Walter Liederman of Emerald Physics ought to be pleased with himself. He's managed to shepherd to market a relatively affordable, reliably excellent, state-of-the-art audio experience in his Emerald Physics lineup.
I don't think it's been a particularly easy road. The speakers are unusual looking. The latest iteration, with its flashy automotive paint finish, is a step up and to the side from the previous design, but they're still rather distinctive. The speakers are also DSP-controlled, and while that gets you in the ballpark of acoustically optimal more often than not, is still looked askance by many. But the perception of downsides are all just that. Perceptions. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. And this is a tasty little dish.
The CS3 Mark 2 can sit as close as 2' from the front wall. This is a controlled-directivity design, so sidewall, floor and ceiling bounce reflections are simply not as problematic. The driver arrangement in the CS3 is a coincident setup, which create that point-source sound. 8Ω, 45Hz-22kHz and 95dB, these are pretty nifty at $3,500/pair (in black) and do include the external DSP2.4 EQ/Crossover. That crossover also includes low-bass outputs for weaving in a sub.
Shown here with the new $2,200 Emerald Physics EP100.2 Special Edition 100wpc hybrid digital amplifier. This amp has an analog PSU, hence the “hybrid” label. A $1,200 REL T9 subwoofer handled the down-low. The $1,200 DSPeaker Anti-Mode Dual Core 2.0 was used as the preamp, DAC and room correction device. A Mac Mini sourced the files into the DSPeaker system through a Wyred4Sound uLink USB to S/PDIF converter.
When I was in the room, the new $5,999 PS Audio Direct Stream Digital DAC was in the chain. This new box upsamples all incoming data (PCM or DSD) into DSD at ten-times DSD sample rates. This one is a head-scratcher, at least for me. This unit was the first model off the production line and when someone bought it right off the floor, designer Paul McGowan was on hand to sign it. Pretty cool.
On the whole, this room was quite convincing. Walter was offering the entire system (minus the PS Audio DAC) at just under $6,000 as a show-special, trying to demonstrate how great sound doesn’t have to cost more than a BMW. I’d say he nailed it. The sound here was very dynamic, open and expressive.
The fact that this was one of the busiest rooms at the show says that I’m not alone in thinking this.