CES: Highlights from Venetian Floor 30 - Loudspeakers

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Categories:
Audio,
Floorstanding,
Stand-mount,
Subwoofers

Dynaudio
The Danish speaker maker Dynaudio took significant steps forward with several of its model ranges at CES. Focusing first on passive loudspeaker, the firm introduced a new Contour S range, including the lovely Contour S3.4LE floorstander ($7,850/pair) and S14.LE standmount monitors ($4,250/pair). Both were sounding very good as driven by Octave electronics.

But perhaps even more progress was made with various types of self-powered (and in several cases wireless) loudspeakers. Personal favourites of mine were the compact Excite X14A self-powered, two-way monitors ($2,000/pair), which sport built-in 50 Wpc amplifiers for each of their drive units. The little Excites simply sounded ‘right’, which is a comment I don’t offer lightly. 

Then building on the wireless concepts pioneered with its Xeo range of speakers, Dynaudio offered a new, upscale range of Focus XD-series self-powered wireless models, which to my ears sounded even more refined and sophisticated than the Xeo models. The Focus XD speakers include built-in amplifiers that deliver 150 Wpc to each of their drive units, can handle direct DAC inputs at up to 192/24 resolutions, and wireless inputs at up to 96/24 resolutions. Models include the Focus 600XD ($13,500/pair), Focus 400XD ($11,000/pair), and Focus 200XD ($7,000/pair).

Last but not least, Dynaudio previewed a new wireless, Bluetooth enabled, connection module called simply Dynaudio Connect ($500 by the end of Q1, 2015); the module can be used either with Focus XD or Xeo modules and supports Bluetooth or wireless connections at up to 96/24 resolution, operating under a Wi-Fi app.

ESS
In the US, ESS is perhaps best known as the firm from which the late Dr. Oskar Heil launched loudspeakers that incorporated Heil’s ground-breaking ‘Air Motion Transformer’—a driver whose topology continues to fascinate and attract speaker designers to this day.

But what (some) people may not realise is that ESS is still very much alive and well and building both an updated present-day replica of the original ESS-AMT1 loudspeaker, but also launch a quite competitively priced range of new ESS AMT models, including the AMT 8 ($3,200/pair), AMT 10 ($3,900/pair), and AMT 12 ($4,400/pair). Interestingly, ESS speaker use the Heil AMT driver exactly as Dr. Heil originally did; that is, as a dipole radiator (whereas many contemporary designers use front firing monopole AMT drivers, only).

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