It wouldn't be Vegas if it wasn't really loud
A great pair of headphones can give you an immersive auditory experience, but no headphones will ever be able to replace the full-body impact of a fantastic set of loudspeakers. This year at CES, high-end audio makers showed off their most impressive speakers, pushing the envelope in size, luxury, and, of course, sound quality. We took a look (and a listen) through their offerings and found 10 loudspeakers that will leave you breathless—including at least one that’s entirely affordable for entry-level audiophiles.
Genesis Advanced Technologies Genesis Forté
Genesis Advanced Technologies showcased its new Genesis Forté, a 6-foot-tall, fully customizable loudspeaker that retails for $140,000 per pair. The Forté is unique, not just because it’s enormous, complete with a two servo-controlled woofers that protrude from the back of the cabinet, but because it features a 4-foot-long ribbon line source midrange driver, instead of the typical cone-style point source drivers that you’ll see in other loudspeakers.
According to the company’s CEO and Chief Designer Gary Koh, a line source allows for exceptionally clear, detailed sound that penetrates all corners of the room. A line source also gives you a fuller auditory experience at a lower volume, and because cranking up the volume typically means more distortion, with significantly less distortion. The Forté also features 12 ring-radiator tweeters arranged in a line array next to the midrange driver, and a constrained layer composite cabinet that comes in the finish of your choice.
Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90
Bang & Olufsen’s BeoLab 90 is designed to fill the room—no matter where it’s located. This powerful loudspeaker has an angular, 360-degree design, with a total of 18 drivers all facing different directions. At the top of the BeoLab 90 you’ll find the tweeters and midrange drivers (seven of each, for a total of 14), and on the bottom there are four woofers and a cooling fin to keep rising heat from messing with your auditory experience. The loudspeaker also comes equipped with “Active Room Compensation” tech, which adjusts speaker output based on a number of factors, including room composition (walls, ceiling height, etc.), static objects (furniture), and the location of the listener, as well as the location of the speaker. The BeoLab 90 is available now, and retails for $77,990 a pair.
Focal Sopra N°2
Focal is well known for its powerful Utopia line of loudspeakers, but at CES 2016 the French audio company showed off its more compact Sopra line. The Sopra N°2 is a relatively compact floor-standing loudspeaker that combines Focal’s signature aesthetic and precise soundstage with several new technological innovations, including what the company says is its best midrange driver ever.
The Sopra N°2’s midrange driver is housed in a new TMD (“Tuned Mass Damper”) suspension, which reduces distortion and increases midrange definition—TMD is the same tech that’s used to keep earthquake-resistant buildings from being affected by sonic vibrations. The N°2 also has a beryllium tweeter connected to a horn-shaped cavity filled with damping material. Focal says this patented system reduces distortion by 30 percent. The Sopra N°2 comes in five finishes, including white, red, electric orange, black lacquer, and walnut veneer, and costs around $14,150 per pair.
Fujitsu Ten Eclipse TD712zMK2
While most loudspeakers opt for multiple drivers that do different things—tweeters, midrange drivers, and woofers—Fujitsu Ten’s unique-looking Eclipse TD712zMK2 speaker has only one. The goal of this loudspeaker, which retails for $10,600 per pair, is to reproduce soundwaves as accurately as possible. To do this, the TD712zMK2 has only one 12-centimeter full-range driver, which covers the entire audio spectrum (35Hz to 26kHz), thus completely eliminating crossover. No crossover means more accuracy because the audio isn’t being split into separate frequency bands and then remixed, the way it is in multiple-driver loudspeakers.
The TD712zMK2’s unique look and construction also contributes to its clear, transparent sound. The speaker’s single driver is not screwed into the baffle, but is instead mounted on a five-arm “diffusion stay,” which is attached to the pillar the speaker stands on. This design means that the driver is essentially floating inside the chassis, which helps minimize mechanical resonance. The chassis’s shape also ensures that any resonance that does occur is directed down the slope of the egg and away from the listener.
