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2009 CES & T.H.E Show Coverage 8, The Most of CES Part 1

The Most of 2009 CES & T.H.E. Show

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Numerous posts on audiophile message boards start with the phrase, “What’s the most…?” Virtually any termination to the sentence can be constructed, such as, “powerful amp,” or “tube-like cdp”. Most affordable, most involving, most reliable – the inquiries never end.

I thought I would do my share of adding to the ever growing list of superlatives in cyber space, by presenting what I considered “The Most” among the products I saw (a small army would be needed to see it all, and then only stopping to click a pic or two). Without further ado…

The Most Avant-garde: Sol


What wasn’t there to love about this wacky, metal sculpted gargantuan speaker, put together with TLC by Alex Nolan and Justin Grant? Together, they have made an astounding work of acoustic art, which is found online at A Megalith of a speaker, having a steel stalk and aluminum driver housing, Sol was designed to track body heat of passers-by and beam the music toward them. It looked Promethean against the desert sky! Kudos to the intrepid twenty-something team who braved long days and less than Vegas’ standard weather to keep the music flowing! Walking past it every morning to T.H.E. Show or the shuttle to CES did the heart good. There’s something very right with the world when kooky kids with a work ethic and minds for fun put something like this together!

Most Mysterious Demo: Magnepan/Bryston



The Hype had been building for weeks, greatly intensifying as the show drew near. They played it for all it was worth, with the wait time for the demo and sheer, backlit curtain. It fooled many into thinking a new humongous speaker was behind. A few simple tests convinced me it was no larger than four feet, and that it was not a large panel (If I review it, I’ll explain how I knew). I was not far off. The “Mini Mag” as it’s now being called, is quite diminutive, sporting mid and tweet elements from the 20.1. I suggested a person can place two of them on one of the accompanying bass modules utilized in the demonstration for an oversize “radio” style speaker system.

The demo was heavily supported by the Bryston 28B-SST mono block amps, each at a cool 1,000wpc. Maggies are transformed in sound with prodigious power, and Bryston has long been held as a superior amp for Maggies. It sure sounded that way at the demo!

Most Minimalist Presentation: Tara Labs

Tara Labs

The room was nearly devoid of furniture, and the equipment (including Platinum MSB CDIII Transport and Platinum DAC III, Gryphon Mirage Preamp, and Tara’s Omega Gold and Zero Gold cables) looked lonely in the cavernous space. This drew all attention to the funky copper cabinets containing motor scooter batteries for the experimental DC 500wpc amp from Tara. I had never heard the Dynaudio Sapphire speakers sound so compelling! The amp won’t be slated for production for a while; sorry, don’t hold your breath.

Most Complimentary
Single Manufacturer Pairing:
Pass Labs

Pass Labs

Naturally, a company producing both amp and speaker might have an advantage in system synergy; that was completely the case with the Pass twin cabinet SR1 speaker system. The sound had a “lock on” character to it, so much so that it reminded me of a Von Schweikert sound with more girth, more heft to the bass, and a little less brightness in the treble. This is a speaker to hear for those interested in a sizable floor stander. The speakers sounded robust even though the modest XA 100.5 monos were driving them. I would have enjoyed hearing them with at least 500wpc. (Doug’s observation is understandable considering the fact that it took place within the scope of Pass Labs’ own products. For the XA100.5 monoblocks are modest-looking when compared to the company’s own X600.5 monoblocks; but any pair of Pass Labs monoblocks, especially the 100wpc, pure cass-A XA100.5, is nether modest in size nor capability by any standard. –Editor.)

Most Paradoxical: Gemme Audio and Angelis Labor

Gemme Audio and Angelis Labor

I have not been a huge fan of subwoofer/monitor systems, but this wasn’t quite the same ‘ol sub-sat system. With a woofer cabinet the size of a skinny fridge lying horizontally, and two monitors which could be classified as micro, I was not expecting from the Gemme Audio Phoenix Green Gem speaker system anywhere near the coherency and fluidity it displayed. The partnering crème’ de la crème’ Angelis Labor components (including the Gabriel turntable, arm and pickup, as well as Bethor phono stage, Sophia preamp and Araton mono amps) were stunning in performance and appearance. The speakers and electronics were an unusual combination, but exquisitely satisfying in so many respects. While not for the average home, they are exceptional statement pieces with true character and upscale sound. Do not be put off by the unusual design; they get the audiophile job done!


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