CES: Highlights from Venetian Floor 30 - Loudspeakers


The Canadian firm Paradigm took CES as its opportunity to introduce its new Prestige range of loudspeakers, which—for those Paradigm mavens up to speed on the firm’s nomenclature system—are member of the Reference family and that slot in to the range above the present Studio models and just below the top-of-the-line Signature models. The intent behind the Prestige range was to provide a level of overall fit, finish, and quality of build noticeably higher than that of the already very good Studio models, but, more importantly, unexpectedly high levels of performance.

Paradigm achieved these results through a process more evolutionary than revolutionary, but a careful listening session convinced me there is more to these speakers than at first meets the eye. To give some idea of the scope of the Prestige range, the largest model is the 95F floorstander ($5,000/pair) while the entry point would be the 15B bookshelf monitor ($1,595/pair). A powered sub, called the 2000 SW, will also be along shortly.

PMC took CES as its opportunity for the US rollout of its new twenty.26 floorstanding loudspeaker ($11,000/pair)—one influenced in no small part by PMC’s spectacular Fact.12 loudspeaker, but one that costs considerably less and that might actually be a better fit for some small-to-mid-size rooms. The key question that remains is whether the twenty.26 will also be able to channel much of the exquisite, wide-open, and wonderfully natural sound of its bigger brother (let’s hope it does). A Hi-Fi+ review of the twenty.26 will be coming soon.

The Scandinavian firm Raidho surprised many by rolling our its all-new X-3 floorstanding loudspeaker ($30,000/pair, and the largest of the firm’s X0series models)—an entry that seems to be positioned in fairly direct competition to the firm’s own critically acclaimed two-way D-1 standmount monitors. But the longer one listens, the more apparent it is that the models perhaps are designed to appeal to different listeners (or at least to listeners with different tastes).

The X-3 is a relatively tall, slim, and more or less full-range floorstanding whose driver array consists of a centrally positioned ribbon tweeter, two pairs of small-diameter (100mm) ceramic mid-bass drivers, and a side-firing woofer. Where the D-1 (and the C1.1, for that matter) are all about subtlety, purity, detail, and emotional nuance, the X-3 (which is also quite subtle, detailed, and nuanced in its own right) has a slightly more organic and naturalistic presentation, has greater dynamic clout and bass extension, and is perhaps just a smidgeon more tolerant of good but not great playback material. As a result, the X-3 can A) crank when necessary, B) boogie on demand, C) generate powerful low bass as needed, and D) serve up traditional Raidho sonic virtues in a package that is serious, but not overly self-serious, and whose grin-inducing ‘fun factor’ is undeniable.

For CES the Salt Lake City, Utah-based firm RBH was showing (in nearly finalised form) a speaker I had only seen once before in very early prototype form; namely, the RBH-Status two-way Voce Fina standmount monitor ($15,000/pair with stands and solid stone plinths included). What makes the speaker so eye catching is that its enclosures are made of imposing, solid slabs of either polished granite or marble (talk about high-density materials!).

When I first saw RBH’s Voce Fina prototypes, I thought they might be intended as marketing gimmicks—speakers designed to attract lots of ooh/ahh commentary regarding their audacious construction materials, but little more. Man, was I ever wrong. A brief introductory listen convinced me that the Voce Fina is capable of a precise and unexpectedly authoritative sound with very good frequency extension and dynamic expression considering the speaker’s compact two-way monitor format. The Voce Finas are well worth hearing, even if you aren’t really in the market, if only to hear what an honest-to-goodness ‘rock’ speaker really sounds like.

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