This metal grille has a lotus pattern that is said to be acoustically transparent. You'll find it in Morel's new Sopran tower ($12,000/pair) and Octave 6 ($6500/pair for the tower, $3500/pair for the monitor).
One definition of high end is a product that caters to a high end clientele. That sent Meridian in search of "a speaker that doesn't look like a speaker." The result is the charmingly cone-shaped M6. In the tradition of a company that pioneered powered speakers before they became fashionable, it juices each woofer with 350 watts and each full-range driver (not tweeter) with another 125. Yet its wide off-axis response demonstrates good social skills. Shipping in late February for $9000/pair. Also at the Meridian booth was the second Sooloos iPad app, which takes a slicker and more graphic (that is, less text-based) approach than the original.
MK's M7 speaker is the first—anyone's, not just MK's—to receive THX Compact Speaker certification. That means it produces sound pressure levels of up to 105dB in rooms up to 1000 feet and at distances of up to eight feet. Price $1000/pair. MK also showed a few prototypes including the MP9 three-channel soundbar, available in white or black gloss for $1000, and an in-wall sub with dual eight-inch drivers in an aluminum-steel enclosure with 400-watt hybrid amp. Look for both in June or July.
The coolest trick at CES was Summit Semiconductor's WiSA (Wireless Speaker & Audio) technology and the way it could literally move the sweet spot from the usual front-and-center position off to the side or to the back of the room. It was uncanny. WiSA spreads uncompressed high-res signals wirelessly among powered speakers. You're looking at the power/receiver board that makes it work. WiSA will surface first in Aperion products. The loudspeaker industry would be crazy not to jump on this, especially since it can be built into speaker systems selling for less than $1000.
Aerial Acoustics has long been known for great-sounding speakers but not, until now, for those with high sensitivity or efficiency ratings. The Model 7 changes that with an efficiency rating of 89dB, something that can run off a decent receiver with, say, 50 watts per channel. Price $9850/pair.
As Dynaudio's first wireless speaker, the Xeo stays right up to date with a significant CES 2012 trend. Getting that capability with the usual sweet Dynaudio sound will cost you $4500/pair for the floorstander or $2300/pair for the stand-mount. However, if you add additional pairs, you can reduce those speaker prices by the $350 cost of the transmitter/receiver kit. The signal is uncompressed, naturally.
The new McIntosh MX121 pre-pro is, at $6000, half the price of its predecessor. And it's got AirPlay!—along with the updated HDMI connectivity and video versatility you'd expect. McIntosh also did a very impressive two-channel demo featuring its XR100 floorstanding speaker, a four-way design featuring a super-tweeter, two mid-tweeters, eight midranges, and four woofers for a mere $10,000/pair. Build quality is over the top: the tweeters have the kind of voice coils you'd expect to see mated with a 10-inch woofer. Surging strings were detailed in an almost three-dimensional sense. If you think McIntosh is just another pretty fascia, you should hear these speakers. Also shown was the Anniversary 275 stereo tube amp, so called because only 275 will be made.
The new Revel Performa 3 speaker line nestles snugly in the middle niche between the higher-end Ultima and more affordable Concerto. Ten models (shown here in prototype form) will include two monitors, three towers, two centers, surround, and two subs. Most will ship this summer except for one tower and one sub, due in fall. Enclosures now have curved sides. The floorstanders have rounded backs while the monitors have straight backs. New driver arrays and waveguides make things even more interesting. By the way, one of the most satisfying demos we've heard at CES so far was the Revel W780 in-wall speaker. For $600/each you get strong bass extension and a midrange that's kind to vocalists.