One-upping Paradigm's 30th anniversary models and KEF's 50th anniversary models, Wharfedale celebrates its 80th anniversary with the Denton monitor. Audio history buffs will recognize the model name which goes back decades and decades. If that mahogany finish looks good to you (and it looked great to us) act fast because only 2000 pairs will be made. The one-inch soft dome tweeter and six-inch Kevlar woofer were made especially for this model in IAG's Shenzhen factory, which is capable of making every part, however tiny, that goes into its products. Also shown were two UPC subs including a dual 10-inch powered by 500 watts and a dual 8-inch powered by 350 watts. They come with remote control for volume, crossover, and phase and you can turn off the front panel display if it annoys you. We wish all subs were so eager to please. And we wish all speakers were so drop-dead gorgeous.
Extruded aluminum enclosures and Imagine Series lineage are only part of what make the Imagine W1 and W3 on-wall speakers special. In addition to being voiced like the great-sounding Imagine Mini, they're also coordinated the way designer Paul Barton says surround speaker systems should be: with the center having twice the output of the left and right combined. So the W3 center ($1200/each) has a sensitivity rating of 89dB, versus the 86dB of the W1 ($600/each), and the 3dB difference enables the center to play twice as loud with the same power. Of course, in practice, you'll level them to have the same output, but your amp will have more headroom for the center at dynamically challenging moments. Elsewhere in the Imagine line, the Imagine Mini Center ($700/each) is now available to match the Imagine Mini satellite. All of the above are shipping October. PSB also announced CustomSound in-wall and in-ceiling speakers of which the most interesting is the C-SUR, whose angled baffle contains enough drivers to run both side- and back-surround channels. Shipping end of December. Also shown was the second-gen VISO 1 AP compact audio system, which eliminates the original VISO 1's dock in favor of AirPlay for $600. It ships first quarter of 2013. The original VISO 1 remains available.
After yesterday's Media Preview appearance, the GoldenEar SuperCinema 3D Array soundbar offered smooth performance with dynamically challenging movie material and the broad on- and off-axis imaging afforded by its folded ribbon tweeter. We'd say it's worth the $999 pricetag.
The long-awaited debut of the Atlantic Technology H-PAS PowerBar 235 will come in about two weeks, when it will finally ship, offering the most extended bass you can get in a bar thanks to ingenious multi-chambered enclosure design. Numerous tweaks over the last few months include the addition of DTS decoding, and Atlantic makes a big point of having on-board Dolby Digital decoding as well, as opposed to counting on a conversion to PCM (which we're told some new LG TVs won't do). More tweaks: vocal enhancement to push dialogue forward, left-minus-right surround expansion, a less aggressively illuminated display that fades to black after confirming setting changes, and replacement of the see-through grille for something more discreet.
The Tannoy people say they fine-tune their systems for music first and everything else second. We think that's a good attitude. The new Definition Series features "dual concentric" driver arrays with the center physically positioned and time-aligned to the acoustic center of the mid-woofer, reducing phase issues to nil, we were told. Internal bracing uses "differential materials technology" including a free-floating structure to protect the crossover. These speakers all have dual woofers with models including the 10-inch DC-10T and 8-inch DC-8T towers, 6-inch DC-LCR, and 12-inch Definition sub. The 7.1-channel system demoed—with big towers in front, smaller ones behind, center, and sub—totals $29,600 and it sure did sound musical with the evil-singing-cockatoo clip from Rio.
As lossless surround addicts, we deplore pricey soundbars that don't support HDMI and therefore lack lossless surround compatibility. Definitive Technology does it right with the SoloCinema XTR, as you can see in the picture, with three HDMI ins and one out in addition to optical and analog. The 5.1-channel bar is the first we've heard of to feature the Dolby Volume volume-leveling and low-volume listening mode: a huge plus. Three aluminum tweeters and three pairs of three-inch convex aluminum woofers are under the hood. The outboard sub has an eight-inch woofer in a flat enclosure that can go against a wall or under a sofa, with three spacer feet. In the demo the bar produced surprisingly discernible and well-imaged surround effects to the side and slightly behind the listener. The remote's highly tactile design helps you feel around for the right button in the dark. Product started shipping in small quantities this month but won't hit its stride till October, at $1999.
The Paradigm Millenia CT system is a smaller 2.1-channel version of the amazing-sounding MilleniaOne 5.0 sat/sub set, which earned a rave from us when we reviewed it rather late in the game. What appears to be a single module in the pic is actually an Apple TV box sitting atop a similarly proportioned Paradigm module which accepts input from both Apple TV and your optical-digital signal source of choice. Amplification is in the sub. Pricing is $699 with sub; there is also a larger MilleniaOne CT at the same price without sub. Both ship September. Paradigm also showed a Soundtrack 2.1-channel soundbar ($799, shipping October) with two one-inch aluminum tweeters, two 4.5-inch mid-woofers, two passive radiators, and outboard eight-inch side-firing sub.
Paradigm is greeting its 30th anniversary with two extraordinary limited-edition speakers, the monitor-size Inspiration (only 300 to be made) and the Tribute tower (only 200 to be made). The camera flash made their dark gloss cherry enclosures gleam red though under ordinary lights they were duskier. Under the surface are seven layers of medium-density fiberboard. The tweeters are pricey beryllium and the seven-inch woofers are C-PAL carbon-anodized pure aluminum. The demo featuring the tower wowed us with awesome, effortlessly extended bass, sweet tangy brass, and a close-up and personal vocal perspective. While a companion center was not shown, there's probably something suitable in the Reference line, so there's no reason not to contemplate using these babies in a surround system. The monitor and tower ship in late October for $1299/each and $2999/each respectively. Get 'em while you can.
It's about time KEF offered a product specifically for the growing computer-speaker audience. Though the X300A's ship date is not imminent, the preview demo made us want a pair right away, with the tight imaging we expect of a Uni-Q speaker and good top-to-bottom proportioning. It's KEF's first self-powered speaker, with powerful Class AB amplification and USB bridging the gap from one speaker to another, and each one having its own separate digital-to-analog converter. You might see it in December for $799/pair.