One of several small, wireless speakers unveiled at the Venetian Hotel, Audioengine’s A2+ ($269/pair), with built-in DAC and aptX Bluetooth, is manufactured in China, and scheduled to ship at the end of January. I didn’t get a chance to hear the A2+, but our niece, who has the wired version, raves about its sound with her Mac laptop.
Right across the hallway from the A2+ sat some of its competition, Kanto Audio’s Tuk 65Wpc, class-D powered bookshelf speaker ($799/pair). Due in April, Tuk, whose frequency response is 50Hz-20kHz ±3dB, offers onboard DSP, a 24/96 USB DAC, and a 28 x 35 mm AMT tweeter plus 5.25″ aluminum concave cone mid-bass driver. There are Toslink, RCA, USB, and RCA inputs, as well as headphone, USB charge, and subwoofer outputs. This baby works with both Bluetooth 4.2 with aptX HD and AAC codecs. There’s even a high-pass filter (80Hz, selectable). The sound was quite listenable, with a mellow and smooth middle and toned down top on a Red Book file of pianist Igor Levitt, streamed from Tidal.
While Dayton Audio has been supplying speaker drive-units to the DIY community for 30 years, it also has a few finished speakers for sale. Amongst them is the CBT24 line array speaker ($1495/pair, or $995/pair in kit form), seen on the left in the photo.
Continuing right along in speaker land, the next room I visited displayed Morel’s new Vario speaker system. Although the line includes a center channel model, I focused on a stereo pair of the Morel Vario Elite ($1700/pair), which includes a handcrafted silk dome tweeter, 6.5″ woofer with 3″ voice coil, and removable grilles that, when on, are said to smooth frequency response.
This photo shows the Vario’s internal drivers. Listening without the grilles, a 24/88.2 file of Brubeck’s well-worn “Take Five,” played through a little system that included a computer outfitted with Amarra music playback software and a Hegel H316 integrated amplifier, sounded very clear and convincingly alive, with naturally bright cymbals and a mellow midrange.
Morel’s Nomadic Audio brand showed off its very cool, specially designed Nomad ($659) carry-on suitcase for travel and music. What the company calls the Nomadic Audio Speakase is housed in a hard-cased, custom-designed travel bag that includes a removable two-channel Bluetooth speaker unit that can play either through speaker vents on the suitcase’s side, or as a stand-alone device. The speaker’s DSP setting changes when you remove it from the suitcase and set it up on its own via its foldable feet.
The Bluetooth speaker unit, whose Li-ion batteries are rechargeable via USB, includes two custom 4″X6″ woofers, two 22mm soft dome tweeters, and a 25W class-D amplifier. Once housed in its internal slot, the speaker occupies only 8% of the suitcase’s volume. The speaker can also be played in wired fashion, and includes bass and treble controls for a hybrid retro/21st Century listening experience. As you might well expect, the Nomadic Audio Speakase won an Innovation Award at last year’s CES.
If I spent a long time in the Increcable room, it was because (a) the technology of their US-manufactured vibration controls was fascinating, (b) the sound, when we finally got around to listening, was excellentso much so that I wished that the amplifiers might possibly be a good match for my Wilson Alexia 2s so that I could propose a review, and (c) my difficulty understanding the presenter’s accent meant that it took a long, long time for me to record what I hope is accurate information about what I was seeing and hearing.
I believe that Increcable has two vibration control tools, the older MVD-2 (4 pieces for $180) and new AIR (2 pieces for $200). AIR=Ambience, Imaging, and Resolution, and is intended for placement on both speakers and components. The units work by transforming vibration into heat.
Inside each unit is a rubbercorkrubber sandwich. The bottom and top sides are ridged, with the ridges on one side turned 90º from the other side. The sandwich, which floats within a metal frame, transforms vibration into heat and addresses low frequencies, while the metal frame addresses high frequency vibration.
The newer AIR units come with two differently shaped removable radiators, one for high frequencies and the other for lows, which stick out of the top of the unit. The positioning of the AIR units atop speakers helps determine soundstage depth and width, along with imaging and focus.
Shown in the rear of the photo is the EBD-1, aka Earth Box Digital-1 ($398/each), which includes a grounding cable. These are intended for CD players and other components.
In a demonstration, initially performed without the AIR units, I was equally impressed by the very neutral, lively, well-focused yet expansive presentation. Adding the AIR units really opened up the sound while retaining musicality. Quite impressive, and definitely worth exploring.
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