CES Report &
T.H.E. Show Coverage 2011
Show Coverage By Phil Gold
Quebec's Totem Acoustics introduced the Element Series of loudspeakers, based on an innovative 7" Torrent woofer, a high performance tweeter and a chassis that while close to the familiar rectangular boxes actually features no parallel sides. The Torrent woofer is hand-made in house and achieves a 1" travel with high linearity due to its innovative magnetic design. The stainless steel and thick aluminum based voce coils are under hung within the magnets and fully immersed in a super strong yet completely localized magnetic field. While fully rear damped, the 7" cone is light and stiff with a free air resonance of around 17Hz. Designer Vince Bruzesse's aim was to develop a woofer which could be directly coupled to the amplifier without requiring a crossover, following the lead of another Canadian Manufacturer, Reference 3A. The
stand-mounted Fire sells for $5995 a pair and the two floorstanding models Earth (39.5" tall) and Metal (43.5" tall) sell for $8995 and $12,995 respectively. Also available are the Wood center channel and the Water sub-woofer. Colors are dusk/black or ice/white with a multi-coat polyester finish. Grills are magnetically attached. It was not possible to get a good handle on the sound in the Totem suite, with the Fire almost hidden behind the Metal along the crowded short wall, but I will ask Totem to send me something to review from this significant new line.
Parasound Halo JC-3
Parasound's Richard Schram showed me the insides of the new John Curl phono preamp, building on his earlier spectacular Vendetta design, but coming in at an affordable price of $2350. In the new Halo JC-3, the amplification stages, dual mono, are each encapsulated in an extruded aluminum module to protect the delicate low signals against interference. Both balanced and unbalanced outputs are provided, and a three position input impedance switch caters to moving magnet and moving coil cartridges. If it sounds as good as it looks, it will be taking no prisoners.
Parasound Halo CD 1
Richard Schram also gave me a preview of a new CD player for the Halo line. His objective is superb performance and a product, like others in the Halo line, designed to avoid obsolescence. Rather than be held captive to the whims of a single manufacturer of motor units, he has chosen to use an industry standard CD ROM drive to feed a Linux based computer module with a massive audio buffer. The electronics have been developed in Europe. Deliveries should begin later in the year, and pricing is not yet finalized. I am told to expect stunning performance and I have asked Richard to ship me a unit in due course.
One manufacturer I always seek out is Magico and they did not disappoint this year, bring us the Q3 speaker in a aluminum and brass chassis, a derivative of last year's Q5. The Q3 sells for $34,000, stands 47" tall and boasts the same tweeter and midrange as the Q5, but substitutes three 7" Nano-Tec bass drivers for the 9" mid bass and dual 9" bass drivers of the Q5. The slimmer cabinet still weighs an impressive 240 lbs while sensitivity has gone up 4dB to 90dB/W/m and impedance has moved from 4 ohms to 5 Ohms, making it that much easier to drive. Magico claim a frequency response from 26 Hz to 50 kHz and the sound is impressively dynamic. Deep bass seemed to come effortlessly and tunefully in a way only the very best speakers can achieve.
You wouldn't expect this consumer giant to play in the same league with specialist audio manufacturers like Magico, but Sony provided the sleeper hit of the show with their SS-AR1 loudspeaker (around $30,000), playing in stereo the Sony Suite and configured for 4 channel sound in Dr. Ray Kimber's suite. Available for the last few years only in Japan, the design has been refined and will now be available in the North American market. A more traditional design than the Magico Q3, and I suspect much more aesthetically pleasing to many eyes, the magic comes from the exquisitely manufactured curved wooden box, constructed of wood taken from a specific type of Japanese tree at a particular month of the year where the sap content is optimal for audio purposes. The SS-AR1 is a three way design using a 1" soft dome tweeter, a 5" sliced cone midrange and two 8" aluminum woofers. We can expect smaller, more affordable models to follow, each maintaining the same quality of construction and materials.
A completely new and relatively inexpensive design from Quebec's Oracle Audio is not an everyday event. The Paris turntable ($3150), shown here in a Ferrari red finish (black, white and gray finishes are also available), is gorgeous to behold, and beneath its surface sheen lies a fiberglass rod semi-floating suspension system with
Sorbothane decoupling. The platter is a two piece acrylic / aluminum design and a Delrin record clamp and Delrin adjustable feet work with the low resonance medium density fiber chassis to minimize resonance. To go with the Paris turntable, you'll certainly want the matching Paris phono stage ($850) and the new Oracle moving coil cartridge ($850) in a ProJect arm.
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