The KEF exhibit was dwarfed in the Omni’s high-ceiled, lobby-level ballroom, but it didn’t seem to bother the cutting edge Blade loudspeaker–TAS’ current cover story-a splendid, seamless performer with enough punch to match with the room’s voluminous space. But even more significant was the opportunity to have a first listen to the new KEF R-Series speakers, the first line to employ Blade-derived coincident technology at real world prices. I heard the three-way compact R-300 $1800 and R-700 floorstander $3600 (pictured below). They share the same drivers but the R-700 adds an additional 6.5-inch mid-bass and of course, the floorstanding enclosure. These are articulate, high-powered, non-edgy performers that signaled their strengths even in the massive environs of the room.they were playing in. Naturally the floorstander had the greater bass gravitas but the compact was superbly balanced and a stunning achievement at its price point. The system was powered courtesy of Ayre electronics-player, preamp and monoblocks-plus an Oracle/SME analog front end Audience cabling.
The innovative audio engineering and first-class mod experts at Soundsmith routinely present some of the most sonically gratifying and musically compelling exhibits. Once again they were featuring the compact two-way giant-killers, the Monarch and Dragonfly loudspakers driven by Soundsmith electronics including the MCP2 phono stage ($699 with continuously variabl loading) and the HE-150 Mosfet zero feedback amps (basic configuration, $13k).
Aboard the superb VPI HRX, LPs were spinning and sounding gorgeous in no small part due to Soundsmith’s latest moving iron statement cartridge, the Hyperion. Not cheap at $7k but then who else offers a ten-year, bumper-to-bumper warranty?
Scaena (below) fielded the Spiritus 3.4 loudspeaker system ($110k) and sonically, spirited it was. Beyond the dynamic energy and full range extension it threw a huge soundstage filled with vast three-dimensional riches that made this an especially rewarding system for listening to full blown orchestral music. Each tower contains 12 midrange drivers and seven ribbon tweeters. No apologies needed in the low bass department as LF duties from 100 Hz down were cleanly and robustly handled by four 18-inch “barrel” subs. The digital front end was a dCS Scarlatti stack. The line stage was the battery operated Veloce Audio LS-1 at $18,000 and amplification was courtesy of the Conrad-Johnson ART mono blocs at $35,000 per pair. The Silver Circle 5.0 SE conditioned the power, $7500. Cabling was Nordost Odin.A superb system for those with the real estate that will allow them to shine.