CES: Highlights from Venetian Floor 30 - Loudspeakers


Golden Ear
Hard on the heels of its critically acclaimed Triton One floorstander (with built-in self-powered subwoofers), GoldenEar launched its most ambitious passive loudspeaker to date: namely, the Triton Five floorstander ($1998/pair). The deceptively simple driver array of the Triton Five is comprised of a Heil-type HVFR tweeter flanked by two very wide bandwidth 6.5-inch mid-bass drivers, with the low-end augmented by a two pairs of large surface area, horizontally-opposed, and thus vibration cancelling low-frequency passive radiator. Listeners unfamiliar with the GoldenEar product line heard the Triton Fives and assumed—purely on the basis of sound quality—that the Fives must surely have been the nearly $5,000/pair Triton Ones. Imagine their surprise, then, when they learned they were actually listening a set of tower-type speakers that could be had for a tick under $2000/pair.

Moreover, GoldenEar also debuted its most capable and ambitious subwoofer to date—one whose colourful name is the SuperSub XXL ($1999.99/ea.). The inventive SuperSub XXL features two active 12-inch bass drivers set in a vibration-cancelling, horizontally-opposed configuration, supplemented by two 12.75-inch x 14.5-inch passive radiators set in a patent-pending vibration cancelling, vertically-opposed configuration. Providing propulsion is a 1600-wat DSP controlled subwoofer amplifier.

During a brief listen what struck me most was not the sub’s powerful and deep low-frequency output, which I expected, but rather it’s unusually high degrees of tautness, transient speed, and control, which I did not expect.

King Sound
King Sound specialises in electrostatic and hybrid electrostatic loudspeakers and for CES centred its demonstration on one of the middle models in its range: namely, the Prince III full-range electrostats ($9,995), which were ably driven by Hegel electronics. It seems to me that King’s speakers have progressively got better over the last several years, with the Prince III in particular standing as a sort of ‘sweet spot’ in the range.

The Prince III is big enough to produce meaningful bass extension and satisfying dynamics, but not so large as to be visually overwhelming within the room. Moreover, through the clever expedient of placing requisite panel power electronics, etc., in outboard boxes, the Prince III panels are themselves relatively light (under 40 lbs.) and easy to reposition within the room.

Lawrence Audio
On firm I believe is richly deserving of more widespread exposure to the worldwide high-end audio community is Lawrence Audio—a Taiwanese firm that specialises in developing hybrid dynamic/ribbon driver equipped loudspeakers. A perfect case in point would be the primary Lawrence model on demonstration at CES; namely, the Double Bass floorstanding loudspeaker ($28,000/pair). Note, please, that almost all Lawrence models are named after stringed instruments, which the speakers somewhat resemble albeit in an angular and somewhat futuristic way, so the term ‘Double Bass’ is more an indicator of relative size (fairly large, in this case) rather than of low frequency output.

The driver array found in the Double Bass consists of a comparatively small ribbon tweeter, two mid-sized ribbon-type midrange drivers, a roughly 8-inch dynamic-type mid-bass driver, and a larger roughly 13-inch woofer. What struck me about the Double Bass (and had caught my ear regarding other Lawrence models) is the uncannily smooth integration of the ribbon and dynamic-type driver elements. It is this quality that give Lawrence speakers a best-of-two-worlds character, combining the delicacy, speed, and precision of ribbons with the typically more impactful and naturally organic sound of dynamic drivers.

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