STEREOMOJO SPECIAL REPORT
CES & T.H.E SHOW 2008
This looks like a beautiful outdoor avenue somewhere in Italy with the sun setting at near dusk. When you are there, it feels like it, too.
But it 'taint.That's a high, curved ceiling with clouds masterfully painted on it and special lighting that makes it feel like near sunset 24 hours a day.
It's lovely, but it's one of the reasons I don't like Vegas much.The whole town is based on manipulating your mind and senses to make you think something is not what it is, on all based on the singular goal of separating you from your money - as much of it as they can get. Other than trying to watch a game in an NFL stadium, I've never been barraged by so much advertising as I was in Vegas.They even have a rack of brochures in the back seat of every taxi. And you can imagine what they are advertising. Every few feet as you walk around the city, some slimey individual is trying to force some literature in your hand, and no matter where you focus your gaze, you can't escape the mass of glittering signs promising you all kinds of earthly delights. Sin City indeed.
These are the Ascendo 3.8 speakers. While they may not look that sophisticated at first glance, there is a lot going on here. First, the speaker can be a 3 way or four way depending on how you choose to use it. The driver you see is a coax (tweeter mounted in center of woofer) for a single point source design. If you recall the great Insignia speaker buzz on the net, one of the secrets to it's sound was that it also was a coax single point (we reviewed it last year).This, of course, is a much, much higher quality driver and crossover. Listening to the speaker revealed a massive soundstage with instruments in rock-solid positions with lots of air around them, even in the rather narrow, small room you see here.
But what makes the Ascendo's even more interesting is the driver hidden around back. It's a ribbon and it is designed to give you the choice of either a hemispherical or dipole presentation. It is on/off switchable, but switching it in adds a whole new dimension to the sound - a very live "in concert" sound that adds a sense of realism. The cabinets and stands are beautiful with what looks like a zillion coats of hand-rubbed lacquer. Frequency response is claimed to be 29 Hz (-3 dB) – 325,000 Hz. 325,000 Hz? Doesn't that turn into a color in the frequency range??
While i can't verify that claim, I can say I am very much looking forward to reviewing them. They are on the way to Maison Darby as we speak.
Speaking of ribbons. Here's a ton of 'em in the new VMPS towers. Those big woofer towers are not ribbons, of course. I heard these in Denver at the Rocky Mountain Show and was mightily impressed. Here? Not so much. They were being fed by some kind of processor that turned two channel into three channel - thus the center channel speaker you see. Whatever it was processing, it did not sound good on the Stereomojo Reference Disk.
The RM V60, the company's first new model in three years, is composed of two sections. The V, which includes the 6 Neopanel Midrange Drivers and single Tweeter, and the Base which houses 3 - 6.5" megawoofers in an acoustic suspension system. At almost seven feet tall, they look a bit imposing, but the sound is anything but.
Price is about 9 grand depending on options and such, but not including those big bass towers.
I first met Bob Spence of Affirm Audio and heard his speakers a the Rocky Mountain Fest just last October. While the sound was impressive, I wasn't blown away. In the St. Tropez at THE Show, I almost did not take time to stop in his room since I had just heard them a few weeks ago. I'm glad I did, though.
After just a couple of minutes of listening, without any input from Bob, I said to him, "These sound much better than they did in Denver". Bob grinned and replied, "James, you have good ears. These did not have the Feastrex Field coil drivers in Denver. They DO sound much better!"
He went on to tell me about the Feastrex D5nf which is a full range (35-23,000Hz) driver featuring a massive AlNiCo magnet. Alnico is an acronym for the alloys in the magnets which are composed primarily of aluminum (symbol Al), nickel (symbol Ni) and cobalt (symbol Co. It is the cobalt that that is the magic (and hard to produce and come by) ingredient.
What I can say about the sound is that the bass is much improved as are the dynamics and, I think, a much smother response. Comparing the sound of the new model compared to my memory of the previous is, in addition to what just described is a sense of much greater overall power and coherence. Much more musical. I liked what I heard from the Maxxhorn Lumination. A lot. The price has gone up four grand to $16,500 but even so, while I did not think the previous model stood its ground well at $12,500, this new model more than competes at $16,500. Now that is what I call an improvement!
At T.H.E. SHOW, 2008, Affirm introduced a redesigned cabinet for the
Feastrex 5" drivers. They also tested the water on moving from the factory
direct sales model to the dealer-network sales model on Lumination. The dealer pricing quoted dealers at the show is $18,500 with the D5 Monster Alnico drivers ($8000 retail just for the drivers) and with the exotic American Wormy Maple wood front baffle; retail pricing is to be announced.
Dealer pricing is offered to all CES/T.H.E. SHOW attendees for a limited time during the set-up of their dealer network.
