Driver manufacturer SB Acoustics showed an array of their drivers, available both to manufacturers (either stock or custom) and DIY enthusiasts. Shown here is a new SB 8-inch woofer with an aluminum cone. It resembles (and may be) the woofer seen in some of the new Revel Performa line on display at the show and available in mid 2012.
I'm fascinated by the drive units manufacturers select or design for their speakers. Here and in the following entries I'll cover a few of them. Shown in the photo above are the midrange and tweeter in the new Aerial Acoustics 7. The midrange is made by SB Acoustics and the tweeter by Scan-speak, customized for Aerial.
Wisdom launched several new in-wall speaker systems that would be well-suited to a home theater setting, particularly one using a perforated screen. The demoed units were the P4i ($1500 each) and L8i ($5000 each). While neither could match the sheer majesty of the Wisdom LS4s, both of them (with a smaller Wisdom subwoofer) provided sound of a quality I never thought possible from small in-walls,m with none of the usual in-wall colorations. One caveat here is that the temporary walls used in the demonstration may not be typical of real walls, either in the size of their internal cavities (the Insights do not use a backbox) or in rigidity and lack of resonances (the walls here appeared to be made of MDF, not the sheetrock of most residential construction).
This free-standing version of the Wisdom Audio LS4 is designed to be tri-amped, together with Wisdom's own electronic crossover. $100,000, and the customer must supply the six amplifier channels needed. As heard with Audio Research amps and a pair of Wisdom's own monster subwoofers, they did sound magnificent. The speakers can also be wall-mounted, and in fact Wisdom has often demonstrated its systems in the past in a home-theater setup, though the demo here was strictly 2-channel.
Fortunately, RBH does make speakers for the rest of us, I didn't get sufficient information on the model shown here, but it appears to be an update on the RBH 8300-SE which sells for $9700. That's hardly cheap, but not outrageous in today's high-end speaker marketplace.
Take me to your leader. The 8T is the leader, or at least the first entry in a new line of speakers that's an offshoot of RBH. The four midrange drivers in the upper array have beryllium cones. The tweeter is a beryllium dome tweeter from Scan-Speak. At $50,000/pair, however, they're not for most of us, though the layout is vaguely similar to a B&W home theater speaker system from the late 1990s. The shape of the woofer enclosure here also suggests an intriguing configuration for a floor-mounted center channel speaker for use below a projection screen—though no center speaker is likely to match the 8T.
Available either alone ($1000) or with a small subwoofer and surround satellites ($2000), GoldenEar's new SuperCinema 3D Array is an unpowered soundbar (requires an external, customer-provided AVR) that appears to effectively compensate for the limited spacing of its left/right channel drivers by a second set of internal drivers to "effectively cancel out [the] crosstalk distortion between the left and right channel[s]." I spend some time listening to it, and was surprised at how effective it was. More importantly, its overall performance, while no substitute for good, well separated conventional speakers (of which GoldenEar makes more than its well-received share) was remarkable and well worth considering by those who need a space-saving, home theater solution.
You will see a few asides in these postings that are not speaker-related, but interesting nonetheless. Shown in the photo is the first preamp ever produced by audio specialist Audio Research, the SP-3 from the mid 1970s. It was on static display in the Audio Research room. Audio Research founder William Z. Johnson passed away in 2011. Johnson and his company were key players in the birthing of high-end.
Some audiophiles cherish tubes, and even modestly powered tube amplifiers. From Napa Acoustics (which appears to hail from China, not a valley in California) comes the 40 watts per channel MM4 hybrid integrated amp (tube input stage, solid state output stage), at the amazingly low price (for those who know how much these things can cost) of $699. A larger, 35wpc all tube MT34 will set you back $1199.
PSB is one high-end manufacturer that hasn't forgotten the rest of us. The new Imagine T2 isn't cheap at $3500/pair, but offers a lot of…um… imaginative engineering borrowed from the company's higher-end Synchrony line. It's also is capable of amazingly good sound, if a brief audition was any indication. A matching center is likely later, but the T2 itself is available now.