Wisdom Audio. Lamm Wilson Audio.
Leaving the relatively relaxed confines of the Flamingo to the insanity that awaited me in the Venetian is something I have never really gotten used to.
No, I didn't float along the gondola or shop at Burberry - nor did I feel like I was in Venice - but I most certainly felt the luxurious surroundings.
For all its glitz and glamour, I have never gotten used to the huge crowds here in the Venetian....
The High End Audio side of the CES was held on the upper floors of the Venetian - and, as you'd expect, the elevators were not exactly what you'd describe easy access.
When I was told the systems on the 34th and 35th floors were huge I didn't know they'd be referring to this gents moustache too!
The upper floors had the suites that were actually the largest anywhere in the Venetian so I decided to start there. Wisdom Audio's new LS4 planar-magnetic line-source certainly benefitted from the extra space this room provided.
The Big Easy? The Wisdom Audio LS4 ($100k with subs and xover) boasts an ultra-thin-film technology that also allows for a very high sensitivity quotient of 100 dB! Designed as an in-wall or free-standing, and available in a variety of colors, driven by a stack of dCS gear and Audio Research electronics through and through (above), I was taken aback by the incredible ease and delicate flow of this rig. Yeah, they're big and bold but also gorgeous sounding. Behind these line-sources are huge subwoofers that mated seamlessly but do look rather raw and more apt towards pro applications. Nevertheless, the sound was among the best I heard this year. A big surprise for me this year.
Arrived in the Wilson Audio and Lamm Audio suite that I believe was done the hall from Wisdom Audio and sighed with relief when I asked the price of the Maxx3s. Hey, $68k for a pair of speakers as big, well-made and legendary as Wilson sounds like a great bargain considering the prices of the stuff I saw this year. Especially with other, far more expensive, loudspeakers at this year's event that have no history whatsoever. The one thing I've learned over the years is never judge a book by its cover. I hear folks say all the time about how they don't like Wilson's sound? I've never known them to have one. They sound like whatever is put before them. I have heard them sound great and I've heard them sound lousy like every other speaker heard at these events. Strapped to a pair of Lamm ML3 Signature monos ($140k WOW!!), and through a Onedof turntable (photo above), the sound was very natural and easy. Easy to miss as well due to its relaxed presentation. Moreover, the folks were playing music and not any of those audiophile dynamic discs nonsense.
The new Magico Q7s ($165k), had a wonderful debut party here in this large Venetian upper floor suite. In terms of sound, they are outstandingly neutral, clean and full-bodied and dead quiet. Alon Wolf knows how to make a loudspeaker. Trust me, I've heard his reference $425k horns and thought they were worth every penny (see my report here). But at one-hundred, sixty-five thousand dollars damn these are expensive??? Why are the Q7s expensive and the Ultimas not? In all due respect to the quality look and build, the Q7s are pedestrian compared next to Magico Ultimas.
Hey, maybe I'm just a spoiled brat too. Lastly, the Q7s don't play themselves either. You have to have a well-thought out rig in order to get this puppies to sing. All that MIT cabling and Spectral digital - include the Nagra pro deck here as well - you can sort of get the idea to what makes a loudspeaker like the Q7 sing as well as it did.
Another suite of upper-tier components were the YG Acoustics Anat Signature IIIs ($119k), driven by a pair of Tenor Audio mono amps ($100k) and a digital stack by way of dCS (Scarlatti). Consider me spoiled. Because as good as this system sounded - their dynamics and imaging capabilities are where they excel - I enjoyed them even more in an even bigger setup on a recent visit to GTT Audio (see a video of my visit here). Located here in northern New Jersey (Long Valley), GTT is owned and operated by Bill Parrish. In my many travels here and abroad, I doubt I have been to someone's home with this many rooms extravagantly designed and tailored toward high end audio and music. You didn't hear it from me, but I believe Parrish really prefers the speed and agility of the Anat IIIs when driven by Soulution electronics. I like them both for different reasons. I do miss the speed and visceral bass grip offered through the Soulution gear. But the Tenors have a slightly more natural and textured feel to voices and instruments. Compliments of their hybrid design perhaps? Pick your poison. We're going to die from something!
Something about the MBL sound that always resonates well with me - even when it's as big, bold and ostentatious as this. At $268k a pair, the MBL X-tremes are quite an act to follow with respect to how they disperse sound into a room (see my video here). With respect to MBL, there's no such thing as a sweet-spot. And sitting here, a bit off-center, I never got the impression to move into the center seat on the wide sofa either. Overall, the sound was huge, but never overdone or overwhelming. Soundstage was second to none which is to be expected from a transducer of this nature.
[left to right, April US Sales manager Paul Apodaca, April Music owner Simon Lee, Mike Powell of Verastarr Cable and IP Man]
The guys from April Music also were located on this floor and though their wares are affordable, they were having a great time entertaining us. The April Music Eximus DP DAC/Pre sounded utterly convincing played through their S1 stereo amplifiers and a pair of Wilson Audio Sasha loudspeakers.