CES Scene: Loudspeakers $25,000 and above

Show report

There were also products that were not technically new per se, but were used in rooms highlighting new equipment, that were worthy of note. Among these, perhaps the most interesting was the strictly limited edition Kaiser Kawero! Classic loudspeaker in the Kondo room. Rewired using the top Kondo cable, the system was designed to showcase the new $100,000 G-1000 Kondo preamplifier designed to replace the M1000 MkII. This created one of the most effortless sounds at the show.

Similarly, B&O was showing off its $40,000 BeoLab 90 in timed seminars on the other side of the Venetian hotel. The active, DSP-driven multi-driver system launched in 2015 can be optimised for single user sweet spot listening, and the difficulty is getting 30 people to listen to a loudspeaker under its best possible conditions in a seminar means you get a little more than a minute in front of these behemoths, and have no choice over musical content, especially as most of the seminar was geared toward the launch of the new $2,785 BeoSound 35 sound bar. However, what was heard from the BeoLab 90 was very promising.

Crystal Cable’s Minissimo Diamond and Submissimo powered subwoofer (combined cost, $26,000) were first seen in Munich last year, but being driven with the completely revised Cube amplifier and using a combination of top Crystal and Siltech cable, made for a system that seriously belied its size. Most people see the Submissimo as some kind of plinth for the stand rather than a subwoofer and are therefore surprised at the prodigious bass seeming to belt out of these tiny standmounts. Correctly set (even experts tend to turn the bass up too high on any subwoofer) this system must be one of the ultimate ‘big sound, small speaker’ systems.

There was much chatter about the fine quality of the $225,000 Kharma Exquisite Midi Grand playing in the LAMM room (for good reason, it sounded very good indeed) but surprisingly few talked about the excellent little $11,000 Butterfly sub/sat system. Neither of these systems are new – although the F-Driver technology featured in the Midi Grand is one of Kharma’s most recent innovations – but both represented the top tier of what their respective technologies can achieve. In a way, although this sector is all about the more up-scale models, it's this little Butterfly system – like the aforementioned Crystal – that represents a big part of the Way Forward for audio - if you can create great sounds in small packages (even if they are expensive small packages), those who don't have sufficient man cave space can also get good audio.

Finally, there was also a prototype of the upgrade to the YG Sonja flagship loudspeaker in a private room, although we were given strict ‘no photography’ instructions. Effectively adding another virtually Sonja sized loudspeaker ‘chassis’ per side, the Sonja ‘XV’ upgrade replaces the middle module from the standard Sonja with a section containing three 178mm midrange drive units, and creating a second tower of three 250mm bass units. The price of the complete four-box Sonja XV is expected to cost somewhere around $270,000 and the upgrade for existing Sonja owners will be a no-loss upgrade for the differential between Sonja and XV models. Along with a ‘no photo’ policy, there is currently no formal launch date.

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