CES: Highlights from Venetian Floor 30 - Loudspeakers


Operating under new management, Thiel, in what is sure to be seen as a controversial move, is stepping away from the time/phase-aligned designs of the late company founder Jim Thiel, to release new more conventionally designed ‘Third Avenue’-series loudspeakers (Third Avenue is a major thoroughfare in Nashville, Tennessee, the music-minded city where Thiel has relocated).

Thiel’s new range consists of the TT1 floorstander ($5798/pair), TM3 standmount monitor ($3498/pair), TC1 centre channel speaker ($2,495 ea.), and the upcoming Sub 1 ($3,000/pair). A company spokesman indicated that, after Jim Thiel’s passing, a decision was taken to try to design speakers that would preserve (or even improve upon) the classic Thiel sound, but that would use rather more conventional drive units and crossover topologies (Jim Thiel’s signature first-order crossovers helped phase coherency, but at the price forcing drivers to work far above and below they’re intended operating ranges, thus imposing certain unwanted dynamic constraints, not to mention higher build costs).

Totem Acoustic
Totem was thinking small—at least in terms of cabinet size—when it planned this year’s CES demonstration, with a significant part of its display centred on its tiny new Kin Mini standmount monitors ($499/pair) and Kin Sub ($700 each, with an 8-inch woofer, 120W BASH amplifier, and an acoustic suspension enclosure). Together, and for a smidgeon less than $1200, the Kin Mini/Sub combo represents a visually unobtrusive speaker system that produces a big, rich, natural sound that far exceeds expectations for such a compact system. 

Vienna Acoustics
Vienna brought to CES a loudspeaker it has brought to many past shows—namely, the Imperial Liszt ($15,000/pairs, and also known as the ‘junior version’ of Vienna’s famous Die Musik loudspeaker)—but this time with the announcement that the Imperial Liszt is shipping at last. Like Vienna’s flagship Die Musik, the Imperial Liszt uses a swivel-adjustable top module that houses Vienna’s signature flat-diaphragm coincident midrange/tweeter array, while the lower section of the speaker houses a multi-woofer low-frequency array. Our though is that the Imperial Liszt might be ideal for those who have long admired Die Musik, but needed speakers that sold at a far less stratospheric price point.

Following along in a similar vein, Vienna also showed its new Beethoven Concert Grand Symphony Edition floorstander ($8,500/pair).  Conceptually, the Beethoven Concert Grand Symphony Edition might be considered the ‘Son of the Imperial Liszt’, as its woofer-array section is very similar indeed. Up top, however, the Beethoven Concert Grand Symphony Edition foregoes the Imperial Liszt’s swivelling coincident tweeter/midrange driver module, instead providing a more conventional upper cabinet section that houses separate (that is, non-coincident) high-quality midrange and tweeter drive units. Sonically, though, the family resemblance between the Beethoven CGSE and the Imperial Liszt is readily apparent, as is the connection between the Imperial Liszt and Die Musik.

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