Publisher Profile

2008 CES High-Performance Audio: Part 3: single-driver riot

(Venetian, Mirage) & 2008 THE Show (St. Tropez/Alexis Park)

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2008 marks the 4th Anniversary of MaxxHorn since its 2004 founding by Johan van Zyl, David Lee and Bob Spence. The original model, the Immersion, which I reviewed in June 2006, utilized a 6.5-inch French PHL 1240TWX driver and re-established the horn’s viability in today’s high-end audio arena. Bob Spence has been the face of MaxxHorn in every Show. This year, he was joined by his son Nelson, a move that hinted at the accelerated growth of the Texas company.

Nelson wasn’t the only new member to MaxxHorn’s operation. Japanese single-driver company Feastrex is now part of the MaxxHorn product makeup. Its $7,900, 97dB/16Ω, 5-inch ALNICO full-range driver, dubbed the Dimension 5 Monster Alnico driver, is now featured in MaxxHorn’s latest Lumination loudspeaker.

Remaining true to designer Johan van Zyl’s ideal of single-point source driver design in his advanced cabinet, the Lumination is claimed to harness a 100dB+ efficiency in a wide-bandwidth capacity.

Although I had already experienced the potential of Feastrex’s 9-inch sibling in the U.S. importer’s system a few months ago, my excitement was pumped up by several levels nonetheless when the first sentence that Bob uttered at me was: “Constantine, I have found the sound I was looking for.”

A Custom Isolation Product Ultrasonic Stands was situated between the pair of MaxxHorn Lumination, providing sanctuary for a suite of Gill Audio and Art Audio electronics, including a Gill Audio Elise tube DAC and the Alana preamplifier, Art Audio Reference Phono Stage, Carissa Signature Amplifier and PX-25 Dual Mono Amplifier. The digital source was a Panasonic DVD player doubling as a CD player, with the $2,995 Scheu-Analog Diamond turntable, a $2,450 Schroeder model 2 tonearm and a Shelter 90X cartridge, all imported by Hudson Audio Imports.

There were moments at THE Show when one would walk into an Exhibit and became disinterested instantly at a system playing music impossible to reproduce and would walk right out. Music such as 3 big taiko drums blanketing a tiny flute. When Nelson put in my XRCD, the serene and subtle opening also did not impress several attendees; but as the music progressed and the dynamics and volume grew, people started to stand around their seated comrades, and breaths were held, minds were focused on how far the 100dB, 5-inch single-driver loudspeaker could take the onslaught that would normally required the capacity provided by large multi-driver system and active subwoofers.

But the 16Wpc Art Audio Carissa did not sound stressed, and the MaxxHorn tracked the progression perfectly, capturing the flute’s nuance and the trio of taiko’s enormous scale. When we finally reached the defining climax, in which both the lone flute and the taiko’s coincided at their highest volumes and dynamic scaling, ambience temperature had seemingly peaked and everyone in the audience was red hot top to bottom. My verdict: We were witness to the most incredible 5-inch driver-based horn system in memory. One of the best-sounding rooms.

Scheu-Analog Diamond turntable (Hudson Audio Imports)
▼Gill Audio Elise tube DAC

▼Gill Audio Alana preamplifier
▼Art Audio PX-25

Tangram Audio (U.S. Distributor)
Brands: AcousticPlan, Lowther

According to Yujean Kang of Tangram Audio, U.S. Distributor of AcousticPlan of Germany, Claus Jaeckle, the designer and proprietor of AcousticPlan, first exhibited his products by himself at the 2007 Las Vegas THE Show. After Tangram Audio became the Germany company’s U.S. Distributor, Yujean Kang organized an Exhibition of the products at Rocky Mountain Audiofest in October of the same year. (See Dagogo’s 2007 RMAF Show Coverage 2.)

Now, Yujean and Claus brought their $28,000 Veena, an open-baffle speaker system featuring a modified Lowther full-range driver and four complimentary active woofers to their Venetian Exhibit at 2008 CES. Accompanying the Veena was a complete AcousticPlan system of the $14,500 Vadi CD player, a $11,000 Sarold preamplifier and its $11,000, triode-input MOSFET-output Santor amplifier.

Driven by the companion 50Wpc Santor amplifier, the 98dB/8Ω Veena with a quadruplet of active woofers created the most encompassing Lowther experience in memory, able to recreate the delicate Japanese fue’s (flute) subtleties in dynamics and tonality, yet shockingly powerful in reproducing a high level of nuances and complexities of full orchestras. A most unbelievable Lowther-based experience — I put in discs after discs of my own excitedly to test the Veena’s potentials. Ok, not exactly a single-driver system, but one of the best-sounding rooms nonetheless.

AcousticPlan Vadi CD player

AcousticPlan Sarod preamplifier: $11,000 manual version, $13,000 relay remote control version,
plus $4,100 for additional built-in phonostage with transformer coupling.

LotusGroupUSA (U.S. Distributor)
Brands: Feastrex, Red Rock Audio, Acoustic Revive, Pranawire

Feastrex’s smaller, D5 Monster Alnico

Joe Cohen of LotusGroupUSA, the U.S. Distributor of Feastrex, exhibited two Feastrex drivers in their original, custom Feastrex cabinets. The larger one was the D9e Type 2 field coil driver, a $24,000/pair, 9-inch, 105dB/16Ω driver that sports a Gauss-rating of 20,600 units, as well as a 9-inch plate & pole piece with a Permendur/pure iron hybrid structure. There was the smaller D5 Monster Alnico driver in a matching cabinet for auditioning.

The sound of the large Feastrex was colossal to sum up. It was the only single-driver speaker capable of reproducing Evgeny Kissin’s 20-bit, RCA Victor piano recording’s tonal intensity. In reproducing the orchestral organ, the Renaissance-propagated 9-inch Feastrex offered very extended top- and bottom-end, amidst an orchestral backdrop that was eminently dimensional.

Then again, Joe partnered his loudspeakers with Al Stiefel of Red Rock Audio’s $37,000/pair Renaissance monoblocks, with a matching Red Rock Preamplifier and a Red Rock-modified Marantz DV9600 disc player. Add top cabling products from Acoustic Revive and Pranawire cabling, and Joe had a room guaranteed to hit all my buttons.

The Feastrex qualifies as a revolutionary achievement in single-driver speaker technology.

Equipment & MSRP List ►
(click to view)

Far left & far right: Red Rock Renaissance monoblock amplifiers

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