Acoustic Zen Crescendo and Tri at CES 2010

Wherein we go into more detail about the sound at this year’s CES.

First, Robert Lee of Acoustic Zen knows how to set up a room at a show. He knows what kind of sound he is after, and if the amp he was supplied is not doing what he wants, he will put it on static display and use something else that gets the job done.

What this means is that 1) you can go to their room at a show and be pretty certain it is not going to suck. In fact, it will likely be quite good sounding [we’ll go into what good sounding means in this context below], and 2) that the amps he is using are amps YOU can use with these Acoustic Zen speakers and be pretty sure that it is going to also sound good.

Yes, this is indeed extremely rare. By far most rooms (99% or so), even ones we give best of shows to, either A) sound good because they got lucky and the unfamiliar amp from a manufacturer who was the first to agree to share costs of the room JUST HAPPENED to sound good with the speaker manufacturer who was the first to agree to pay some of the room costs or B), the quality of one of the components, or the speakers, is so good that even with mismatched components the room still sounds pretty good.

Acoustic Zen has paired with Red Dragon, Edge, Response Audio and Tri.

Essentially, the Crescendo speakers are full-range Adagio speakers, which were already pretty full-range but were not enough for people with larger rooms or who listen to a lot of classical music and want the lower octaves to sound realistic. The Crescendo has a greater ease of presentation and a bigger, fuller sound.

Which I think is the point of these speakers.

First, most speakers in this price range suck. They are a joke. Few attempt to do full range and those that do usually suck more.

Let’s talk about the ones that do not suck for a minute.

We have the Marten Miles III and Kharma 3.1C. More detail, more transparency, more audiophile, but no where near the authority or frequency range.

The Soundlab A1 has the frequency range, but not the authority unless you really out a mofo amp on it, but if you want a electrostatic then you are probably not reading this post anyway.

You got the Wilson Sophia [not the range or sense of ease], Avalon… not sure which one [not the authority or range], Audio Note [if you have corners available. If you do then this might be a possibility, with careful attention to setup]. Let’s see… what else?

Most people who come here to demo these speakers, to tell you the truth, have just come from auditioning the B&W, Definition, and JM Lab/Focal. They have just been fed tipped up midrange hell and musical slurry. They are rarely audiophiles and we have so little time to demonstrate to them that they are on the road to ‘audio hell’ [when they see $350K speakers, they think we have already arrived at audio nutsville :-)]. The Acoustic Zen are audiophile-grade speakers, whereas the others are not [sorry]. Which takes us to the next section.

These speakers have what I think of as 2 distinct sounds – depending on the amp driving them. With a Red Dragon amp, or little Kharma amp, these are very dynamic, fairly quick sounding speakers. With Edge amps and tube amps, these are more…tube-like, a little more harmonic and continuous. With BAT amps you can achieve the middle ground – more or less.

We’ve found people greatly prefer either one or the other with these speakers [whereas we do not. We like both flavors of sound].

I think these speakers are for music lovers, not quite so much into the sophisticated sound gymnastics as some audiophiles are [guilty as charged, love those crazy subtle details and intricacies!] , and want a audiophile-grade full-range speaker for an audiophile-grade 2-way speaker price.

CEDIA 2007 Photos Day 2

[Still no Comcast… So miniature photos is what we got for supper again tonight]

The conference was not much busier today than yesterday, it seemed to me, which was different than last year.

But oday, they did not hand the conference microphone to the SpeakerCraft people, at least it sounded like they were from SpeakerCraft, but he was such an exuberant salesman – SHOUTING his enthusiasm, that the SPLs had us all curled up in fetal positions on the floor trying to stuff carpet fibers in our ears – anything to try and protect ourselves from the Onslaught. But seriously, it was LOUD but decipherable as words in some parts of the all, and total noise in others, and in some the volume was just ridiculously loud. I mean, the announcement system is perfect if someone is trying to tell everyone in the hall that there is a fire. It would work fine. Just keep sales people away from it.

Velodyne has a new subwoofer. Looks like it will produce some of dem bass type notes, all right.

A close up of the marketing specs. Of course, who cares about THD? Most poeple probably care about dynamic distortion. But is is not a horn, nor is it pulling 100 amps, so THAT is likely going to be more than 0.5%. But I bet is is something to hear.

Gallo Acoustics’ cute little speakers.

The EDGE Electronics room at T.H.E. with Montana loudspeakers.

The EDGE Electronics room at T.H.E. with Montana loudspeakers.

The HAL Audio Server user interface. Media server user interfaces were all the rage this show. Kind of like an iphone for non-liliputs. Or an iphone for the home. Or for people who have large fingers or bad eyesight. Personally, I am in all 4 of those cagtegories, so these UI’s interest me.

The new Acoustic Zen subwoofer

Phillips had a supersized remote control. Kind of cool to imagine actually using something like this. A remote control for giants. CEDIA is become like Gulliver’s Travels, I guess.

At least some people are looking for some good sound to be associated with good video…

ADAM speakers has a new line for the home. These use a improved Heil driver for the tweeter and midrange.

Another Media Server interface.

Another Media Server interface.

Sonus Fabers new Cremona M

Sonus Fabers new Cremona center channel

Over at T.H.E. Show. [need to insert speaker manufacturer name when brain comes back on line]. The gunshots had WAY too much low bass. Sounded more like close canon fire, the way it punched a person in the chest, or morter fire. Not that I have had direct experience with those events, but I had heard a gun go off before).

Media Max’s Media Server user interface.

So far the Totem booth has the honor of best of show in the main conference, (oops need to put up a photot ot two) and EDGE / Montana at T.H.E. Show (which only has 4 or 5 rooms this year, depending on how you count – though we did not wait in the line for the Maggie / Bryston demo there).

Acoustic Zen Adagio loudspeaker on Kharma amp and Audio Aero Prestige player

After going through several system configurations, this one was perhaps our favorite, especially of those with speakers driven by solid-state amplifiers.

Adagio speakers on Kharma amps

The Adagios, in this configuration, in this room (that wall behind the speakers is not symmetrical and not flat…) seemed to prefer the more aggressive Kharma digital amp than the more powerful, more laid back, and more expensive EDGE amps. It helped wake them up, so to speak.

Adagio speakers on Kharma amps

All Nordost Valhalla cabling. Yeah, each cable cost more than the speakers… but we save money using the Office Depot power strip, see? 🙂

But in the end, this is a fairly reasonably priced system at about $25K + cables.

Adagio speakers on Kharma amps

No, these speakers don’t sound as tight and controlled and have the finesse of the $45-$50K Kharma Mini Exquisite and Marten Coltrane speakers… which just seems to depress our visitors who are auditioning the Adagios.

Maybe we should just hide them next time?

We already go through the ‘You really don’t want to hear these. You’ll be spoiled and will never be able to go back”. Doesn’t work, though.

And we really LIKE the Adagios… what other speaker can you play (successfully) rock & roll AND opera on in this price range? Like none, man.