CES: Highlights from Venetian Floor 30 - Loudspeakers

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Categories:
Audio,
Floorstanding,
Stand-mount,
Subwoofers

Scansonic
CES attendees were pointedly reminded of the not well known fact that the premium brand Raidho and the mid-priced brand Scansonic are both sister companies within their parent firm, Dantax Group. Thus, in a booth directly across the hall from where Raidho’s new Michael Borresen-designed Raidho X-3s were being shown, was a room showing Scansonic’s new, also Michael Borresen-designed, MB-series speakers. The sonic results of this collaboration where, let me tell you, intensely gratifying, yielding a range of not-too-expensive speakers that we suspect can outperform most speakers in their hotly contested price class, while appearing able to do battle against well-regarded and better established classic already on the market.

There are three models in the MB series: the MB 1 standmount monitor ($2,000/pair), the MB 2.5 floorstander ($3,300/pair), and the MB 3.5 floorstander ($5,000 pair). All models use ribbon tweeters, 4-inch carbon fibre composite mid/bass drivers, and—in the floorstanders—side firing 6-inch aluminium woofers.

Think of these beauties as ‘Raidho’s for the rest of us’, but under the Scansonic brand name. Based on an introductory listen with the MB 3.5, my educated guess is that the MB range likely will earn a reputation for delivering exceptionally sophisticated and well-rounded performance for the money. Can you say, classics in the making? Sure you can. 

Sony
Sony’s top-tier AR and ES-series loudspeakers have garnered a lot of attention from the high-end press in recent years and yet it seems there is a forgotten model in the group: specifically, the SS-NA5ES standmount monitors ($6,000/pair), which are the little brothers to the more familiar SS-NA2ES floorstanders. For listeners worldwide who don’t have room for floorstanders, the SS-NA5ES is well worth a look and listen, as it captures much of the performance and overall ‘feel’ of the bigger and more costly SS-NA2ES, but in a far more compact (and less costly) package.

At the show, Sony paired these surprisingly capable monitors with its HAPZ1-ES high-res player and TAA1-ES integrated amplifier to show how a very satisfying and capable all-Sony system could be assembled for just under $10,000.

SVS
SVS is primarily known as a maker of powerful yet sensibly priced subwoofers geared, it would seem, primarily for home cinema use. Naturally (or sadly, depending upon your point of view), this means the high-end community has largely ignored the brand, which is arguably a mistake on our part. In any even, at CES SVS showed its highly affordable new range of prime-series loudspeakers that can, yes, be configured as home cinema packages, but that also show enough sonic promise to be very worthy candidates for use in affordable music-centred systems.

How affordable are the Primes? Pricing ranges from $270/pair for the Prime SAT satellite speakers, up through $499/pair for the Prime Bookshelf monitor, on up to $999/pair for the flagship Prime Towers. Stated simply, this range gives listeners a terrific amount of loudspeaker for the money, along with unexpectedly robust dynamic output (rockers on a budget please take note).

T+A
It had been quite a while since I gave loudspeakers for the German firm T+A a good listen, so at CES I took some time to pay attention to the firm’s Solitaire CWT 1000-8SE floorstanding loudspeakers ($55,000/pair, and middle models in the T+A Solitaire SE range).  The CWT 1000-8SE is a very impressive line array-type design featuring a long, slender (920mm x 50mm) electrostatic tweeter panel positioned along side a line array of eight 120mm midrange drivers, plus four side-firing 210mm bass units.  Just in case you are wondering, the CWT in the speaker’s name stands for Cylinder Wave Transducer. The enclosures are made of laminates of multiple densities of wood with, in some models, carbon fibre outer skins.

Up to this point I had thought of T+A primarily as an electronics component manufacturer, but these Solitaire towers really stopped me in my tracks and made me take notice of their precise and very revealing, yet never stiff or analytical, sound. 

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