Floorstanding Speakers from $2,000 to $20K @ CES 2009

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Floorstanding Speakers from $2,000 to $20K @ CES 2009

For many reasons this was a CES to remember. And although this is not the best of times for some, there was still a lot of fertile ground to cover in this broad segment—a task that was made all the more rewarding by the riches I encountered in virtually every category. Unless otherwise noted, all prices are per pair.

Floorstanders Big and Bigger (Editor's Note: This is excerpted from NG's CES Report)

The McIntosh XR200 is a more approachable “real” room speaker that takes its cues from big Mac’s flagship XRT towers. With a trio of 8" woofers per side, subsonic bass was a no-brainer. It’s the 19-element titanium midrange and tweeter array that takes center stage for this three-way, bass-reflex design with a clever top-mounted port. Collectively the twelve 2" inverted dome mids (each with huge 2" voice coils) and seven 1" dome tweeters act like large concentric transducer for excellent in-room uniformity, wide dispersion, and a rich sweet spot. Dynamics were impressive, bass response alarmingly deep yet percussion had the delicacy and air that has the flavor of reality. Shipping TBA. Target price: $16,000.

The Coincident Speaker Technology Total Victory IV is sporting all new drivers, and fewer of them than its predecessor. Fast, energetic, and with terrific immediacy especially on brass and winds, it has a larger ribbon (extending an octave lower) along with twin 7" mid/bass drivers and a pair of 12" side-firing subs. Response is flat to 22Hz according to designer Israel Blume. After the impressive demo, I don’t doubt it. Price: $15,000.
 

Improving the breed is part and parcel for the high end. Few are as successful and original as the sounds and shapes that stem from the imagination of Anthony Gallo. The new Gallo Acoustics Reference 3.5, based on the popular and critically well-received Reference 3.1, is like its forebear a four-driver, three-way. Like the original Ref 3 it still performs crossover-less from 125Hz on up. The biggest improvement is its custom ceramic-coated-aluminum 10-inch woofer. It’s also a smidge easier to drive at 87dB sensitivity. An all-new aluminum “outrigger”-style base not only improves stability but impact and image focus. Its sonics are tighter and more open, with knockout coherence. Its virtually baffle-free design creates a stunning soundstage with even greater realism thanks to the improved image height and superb vertical dispersion of what remains a relatively short floorstander. Look for it in Q3; Estimated price: $5800.

The RBH 8300-SE/R should be a floorstander to reckon with in the coming year. It’s a hefty (118 lbs.) six-driver, three-way reflex design that boasts powerful cinema-style punch and extension with some bona fide audiophile finesse and delicacy. Available as the 8300-SE ($7999) with a standard Vifa tweeter or as the upgraded “R” version, which adds a higher-end ScanSpeak tweeter and more exotic phase-plug mid/bass transducers. Due to ship at the end of Q1. Price: $8450.

I was knocked out by the speed and transparency of the Volent compact line at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest last year but the VL-3.5 beta moves into the “bigs” running a 1” ribbon super tweeter, a 1.5” ceramic tweeter, a titanium-sandwich mid/bass, and a titanium woofer. Price est. $18,000.

Finn and Leonore, the two new three-way, bass-reflex offerings from Verity Audio revealed wonderful promise with open sonics and rich, warm tonality, not to mention exquisitely lacquered finishes. At 39.5” tall, the small footprint Finn and the premium 42.5” Leonore both sport high sensitivity for easy low-power-amplifier matching. Priced at $5995 and $15,995 respectively.

Channeling the spirit of the Magico Mini II couldn’t have been an easy task but the new V2 seemingly does the impossible. This 2½-way, 120-pound floorstander is dynamically explosive, yet as sensitive as a hummingbird’s wings. Transparency and imaging are kings; the speaker brims with dimensionality. In spite of its cost it still sounds like a bargain. Price: $18,000.

Finally, this was the first CES that I was able to experience Amphion’s flagship entry, the Krypton2–a three-way, four-driver vented design with a loaded tweeter and a cardioid dispersion pattern in the midrange to reduce and control room reflections. This Finnish beauty exemplified full-scale image cues and soundstage and remained one of the best demos of the show. Price: $19,900

(Editor's Note: For more of Neil's coverage of Loudspeakers from $2,000 to $20,000, see the upcoming issue of "The Absolute Sound.")