Publisher Profile

2010 CES Coverage 20

MSB Technology/ Harbeth, Spendor/ Exposure / Chord, Scaena Loudspeakers / McIntosh / Scarlatti, KR Audio / Peak Consult / PS Audio / Stahl Tek

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MSB Technology/ Harbeth

MSB was demonstrating a new line-up of gear through the friendly Harbeth Super HL5 loudspeakers. Someone noted to me that companies selling front-end gear, such as MSB does with digital sources and amplifiers, may often be overshadowed by cool looking loudspeakers. Thus, people will inquire more about the loudspeaker than the amplifiers, etc. An unassuming loudspeaker like Harbeth can virtually go unnoticed because they simply get down to the business of reproducing music in a very satisfying way, without bringing visual traits to the table. The folks at MSB chose their speaker wisely and as a result had a room that was pumping out very nice sound with a variety in music replay. This was not an inexpensive front-end. Gone are the days of those relatively budget DA converters. The two finned power amps will set you back $17,500 and their Transport and Dac start at $2,995 and $5,995 respectively; however, MSB’s DACs are 32 bit and 384 Khz capable. More importantly, for those of us who care more about the sound than discussing bits and bytes and sampling rates, the sound here was open and fatigue-free.

Spendor/ Exposure / Chord

The Spendor Exposure Chord system was sounding quite nice as well – offering some punch, detail and a bigger sound than the price or size of the system would seem to allow. Chord’s interesting-looking QBD76 DAC was on top and accepts USB, as well as Bluetooth inputs. The sound was crisp and clean and seemed neutral yet involving. I would definitely like to have spent more time here.

Scaena Loudspeakers / McIntosh / Scarlatti

Another interesting loudspeaker was from Scaena Loudspeakers, incorporating 12 midrange and 9 ribbons per side, being driven with massive McIntosh amplifiers and a Scarlatti digital front-end. The sound had a lot of thunder; but there was a separation of sound because they had the subwoofers at the far end of the room. They simply could not fit the speakers and the subs in the same place, and so it suffered in being not time aligned as the bass seemed to be a step behind. The Venetian rooms with their split level layout hampered bigger systems like this and Perfect8 Technologies. The speakers range from $46,800 to $99,600 depending on size and driver array.

KR Audio / Peak Consult / PS Audio / Stahl Tek

There was big, powerful sound with nice extended tuneful bass – quite cohesive in a larger room with some space to allow the system to work. The amplifiers had enough power to control the large Peak Consult Typhoeus loudspeakers – 175kg each. I liked the sound here, but unfortunately I didn’t get back to give it some of my own music.

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