CES: Highlights from Venetian Floor 30 - Loudspeakers

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CES: Highlights from Venetian Floor 30 - Loudspeakers

For those Hi-Fi+ readers who might never have had the opportunity to attend CES, let me try to give you some idea of the sheer magnitude of the event.  CES sprawls across four large convention facilities in Las Vega, NV, USA: the Westgate Hotel Exposition Hall, the Sands Expo Hall, the huge Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), the Venetian Hotel Exposition Hall, plus four and a half floors of the upper floors of the Venetian hotel. In short, when Joni Mitchell wrote ‘Miles of Aisles’, she could easily have had a trade show like this one in mind.

Happily for Hi-Fi+, most CES high-end audio exhibits are clustered in the aforementioned upper floors of the Venetian Hotel, although by tradition some high-end headphone manufacturers continue to exhibit in the LVCC’s South Hall. Added to this, there are also unofficial off piste high-end demonstration areas at the Mirage Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel, and elsewhere. To conceptualise the sheer size of CES, it helps to know that the Venetian Hotel’s floors each have three long, double-loaded corridors, so that each one of the main exhibit floors might accommodate as many if not more exhibitors than one would typically see at the National Audio Show at Whittlebury Hall in the UK.

This year Hi-Fi+ decided to try a new approach, assigning representatives to cover specific geographic areas for reporting purposes. Editor Alan Sircom took the Venetian Expo Hall and floors 31, 34, 35 (where the upper floors have fewer but larger exhibit suites), the off-expo maze that is the Mirage Hotel, and acted as back-up photographer when things got a little too dark for compact cameras and iPhones; yours truly (Publisher Chris Martens) took the more densely populated Venetian floor 30 plus key LVCC South Hall headphone exhibits; and new Hi-Fi+ contributor Sydney Schips handled the also very densely populated Venetian floor 29. Each of us will be preparing show reports.

CES: Highlights from Venetian Floor 30 - Loudspeakers

In any report like this one, despite our best efforts, it is inevitable that some worthy manufacturers will go unmentioned. Please know that this is not by intent and no slights are intended; more often than not, it’s simply a matter of too much show to see and hear, coupled with not enough time in the day. Still, we try our best…

For the sake of clarity, I have broken my report down by product categories, starting with this segment, which focuses on loudspeakers.

Loudspeakers

Acapella Audio Arts
The German firm Acapella Audio Arts was showing its handmade Cellini hybrid horn-type loudspeaker ($56,000/pair), which uses a driver array consisting of two isobaric-loaded 10-inch dynamic woofers, the firm’s signature ‘hyper spherical’ midrange horn, and Acapella’s Ion-type TW 1 tweeter.

The result is an effortlessly expressive loudspeaker that exhibits few if any signs of typical horn-type colourations.  


Acoustic Zen
Many readers know of Acoustic Zen’s famous Adagio and Crescendo floorstanding speakers, yet may not be aware that there is a third, even larger Acoustic Zen model called the Maestro ($43,000/pair). As you can see from our photo, the Maestro literally towers over its designer, Robert Lee. The very tall loudspeaker features a centrally positioned, horn-loaded ribbon tweeter, two 5-inch ‘high midrange’ driver, one 8-inch ‘low midrange’ driver, and two 10-inch transmission line-loaded woofers.

Driven by stunningly beautiful Triode Corporation monoblock amps, the Maestro produced a gloriously sumptuous sound that was beautiful but not ‘lush’ in the pejorative sense of the term—a sound that epitomised what the late, great jazz saxophonist Paul Desmond used to call a ‘dry martini’ sound. This big speaker floored me with its ability to sound highly engaging and seductive, yet highly relaxing, all at the same time.