Price: $2,500 At A Glance: Deep, powerful bass • Sweet, extended treble and uncolored midrange • Can be unforgiving at high levels
H-PAS the Bass
For the past two years, Atlantic Technology has been working on a new speaker designed around what the company claims is a revolutionary bass-loading technique. Invented by Philip Clements of Solus/Clements Loudspeakers, H-PAS (for Hybrid Pressure Acceleration System) has intrigued trade-show goers since Atlantic started sneak-peeking it in late 2009. The speaker, the Atlantic Technology AT-1, is now in full production.
For a company known for its dedication to producing outstanding home theater speaker systems (its 8200e system won a 2008 Home Theater Award), launching what is, at present, essentially a standalone two-channel model might seem a bit odd. But Atlantic is so pumped about the potential of this design approach that the effort to get the AT-1 to market has been highly focused.
Price: $21,480 At A Glance: Highs to die for, uncolored midrange, tight bass • Cinematic soundstage • Flawless build quality
Going for the Beryllium
Focal first became a household audio name in the 1980s. Located in Saint-Etienne, France, the company furnished driver units for a number of well-known speaker manufacturers, among them Wilson Audio Specialties. Wilson continues to use an exclusive version of a Focal inverted titanium-dome tweeter. With that exception, Focal has long since kept all of its driver production in-house for its own complete lineup of loudspeakers for the consumer, professional, automotive, and multimedia markets.
The new Thiel floorstanding SCS4T (about $3700/pair), mentioned again further down in this report, is a modest speaker by Thiel standards. The single coaxial driver has the advantage of coincidence. That is, the tweeter is mounted coaxially with the woofer, so the two drive units do not produce comb filtering dips in the speaker's response at off axis angles. Coaxial drivers are also used in more upmarket models from Thiel, and also by KEF and Tannoy, but otherwise are relatively rare.
Yes, I heard more dramatically impressive sound at the show, but the Thiel room, one of the first I visited, sounded so honest and right that for me it represented the sort of value that most of the higher-end products could not manage. Of course, a pair of Thiel subwoofers were helping it along in the deep bass!
And unlike nearly all of the speakers heard at the Venetian, the SCS4T is ready for home theater. The older, stand-mount SCS4 (about $2400/pair, available in singles) should be a good match. It uses the same coaxial driver and can be used as a matching center channel, even mounted on its side (a trick that other non-coaxial 2-way speakers cannot do without sonic consequences.
As with the Thiels, we mentioned these Sony speakers earlier in this report. But also like the Thiels, they deserve another mention. No other speakert impressed me as much as this one did at the show. I'm enough of a show veteran to realize just how much the room, associated components, and program material can effect the sound of a system, but under the conditions in the Sony room, in a 2-channel setup (four of the speakers were also being used in a surround system in a different room) they impressed me about as much as any speaker ever has at a trade show. The sound was punchy, dynamic, and full-bodied without being overblown. And they made both modern and classical music sound realfew speakers can do as well on both.
The SS-AR1's (I sense an homage in that name) have been on the market in Japan since 2006, but have recently been upgraded in the voicing and crossover department.
But will we ever see them for sale here in the states? Possibly, but this show appeared to be a trial run to judge dealer interest. That's been a problem with Sony speakers in the past, and there have been some very good ones. High-end dealers are reluctant to take on Sony speakers, and Sony dealers are reluctant to take on speakers this expensivecurrently about $27,000/pair in Japan.
Associated equipment included Pass Laboratories monoblock solid state amps and an EMM Labs (Meitner) Reference SACD/CED player.
Another potential best-of-show system has to include the Heritage Series Getz, a new model from Sweden's Marten loudspeakers. With their all ceramic drivers from Acuton (apart from a passive radiator, one of the large cones visible in the photo) they were very different in balance from the Sony speakers, above. Faster on their feet and even more sparklingly detailed, but less weighty and majestic sounding. And at $20,000, cheaper, though not exactly a blue-light special.
While I can't say I had any complaints about the sound of this system featuring Lamm tubed electronics and Wilson Alexanria X-2 MkII, at around $675,000 (2-channels only, of course) it was a bit, um, over the top.
I've never heard of the Italian loudspeaker company B2, but their Titan, which stands about 65-inches tall and weighs in at 286 lbs, sounded spectacular in a very large room. The mids and highs were particularly transluscent, thanks to a pair of ceramic-coned midranges from Accuton and a 6" ribbon tweeter. The smaller speaker on the right in the photo is the Hebe (not heard). Estimated retail prices as of show time were about $75,000/pair for the Titan and $19,500 per pair for the Hebe.
Most of our budgets won't stretch to the $18,000/pair level of these floorstanders, but with their Nextel series drivers from Seas of Norway, each speaker with one 7-inch midrange driver, one 10-1/4-inch long excursion woofer, and a 1.1-inch HEXADYM™ magnet tweeter, the Pass Pabs SR-2s sounded mighty sweet.
Hardly cheap at a mere $11,800 per pair, but a bargain compared to some of the above systems, Joseph Audio's new Perspective floor standers are an outgrowth of the company's $7000 pulsar stand-mount monitor, with an added 5" woofer in a larger cabinet. They sounded superb, with far more bass than I expected.
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