Cuttin-Edge, On-the-Spot Reporting

January 10-13, 2012
All prices in US dollars unless otherwise indicated

Superspeakers 2012: Final Results

Yesterday I wrote about the first batch of Superspeakers I listened to. Today I offer up the second and final installment. But first, some general observations: there seems to exist an inverse relationship between marketing aggressiveness and advanced loudspeaker engineering, at least with some makers of expensive loudspeakers. I listened to a couple of these models at CES 2012 -- some for the umpteenth time -- and could not get over how absolutely average several of the really expensive speakers sounded. Not always bad, mind you, but certainly not equal to the marketing propaganda that can be hilarious in its nonsense and embellishment.

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Superspeakers 2012: Surprising Results

For the amounts of money that high-end-audio companies are charging for the Superspeakers described below, you should expect nothing less than blow-your-mind sound. CES is an event in a hotel -- granted -- but the manufacturers themselves are setting up their own products and I have to expect that they can get sound equivalent to what someone could in a home environment, particularly if a dealer helps set them up. I mean, these things have to sound at least very good, right? For example, at CES I heard the new Revel Performa3 M106 standmount speaker, which costs a mere $1700 per pair, sound simply amazing -- it's a true budget reference. Therefore, for many, many times the Revel's cost, all of these Superspeakers should blow these cheap Revels away. Do they?

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Questing: MBL 101X-treme

The quest for the sound of live music in reproduced music drives audiophiles to spend massive amounts of money. It also drives audio companies to produce innovative products to sell to them. Sometimes that quest -- for consumers and manufacturers -- can lead to unexpected revelations. I think the MBL 101X-treme loudspeaker ($263,000 per pair) is, more than most audio components, the result of this quest.

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Juggernaut: Magico Q7 Loudspeaker

Magico's Q loudspeaker platform launched at CES 2010 with the introduction of the Q5, which retails for $59,950 per pair. It has served as the company's flagship loudspeaker since that time, with subsequent launches of the smaller Q3 and Q1 models. The new Q7 ($165,000 per pair) now takes over that top spot in the Berkeley, CA, company's loudspeaker hierarchy in overwhelming fashion. I spoke to Yair Tammam, Magico's chief technical officer, about the development of the Q7, and our conversation yielded a number of interesting points.

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High-Tech Engineering Meets Old-World Craftsmanship: Sonus Faber Aida Loudspeaker

With the introduction of the Amati Futura, Guarneri Evolution, and The Sonus Faber loudspeakers over the last year or so -- and most recently the Aida, which is making its North American trade-show debut at CES -- Italy's Sonus Faber has clearly become a more engineering-driven company than in years past.

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