Each year I attend CES I tell myself that this trip will be the last, but when the following January rolls around I again find myself drawn to Las Vegas. This year was a bit different as I was already in San Diego staying with a friend with whom I made the trip and the rounds. This had the distinct advantage of providing a second set of ears and a somewhat different focus. In no particular order are my listening comments from some of the rooms at the Venetian which I found interesting. The fact that I fail to mention a particular room is not intended to be a negative comment.
Triode Corporation/ Acoustic Zen/ Kronos
This was the first room I visited and set an extremely high standard for the remainder of the listening sessions. The front end was a brand new turntable by Kronos — The Sparta at a much lower price point ($21,500) than their flagship. It features the same counter rotating platter technology as their flagship table and delivers about ninety per cent of the sonics. The Sparta also displayed a new 10.5” arm the Helena ($6,500) which is the sibling of the Black Beauty and utilizes a rather innovative bearing structure, essentially a ball rather than a single point captured in a cup. The cartridge was a Dynavector XV1T. Other system components included the Triode Corporation TRX-M845 amps, their new reference preamp, TRV-3EQ8E phono stage, TRV-CD5SE transport and TRV-DAC10 and the Acoustic Zen Crescendo MkII speakers and cables. They played a number of records while I was there including a lacquer of ORG Elvis Presley- Greatest Hits a Vanguard Everyman’s Classics, Enesco Romanian Rhapsodies (SVR-160SD). Both recordings displayed a gorgeous tonal balance, good imaging and excellent detail. Male voice was particularly well served. Given that the price of this system was close to $70K, I am reluctant to call it a best buy; however, it surpassed many far more expensive systems.
Marten/ Pass/ MSB
This was possibly the most expensive system I heard at CES and one of the two rooms to which I found myself returning time after time. This represented the introduction of Marten’s new flagship speaker which replaces the earlier Supremes. Unlike the earlier speaker, there is not a separate subwoofer tower driven by its own dedicated amplifier. In general the new configuration makes it easier to place these speakers in a room but does eliminate the possibility of driving them with a low power direct heated triode design. All drivers are new, manufactured by Acuton in conjunction with Marten. The woofers employed are a unique aluminum cone rather than the ceramic drivers used in the earlier speaker. The tweeter and upper midrange are again diamond, however all drivers use a ring magnet to eliminate any structure behind the cone and the resultant reflections which can blur detail. Each speaker is wired with 30 meters of the new Jorma Statement speaker wire. The Supremes were driven by the Pass Xs 300 amps and Xs preamp. The front end was alternately a Bergmann turntable carrying an Ortofon MC Anna cartridge and an MSB Universal Transport, Diamond DA, Galaxy Clock and two Diamond Power Supplies. Interconnects were Jorma Prime and the speaker wire was Jorma Statement. The room had been heavily treated with diffusers and bass traps. On Monday night prior to room treatment the imaging was a bit diffuse and the mid bass a bit overstated; however, both of these areas improved significantly with the room treatment. On Tuesday morning there was a bit of roughness in the upper mids and lower treble but by Tuesday afternoon after further adjustments, this was pretty much gone.
This is a speaker with which you would never need a subwoofer. It is hard to imagine without hearing them how they are able to couple and energize the air in a room, particularly in the bottom most octaves. It does require a sizeable well treated room and an amp with significant current reserves (this the Pass amps had in abundance). Coherence of the drivers was excellent as was decay and low level detail. It is unusual in my experience for notes at all frequencies to be treated equally with respect to how they get louder. This again is a real achievement with the new Supremes. The speakers were designed so that the drivers are time and phase coherent. While many different pieces were played over the time I spent in the room, a CD from the Decca reissue box of Argenta conducting Rodrigo’s Suite Aranduez was particularly nice as was a vinyl reissue on Impulse (GR-157) John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman on which male voice was extremely natural. Two other knockouts were Neemi Jarvi conducting Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and Gina Bachauer playing Beethoven’s Second Piano Concerto on a Mercury recording. In both instances, spatial information was excellent with good depth, imaging and soundstage. The sound of both piano and violin was also very natural. I wish that I had the resources to own a pair.
YG Acoustics/ D’Agostino/ DCS/ Kronos
YG Acoustics introduced their new Hailey speakers driven with D’Agostino Momentum mono blocks and preamp, DCS digital stack and the Kronos turntable paired with the Black Beauty tonearm and Kubala Sosna Elation cabling. Bass was tight and well controlled. Female voices were very natural with good rendition of harmonics and overtones. Piano was also nice with good transients and leading edge definition and no harshness in the upper registers. Imaging was also good and string tone was natural. In summary, the sound of the system was linear, honest and very enjoyable. In the past, YG speakers could be cold and overly analytical particularly if not driven with the right electronics. This seems to no longer be the case with the latest generation of their speakers. This is a speaker that clearly benefits from an amp able to deliver high power and high current.
This system consisted of the Soulution 725 preamp, Model 711 amplifier and Model 540 SACD player and Magico S3 speakers. The amplifier is new and incorporates many of the lessons learned in designing the Soulution 55 series of amplifiers particularly with respect to the power supply. The speakers handle bass well particularly given their size. They are very clear and detailed and do an excellent job of reproducing the soprano voice. Playing Lord Nelson’s Mass, the system was very good at capturing the harmonics and bandwidth of the piece.
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