As in the Quintessence Audio suite, the PBN Audio suite consisted of a pair of wildebeest sized PBN model WAS-2 loudspeakers, a Groovemaker turntable and Olympia series electronics through and through. This was one of those rooms I just never got around to sitting in for any length of time that would justify a report. My bad. I've always been fond of these components and will make it my business to report on their sound at my next encounter. Promise.
Another large space also adjacent to T.H.E. Marketplace was the Audio Power Labs setup, which featured the super-expensive tube-based TNT 833 mono amplifiers ($175k); Memory Player 64 from Laufer Teknik ($24,500 analogue version using special caps); TIDAL Piano Cera loudspeakers ($26k) and the Grand Illusion speaker cables ($9k - my new reference) from Klee Acoustics.
The synergy of sound: Audio Power Labs TNT 833, TIDAL loudspeakers and Laufer Teknik Memory Player 64 produced some of the most luxurious sound at this year's CES!
The Crème de la crème of tube amplifiers? Dunno. But based solely from what I heard, and only briefly, I would put this 200-watt, 833-tubed push-pull transducer right at top of the food chain when it comes to their harmonic signature, build and looks. No matter how good or expensive this or any amplifier is, they all require a source to play from, and a good pair of loudspeakers to show off their remarkable harmonic prowess. I think they came very close to achieving this goal with the speakers they chose for this event. The TIDAL Piano Cera's are not cheap though they reside nearer the smallest and least expensive of what the company builds. That said, I have visited their facility in the city of Cologne, Germany. It was here where I found its designer Jörn Janczak, used the same expensive parts internally as in their top-of-the-line $250k Sunrays. To me, that means a lot in terms of what one should come to expect from TIDAL and their least expensive pair of loudspeakers. As a result, I find the Piano Cera's to be among the most neutral sounding - yet full-bodied - loudspeakers to grace my listening space and as a result have officially used them as a reference in their price class (and am certain they perform way beyond their asking price). I would have loved to have heard the TNT 833's on a bigger pair of TIDAL speakers, if for no other reason than the size of this suite (it was perhaps 25' by 40'), and dare I say, the Piano Cera's were just a wee too small for this cavernous room.
There's Laufer Teknik's Buffer Ergmann ripping yet another of my reference discs for his room using the new Memory Player 64. I also reference this as a digital source and easily the best I've heard. It will be interesting to see what others in the print will find when they hear this incredible device for themselves. I've been touting its sonic excellence for over five-years and this 64-bit model is a much improved version over the original I reviewed back in '06. Shirley Horn's Here's To Life and Sarah Vaughn's A Foggy Day in London Town had me and the folks from Audio Power Labs paralyzed with amazement at the feathery touch and sweet seductive tone this un-tweaked, hotel-room system conveyed on the voices of these legendary jazz divas (see video here).
The combination of excellence produced when pairing Klee Acoustic's Grand Illusion cables with the TIDAL Piano Cera's was expected. What wasn't was the added sense of space, harmonic weight and utter delicacy produced by way of those monster 833 tubes. Wow!
Larry Forbes has invented a type of cable in his Klee Acoustics line that employs a special Chromium blend of metal alloys that has taken a number of us here by storm. In fact, it was Jack Bybee himself who informed me of this company and then insisted I audition a pair. Bybee hadn't heard them but had a sneaky suspicion based on the patented technology Forbes employs which caught Bybee's attention immediately. In a word: NATURAL. In fact, the Grand Illusions are the most natural and quiet sounding cables we've heard bar none.
Audio Heaven? Can you believe right next door to the Audio Power Labs suite was Acapella and Einstein??? Both Key Kim and I agreed the sound emanating from this suite was as seductive and sweet. Life is short and in a place like this even choosing heavenly sound can be a challenge.
There really is light at the end of this tunnel. The plasma tweeter employed here in the Acapella Audio Arts loudspeaker is said to be best high-frequency driver available today.
Trying to be everywhere at the same time prevented me from truly enjoying the sound from this year's Live versus Recorded demonstrations held in the VMPS suite. As much as I am impressed by the spatial retrieval of Brian Cheney's newest RM50 Dual Line Source Bipolar design, I am absolutely astonished as to how he doest it at these ridiculously low prices. This newest design, driven by a bevy of Ampzilla stereo amplifiers, retails dear reader for $17,000!!! What I so love about Cheney is that you see what you're saving in money because he's not offering you this loudspeaker in a twenty-coats of lacquer finishes. Nor does he uses the most expensive internal parts in the world in some vain attempt to win you over with the property and prestige approach. Nope. These loudspeaker will absolutely embarrass more expensive loudspeakers that were littered about the show. Here's the reason why. One gaze at the RM50s will reveal that most loudspeakers are simply much smaller. Science (and Cheney) proves that size counts and as hard as most designers try, you simply cannot fool mother nature. Key Kim and I sat and laughed out loud at how good these RM50s sounded on Sade's voice. The ease and dynamic impact in the bass had us both dumbstruck and had us both yell out....Damnnnnnnnn! at the same time. I've a pair of loudspeakers that are bigger than these so trust me, I know what ease and delicacy count for. To hear something that can produce this level of delicacy at this price is a joke. Cheney's a god-send to any and every budget-conscious music lover who wants that big speaker sound. I know it sounds too good to be true that a high-end speaker this big and this affordable could possibly sound this good. But it does. Quite easily I might add.