There are more than few vendors that are quite content to let me know where I stand on the evolutionary scale, though Wes Bender is one of the very few that tends to make me laugh about it. Usually, the issue tends to be the absurd camera I tote around. Wes, you see, has gone mirrorless for his more portable kit and I still lug around a DSLR dinosaur from Canon. Oh well. He’s the pro photographer, after all — and as I was told several times throughout the show (though not by Wes, who’d be horrified by the bluntness — jibes should be delivered with a smirk or at least a sly sideways look), I’m just a hack.
[Sigh]. Humble pie. It’s what’s for dinner.
The new-at-CES Dragon Legend E ($60k/pair) is about as far from hackish mundaneness as high-end audio tends to get. It’s a 4-driver/3-way loudspeaker that sports the top-of-the-line Scanspeak soft-dome tweeter and some wicked-cool driver tech. The woofers and mids are completely custom, a 3-layer sandwich considerably more stiff than “mere” aluminum that designer Lars Hansen describes as being completely inert, with no coloration at all. “The finished driver, utilizing our amazing powerful motor assembly, has the fastest attack time, the quickest recovery time and the most accurate tracking possible.” Tough talk. I love it when designers do that!
The cabinet looks leather-wrapped (yay!), but is actually an “animal free” composite that I believe is also used in some insanely expensive super-lux cars. The cabinet itself is very unusual in shape, and said to be phase coherent and “dispersion coherent”, though I’m not exactly sure what that means. Sitting in the sweet-spot, I heard all manner of powerful competence. Clearly, this speaker was loafing here, but cranking it over would probably have caused structural issues.
Also interesting, E.A.R. designer Tim de Paravacini was showing off the newest iteration of the Acute DAC/Transport here at CES. This one features minor upgrades, but also addresses some supply chain issues. Expect that — and more details — earlier rather than later.
An Entreq Silver Tellus “grounding box” ($2,699) tied it all the parts together. Literally. Providing a dedicated in-rack ground apparently creates something of a Faraday cage, with the net effect of reducing system noise. Sounds like a plan to me.
The path started with an E.A.R. Disc Master turntable ($28,500), carrying a pair of Helious Silver Ruby tonearms ($5225 each). These were mounted with either a Transfiguration Proteus ($6,000) or a SteinMusic Aventurin 6 Mk II ($6,500) cartridge, to bring the signal into an E.A.R. 912 full-function preamplifier ($13k), and then, into an E.A.R. 509 mono block amplifier pair. Cabling came courtesy of Waveform Fidelity. Footers and racks came from Stillpoints. On that latter note, Bruce Jacobs showed me the new Ultra 6 footer ($899 each), which introduces yet another dimension of vibrational identification and elimination. Big, chunky, and pricey, but if you’re looking for that last edge, this might be just your ticket.