. I will be reviewing this sweet transducer with a built-in supertweeter following CES 2012. I have heard this system fronted by AMR source and amplification two or three times now and it is unfailingly refined; the bass is surprisingly deep, the highs airy and light. The rig has made my mental short list of better systems each time I have heard it.
At the front of the system was the Dr. Feickert Analogue Blackbird Turntable ($7,995) and Analogue DFA 12.0 Tonearm ($1,495 with table), along with the AMR PH-77 Phono Preamp. Digital was provided by AMR (Abbingdon Music Research) CD-77.1 CD Player ($10,995) and CD-777 DAC ($4,995). Powering the system was AMR’s AM-77.1 Integrated Amp in mono vertical biamp mode ($9,995).
Was it perhaps the abundance of natural wood that the Daedalus system reminded me of the Trenner & Friedl Duke loudspeaker system at the past CES? Or perhaps it was the seemingly unrestrained performance? Once again the Daedalus speakers, now scattered throughout the show in four systems, pleased my ears. The Ulysses speaker system with the BOW subs sounded more mature, with a lovely balance of clarity and dynamic presence. The somewhat unusual dual soft dome tweeter and midranges seem to work well for this speaker. I have often felt that single soft dome tweeters lack a bit of sizzle, but the pair seems to perk up the treble nicely. The speaker’s higher efficiency (97dB sensitivity and 6 ohm impedance) while being truly full range allows it to be taut sounding without being too lean.
AMR (Abbindgon Music Research) CD-77 ($10,995) fed the AMR DP-777 DAC ($4,995), First Sound Paramount MkIII Preamplifier ($12,995) and Ulysses speakers ($14,700) with BOW subs ($2,290). Cabling was provided by Bolder Cables and Dynamic Design.
Jones Audio is maturing as an audiophile gear manufacturer, and one way to tell is the drop-dead gorgeous new casing on the power components! I nearly had to look twice not to confuse them with the cost-no-object Constellation line. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but the Jones pieces are lovely in their own right. They also have made lovely music every year that I have heard them, and this show was no exception. As well as any pre/amps in the show the Jones products got the weighting as well as characteristics of an instruments’ unique sound propagation correct. These amps would be interesting to hear with panel speakers.
In this system the Oppo BDP 95 ($1K) led to the Jones Pre-S1 Stereo Peamp ($12K), the Jones PA-M300 at 300wpc Monoblocks ($24K/pair) and drove the Revel Ultima Salon 2 ($22.5K). Kimber speaker cables and Transparent IC’s were used.
Most rooms I enter at shows are polite and perhaps mildly intriguing, but the mbl room was downright entertaining! Jeremy Bryan, President and CEO, was rocking my world with some avant-garde renditions of Peter Gabriel’s “Shaking the Tree”. Nothing fills a room quite like a Radialstrahler and the enveloping sound stirs the soul. Even though the room was untreated and a fixed head post for a bed was directly behind the right speaker there was no blatant imbalance or diminution to the system. These are highly forgiving speakers of less than ideal environments, and they look as engaging as they sound!
Starting with the speakers the Corona Line products (not all displayed at the show) were the 116F Speakers ($28k), C21 Stereo Power Amplifier ($9.2K), C11 Preamplifier ($8.8K), and C31 CD Player ($9.2K). Wireworld Eclipse interconnects and speaker cables were used along with Locus Design Cynosure USB Cable and MBL’s own PC2 AC Cords.
Audio Artistry / Parts Express
Some of the best things happen at audio shows when you peer into a room with an unfamiliar name on the door, in this case a company named Audio Artistry. I was familiar with Parts Express, supplier to the DIY community but could not come up with a mental construct of a product by Audio Artistry. When I entered I beheld the CBT36, a “Constant Beamwidth Transducer” developed by Don Keele based on unclassified military underwater sound research. Holy Sonar, Batman! I will be direct; this was the most fascinating exhibit of the show, and perhaps my favorite in terms of overall satisfaction.
What is so interesting about the CBT36? It’s made of inexpensive materials such as a thin, MDF cabinet, has a slew of low cost drivers in ridiculously large numbers ( each tower has eighteen 3.5” full range and seventy-two ¾” tweeters, crossed over at 1kHz), and is designed with a radically unorthodox dispersion pattern due to the backward curvature of its cabinet. This, however, was no slouch system, as iTunes was being sent via Media Monkey software to a Benchmark DAC-HDR ($1,895), which in turn fed the DEQX HDP-Express Peamplifier/Processor ($1,950). Amplification was from a pair of Jeff Rowland’s Model 625 Stereo Amplifiers ($13.5K each). Interconnects and speaker cables were supplied by Cardas.
Listening to the CBT36, I thought immediately of speakers like the Pipedreams and Scaenas. In a unique fashion the arc-array puts the listener in the middle of a gigantic soundstage not just horizontally but vertically. The definition was exemplary, akin to an electrostatic speaker. I would have liked more mid-bass presence and a smidgen off of the treble’s intensity, but all in all there was acceptable integration with the pair of huge Parts Express RS1202K subwoofers wielding dual 12” oppositional drivers (list $1,099). In a word the experience was thrilling!
Thrifty as the CBT36 system is (the tower is bolted to the base with external metal plates) it conveys music vastly, with an enormous acoustic envelope typical of larger panel speakers. The CBT kit from Parts Express is $1,980 but needs the DEQX system to operate as a crossover, either the introductory HDP-Express or the HDP at $3,995, which includes room processing. It’s not, however, a $2K speaker; with subwoofers and DEQX one is looking at a kit system which must be assembled and costs between $6-8K excluding the demand for four channels of amplification to separately drive the individual bass/treble Left and Right arrays. Is it the cheapest speaker system I’ve heard at a show? No, not by a long shot, but it is one of the most memorable in the under $10K category. Audio Artistry plans to offer for $8.5K a version with internal passive crossovers, thus negating the need for the DEQX and two additional channels of amplification.
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