Spendor Audio SP200
While other manufacturers look to create loudspeakers that reproduce sound with utmost clarity, accuracy, and lack of cabinet resonance, Spendor Audio’s SP200 loudspeaker, which retails for $24,995 per pair, embraces old-school charm. This 3.5-foot-tall loudspeaker sits inside a sealed enclosure and features one 18-centimeter midrange driver, one 22mm surround tweeter, and two 12-inch bextrene plastic woofers with Kevlar composite stabilizer domes.
The SP200 sits inside a classic Spendor cabinet, which is made of high-density particle board and finished with wood veneers. The sides of the cabinet are very thin and flexible, which lets them move and flex with the bass output, adding mechanical resonance to your music that the company describes as “captivating warmth and charm.”
EgglestonWorks Ivy Signature
EgglestonWorks’ Ivy Signature loudspeaker was developed with Grammy award-winning mastering engineer Bob Ludwig, and it’s been out since 1998, currently in its third generation. This monstrous loudspeaker towers at 6 feet, 7 inches tall, and weighs 700 pounds. Though the Ivy Signature looks like it only has eight drivers (one tweeter, four midrange, and three woofers), it actually packs 19 total drivers in its cabinet—11 drivers are mounted in isobaric configuration behind the midrange drivers and the woofers, two behind each midrange driver, and one behind each woofer. The cabinet is made from multi-layer MDF (medium-density fiberboard) and is finished in automotive-grade paint. In fact, the speakers, which are handmade in Memphis, can be painted to match any car. The Ivy Signature loudspeakers in this photo retail for $155,000 per pair.
Acapella Audio Arts Cellini
The Cellini loudspeaker from Acapella Audio Arts is definitely eye-catching, with a huge, hyper spherical acoustic horn adorning the top of its tower. Horn loudspeakers aren’t very common in modern high-fi loudspeakers because cone-style drivers are smaller and have a flatter frequency response, but that doesn’t mean they’re unique—check out your local baseball stadium.
The Cellini’s horn’s spherical shape allows for dynamic, transparent sound without the uneven frequency response of traditional horns. Aside from the horn-loaded midrange driver, the Cellini also sports a plasma modulated tweeter, which has a truly massless design for clearer highs. The cabinet houses two bass drivers, one visible and one mounted inside the cabinet in an isobaric configuration. The cabinet is made of a special composite and is finished in black or white, while the horn is finished in automotive-grade paint and can be painted any color. The Cellini retails for $55,000/pair.
SVS Prime Tower Surround System
For the home theater enthusiast who’s also an audiophile, SVS’s Prime Tower Surround System offers a full, immersive audio experience at an inclusive (read: surprisingly affordable) price. The Prime Tower Surround System retails for $1,550 and includes two Prime Tower loudspeakers, two Prime Satellite speakers, and one Prime Center speaker, but we’re going to focus on the Towers, which cost $1,000 per pair. The Prime Tower features a “three-and-a-half-way design,” which refers to the crossovers—the speaker has one tweeter, one midrange driver, and two woofers. The top woofer is bass/mid, while the bottom woofer is just bass. Each driver is housed in its own sealed sub-enclosure inside the MDF cabinet, which comes in an ash black finish or a black lacquer finish that bumps up the cost to $1200 a pair. While the Prime Tower isn’t going to outshine loudspeakers in the five- or six-figure range, it’s a good choice for the entry-level audiophile.
Kaiser Acoustic Kawero! Classic
Kaiser Acoustic’s Kawero! Classic loudspeaker is exceptional inside and out. This beautiful tower has a custom Raal ribbon tweeter that sits atop the system and has a built-in precision tool for placement, a 7-inch midrange driver, and a rear-facing woofer. This particular Classic loudspeaker is a special edition—one of only 30 pairs made—and retails for $100,000 per pair, though the non-special-edition Classics will set you back between $55,000 and $65,000 a pair. The cabinet is made from tankwood, also known as Panzerholz, an extremely hard and dense compressed wood product made in Germany. Tankwood is sonically better than MDF, though it’s much more expensive—it’s basically bulletproof. The Kawero! Classic is finished in high-gloss wood paneling and can be ordered with internal or external crossovers.
Scansonic is the younger, less-expensive sister of Raidho Acoustics. