This CES 2006 room review was added after the report had been published and so is available here as well.

We spent the end of the show listening to the Marten Design* Coltrane Supreme speakers, with Bladelius electronics, Jorma Design* cables and the Power Wing power conditioner.

This system re-created the recording venue nearly as well as the Acapella Triolons here at the Audio Federation, on a smaller scale but with more resolution. Nothing else comes close in our experience to this kind of feat. Everything else creates this simulacrum, this hoax, which requires you to forcibly suspend belief to imagine that there are real ‘musicians’ out there.

On the Triolons, you don’t have to do this nearly as much, and this leaves our poor overtaxed brains much more free to ponder the quality of the musicianship, the score, the soundboard engineering, the art, the spirit, the love, the meaning of it all. To see much, much deeper into music’s other dimensions than just the physical dimension of vibrating compression waves moving through air.

This difference has had a unexpectedly intense emotional impact on our perspective of what music is, and on our lives as a whole. Seriously, this just isn’t a fucking stereo anymore.

The Coltrane Supremes gave us a taste of this. We would love to have them here and put our favorite electronics on them – and see just how far we could push them. To see just how far they could take us.

Picture from the show
One channel of the 2-channel system at the show

The Swedish Statement room presented a sonic experience that was incredibly true, but not in that in-your-face style that so many large, high-end speakers do these days. It make take a few minutes for a listener to relax and realize that the music here is not a parody: it is not pumping the bass dynamics in your face to impress, not spotlighting midrange detail to distract from a uneven frequency response (these speakers are +/- 1.5 dB up and down the scale). All aspects of the performance, EVERYTHING is absolutely top-notch in quality, and EVERYTHING is treated fairly, nothing has more tone, more jump factor, more warmth, more presence, sharper images, more stability in the soundstage, than anything else.

To be clear: very, very few speakers in the world are able to do this. I would say that just about none of them even try. They try to make something that sounds pretty damn good, pat themselves on the back, and go home.

So here you have a sonic presentation that sounds and quiets and quickens and slows just like it is supposed to, just like what our brains have been wired to expect and treat as real for millions of years. What does this do for the listening experience? It allows us to relax many of our layers of defenses and buffers and filters and shields we have built up around our listening processes to both protect us (from physical damage, from harmful and socially unacceptable psychological reactions, from headaches, from who knows what else) and to interpret for us what we are hearing.

When was the last time you heard a piano and had to think ‘that is a piano’. I challenge the listener to hear a piano on a stereo without thinking ‘that is a piano’ AFTER considerable, (and lengthy, taking perhaps up to 1/2 second, causing much of the music to be lost while we are trying to determine ‘just what the hell was that note, anyway?’) mental calculations and interpretations.

These mental gymnastics often consist of a little voice in our head that narrates a process that goes something like “that was a single note, so it has to be a guitar, piano, harp, or some kind of electronic effect”. Then we rule out things: “I didn’t hear a pluck (assuming the system is capable of rendering such a thing, stick in probability factor here that there was, in fact, a pluck), so it is not a guitar or harp. It wasn’t an open ended kind of decay, so it might be an electronic keyboard, but was there an associated sound of the echoes in the piano body? Hmmmmm… that was awhile ago now, lets see if I can pull it from the very short term aural memory…” Oops, song is over already.

The solution for most people to this dilemma, of not being able to tell what they are listening to in real-time, is to not even care. They enjoy the tune and the bombast, and do not care that they do not, and cannot, hear or understand what the musicians are actually doing. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. You can still groove to the tune, tap to the beat, and get a smile on.

Ginevra de' Benci  - National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

But if you, personally, think there is a difference between a snapshot of a woman’s face and a painting by Leonardo da Vinci (if you have ever seen a Leonardo painting in person, you know exactly what I mean),

if you personally want to experience the art and the majesty, the talent and the skill and the message and the emotion and the awesome delicacies and complexities of the human condition as communicated by the musicians to listeners just like you throughout the ages, then perhaps a system like this is for you.