Spence is working with the 5" Feastrex models in the Lumination, their Flagship production model. "We are very happy with their performance in our horn", he smiled. Field coil drivers are available. Pricing quoted individually.
Audiospace. We need to stop giving these guys so much free publicity, but they keep coming out with such doggone good products that it is impossible not to. This is the new Reference 3.1 integrated amp. It uses four Kt-88's Class-A Triode Push-Pull 24-48 W/ch Triode/Ultralinear mode which is switchable on-the-fly via remote. Like getting two amps in one.
There is also a tubed MM phonostage.
We happened to be in the room at RMAF when Albert Von Schweikert was auditioning this amp with his speakers.He asked me what I thought and I told him I was very impressed. I told him we had done the first Audiospace review in the US and I had been impressed then, and this model was a vast improvement. He agreed.He told us he was going to talk to AudioSpace about teaming up with him at CES. He did and they did. Good choice.
If you read our Small Speaker Shootout, you may recognize the top part of this speaker column. If not, it's the GINI LS3/5, one of 11 speakers in the Shootout. It is distributed by GINI who also distributes AudioSpace in the US. Some of the comments of the panelists centered around weight and bass. GINI has solved this by designing a new bass cabinet that matches the small, 2-way bookshelf. It's just what the British LS3/5clone needed. We have held up the complete review of the GINI LS3/5 until we receive the new bass extender, which is any day now. By the way, the object sitting atop the speaker is a supertweeter they were trying out. They didn't like it with the GINI and neither did I.
New from Boulder is this 1021 Disc Player. Boulder says it will play several formats, but they couldn't say which at the show. Like several other new players, the 1021 does not play a CD directly. It first stores it on hard drive and plays back from there. Very cool interface and the price is a very cool (yikes!) $24,000.
Bet you can't guess who makes this. It is another of those old, old names that's making a comeback. The company is Revolver and the model name is "Replay".
It's a split plinth (say that 3 times real fast) made out of real polished marble. The platter is resin. It comes with a version of the ubiquitous RB250 for only about $3,000.
It looks impressive. Weighs about 50 pounds. We are told we'll be getting one for review ASAP.
Bet you can't guess who makes THIS table, either.
Or this one. Hint - it's the same guy.
Another hint: It's the same guy who makes these speakers. He also makes
electronics. Well, if you haven't guessed, his name is Peter Noerbae who is Montana/PBN Speakers and he impressed Linda and me as one of the most brilliant people we've had the pleasure to meet. Peter's efforts filled two large rooms at THE SHOW with gear. "The only thing you see that I didn't make is the CD player", he said in a very humble manner."Oh, the turntables? I just made them up for fun....to see if I could do it". Great googly-moogly! The tables were as beautiful as I've seen and sounded wonderful. Okay. More Guessing. Can you guess the price of these massive, gorgeous tables? "$13,000, but it includes a $5,000 cartridge," he said nonchalantly. I'm assuming an arm comes with it, but he didn't say and I was too bowled over to ask.
The speakers, driven by his own electronics, bowled us over even more.They are the KAS model or "kick-ass-speaker". The tweeters are custom ScanSpeak Revelators. I'm beginning to think the Revelators may be the best out there. The use of SD copper caps and rings at the magnetic focal point eliminates all electrical phase shifts. Specially designed chambers minimize the air noise and compression allowing for a faster, more detailed sound, he says.
Mids are Kevlar Scanspeaks and the 7" mid-bass are the same brand made to Peter's specs. The active 12 inchers are his own in a bass reflex config.
Simply put, this was the best sound at THE SHOW and could be the Best Sound of all of CES, too. The 6' tall speakers are $38,000/pr with bass extenders. Fantastic!
Speaking of Brilliant Guys, AJ Conti of Basis is another one.When Linda and I walked in his room, he hugged us.That was not the case last year when, through a series of misunderstandings, he kicked us out of his room. Since that unfortunate run in, we have talked on the phone and exchanged emails. We discovered we had a lot in common. We both made our sincere apologies and have been great ever since. Hence the hugs.
The only reason - and this is important - the only reason I bring this up is because I know there are other hard feelings, feuds, resentments and turmoils in the audio industry between individuals, companies and even audio publications. None of them are good for the industry or its customers. Stereomojo has experienced such resentment from other pubs. There's no feuds, because it takes two to feud and we don't play those games. I might hasten to add that PFO, Enjoy the Music and Stereophile are NOT among the nasties. There's no reason for childish behavior and egos to let feelings divide the audio industry. There's a whole world out there who does not know any of the amazing audio gear we saw in Vegas and represented here even exists. And that is a shame.
Hey. This is cool. Take me to Part 6!
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