No, I didn't float along the gondola or shop at Burberry -
nor did I feel like I was in Venice - but I most certainly
felt the luxurious surroundings.
its glitz and glamour, I have never gotten used to the huge
crowds here in the Venetian....
The High End Audio side of the CES was held on the upper
floors of the Venetian - and, as you'd expect, the elevators
were not exactly what you'd describe easy access.
was told the systems on the 34th and 35th floors were huge I
didn't know they'd be referring to this gents moustache too!
floors had the suites that were actually the largest
anywhere in the Venetian so I decided to start there. Wisdom
Audio's new LS4 planar-magnetic line-source certainly
benefitted from the extra space this room provided.
Easy? The Wisdom Audio LS4 ($100k with subs and xover)
boasts an ultra-thin-film technology that also allows for a
very high sensitivity quotient of 100 dB! Designed as an
in-wall or free-standing, and available in a variety of
colors, driven by a stack of dCS gear and Audio Research
electronics through and through (above), I was taken aback
by the incredible ease and delicate flow of this rig. Yeah,
they're big and bold but also gorgeous sounding. Behind
these line-sources are huge subwoofers that mated seamlessly
but do look rather raw and more apt towards pro
applications. Nevertheless, the sound was among the best I
heard this year. A big surprise for me this year.
in the Wilson Audio and Lamm Audio suite that I believe was
done the hall from Wisdom Audio and sighed with relief when
I asked the price of the Maxx3s. Hey, $68k for a pair of
speakers as big, well-made and legendary as Wilson sounds
like a great bargain considering the prices of the stuff I
saw this year. Especially with other, far more expensive,
loudspeakers at this year's event that have no history
whatsoever. The one thing I've learned over the years is
never judge a book by its cover. I hear folks say all the
time about how they don't like Wilson's sound? I've never
known them to have one. They sound like whatever is put
before them. I have heard them sound great and I've heard
them sound lousy like every other speaker heard at these
events. Strapped to a pair of Lamm ML3 Signature monos
($140k WOW!!), and through a Onedof turntable (photo above),
the sound was very natural and easy. Easy to miss as well
due to its relaxed presentation. Moreover, the folks were
playing music and not any of those audiophile dynamic discs
Magico Q7s ($165k), had a wonderful debut party here in this
large Venetian upper floor suite. In terms of sound, they
are outstandingly neutral, clean and full-bodied and dead
quiet. Alon Wolf knows how to make a loudspeaker. Trust me,
I've heard his reference $425k horns and thought they were
worth every penny (see my report
here). But at one-hundred, sixty-five thousand
dollars damn these are expensive??? Why are the Q7s
expensive and the Ultimas not? In all due respect to the
quality look and build, the Q7s are pedestrian compared next
to Magico Ultimas.
maybe I'm just a spoiled brat too. Lastly, the Q7s don't
play themselves either. You have to have a well-thought out
rig in order to get this puppies to sing.
MIT cabling and Spectral digital - include the Nagra pro
deck here as well - you can sort of get the idea to what
makes a loudspeaker like the Q7 sing as well as it did.
Another suite of upper-tier components were the YG Acoustics
Anat Signature IIIs ($119k), driven by a pair of Tenor Audio
mono amps ($100k) and a digital stack by way of dCS
(Scarlatti). Consider me spoiled. Because as good as this
system sounded - their dynamics and imaging capabilities are
where they excel - I enjoyed them even more in an even
bigger setup on a recent visit to GTT Audio (see a video of
here). Located here in northern New Jersey (Long
Valley), GTT is owned and operated by Bill Parrish. In my
many travels here and abroad, I doubt I have been to
someone's home with this many rooms extravagantly designed
and tailored toward high end audio and music. You didn't
hear it from me, but I believe Parrish really prefers the
speed and agility of the Anat IIIs when driven by Soulution
electronics. I like them both for different reasons. I do
miss the speed and visceral bass grip offered through the
Soulution gear. But the Tenors have a slightly more natural
and textured feel to voices and instruments. Compliments of
their hybrid design perhaps? Pick your poison. We're
going to die from something!
Something about the MBL sound that always resonates well
with me - even when it's as big, bold and ostentatious as
this. At $268k a pair, the MBL X-tremes are quite an act to
follow with respect to how they disperse sound into a room
(see my video
With respect to MBL, there's no such thing as a sweet-spot.
And sitting here, a bit off-center, I never got the
impression to move into the center seat on the wide sofa
either. Overall, the sound was huge, but never overdone or
overwhelming. Soundstage was second to none which is to be
expected from a transducer of this nature.
[left to right, April US Sales manager
Paul Apodaca, April Music owner Simon Lee, Mike Powell of
Verastarr Cable and IP Man]
guys from April Music also were located on this floor and
though their wares are affordable, they were having a great
time entertaining us. The April Music Eximus DP DAC/Pre
sounded utterly convincing played through their S1 stereo
amplifiers and a pair of Wilson Audio Sasha loudspeakers.