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.
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).
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.
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.
There are specialty manufacturers that make various parts for loudspeaker drivers, and when ordering specialty drivers it is possible for a manufacturer of finished speakers to select the cone, surround, frame, voice-coil, etc. from various sources and have these parts assembled by a finished driver specialist. That's way it's possible to experiment with different configurations without the expense of fabricating the individual (very expensive) parts only to discard them if the results prove unsatisfactory.
That may or may not be how Wilson or any other specific manufacturer orders its custom drivers, only that it's possible. Note how the midrange driver used in the Sasha from Wilson Audio (and in variations in most of that company's newer speakers) at first glance resembles the driver from SEAS shown below. However, if you look closely the resemblance is mainly in the cone material, with significant differences in the dust cap, frame, surround, and presumably the internal structure as well.
Welcome to the wonderful world of high-end audio. After two eventful days scoping out the latest in video at the Las Vegas Convention Center venue I retired to the relatively relaxing confines of the Venetian Hotel, where I could listen to some tunes played back on deliciously succulent 2-channel gear. Yes, mainly 2-channel. There were a few interesting surround setups, such as in the Atlantic Technology booth where they were showing off the new H-PAS bookshelf speaker, and even a few rare full home theater setups, such as in the Wolf Cinema room. But the Venetian was mostly a 2-channel world.
But an interesting one. I wanted to scope out loudspeakers in particular, some of which have also been covered here by Home Theater's audio tech editor, Mark Fleischmann, and others. But what follows here is what caught my eye…er, my ears.
In the photo above is the new Magico Q7, the largest offering from that loudspeaker specialist. Each speaker is 750 lbs, 60-inches high, and 32-inches deep. A pair of them will set you back $165,000. That’s three zeros, and is not a typo. But they sounded astonishing, as well they should. Don't look for a review of five of them in Home Theater any time soon. In fact, Magico, like many high-end speaker makers, does not offer a center channel speaker.
One manufacturer of pricey speakers (but not nearly as pricey as Magico) that does make center channels is Revel. The model shown here is the news Performa C208 $1700). The entire Revel Performa line has been revised (for mid-2012 delivery), with two floorstanders, two bookshelf models, two centers, a surround, and a subwoofer.