I was telling Tidal Audio designer Jorn Janczak that I thought the Contriva G2 (€41,000/pr.) was the perfect-sized loudspeaker. It is large enough to have generous internal air volume for support of a pair of 9" woofers, but also small enough to fit most real-world listening rooms. And let's face it: most audiophiles want a loudspeaker that can produce enough bass to make them feel the music -- a pair of nines will do that. At the same time, we all know that real-world speakers need to be able to fit in an average room -- not just relegated to a large dedicated listening room, which are not all that common these days. The Contriva G2 fills the bill better than most.
Upon first glance you might not notice that this speaker is slightly smaller than the first-generation Contriva, though it is still a four-driver, three-way design. You definitely won’t notice anything's missing when you start listening. The G2's reproduction of space was outstanding, with an ethereal quality that completely transformed the rectangular listening room. The sound was quick, perhaps a trait of the Accuton drivers, but there was also good weight in the bass -- something I've heard lacking from some designs that use Accutons, so Tidal must be doing something the others don't. The diamond tweeter was very well integrated into a whole -- music sounded decidedly of a piece. All in all, a great showing from the folks at Tidal.
The first thing I noticed when I walked into the Fine Sound Group's room was that the new Sonus Faber Lilium loudspeaker (€48,000/pr.) could play loud -- and sounded quite good while doing it, too. I suppose this should come as no surprise, since the Lilium is home to seven drive units per channel: a 28mm Damped Apex Dome tweeter, a 180mm midrange of "traditional cellulose pulp, kapok, kenaf and other natural fibers," and three 180mm front-firing woofers. In a separate, decoupled cabinet that sits directly to the rear are a pair of 260mm low-bass drivers. Inside a large display room at the Munich Order Center (M.O.C.), the Liliums reproduced Adele's Live at the Royal Albert Hall in a fashion that really did simulate a live performance in terms of amplitude (its 800W power handling gives some indication of its performance envelope). I must admit it was great fun. And I also have a strong suspicion that the new Sonus Faber design team led by Paolo Tezzon is really hitting their stride these days -- Lilium is proof of that.
Even though Gryphon Audio Designs' Pantheon is the least-expensive floorstander in the company's line, it is still quite dear at €35,000/pr. But then again, it is also the least-expensive superspeaker in this year's two-part roundup. As powered by the massive Gryphon Mephisto amplifier, the Pantheon put out true superspeaker sound in their medium-sized room at the M.O.C. The sound was dynamic and lively, punching out crisp and clear highs and physically imposing midbass. Although I was not directly on-axis when I got to hear the Pantheons, I can guarantee that the highs produced by this speaker bored no one to sleep in the room, being delicate yet extended. This may be the best bang for the buck from a Gryphon loudspeaker yet.
All in all, there is no shortage of superspeakers for the well-heeled audiophile to spend his or her money on. This year's crop was quite good from top to bottom, with each model offering something unique in terms of sound, technology, and aesthetic sensibility. Which model fits your artistic vision of what a superspeaker should be?
Editor-in-Chief, The SoundStage! Network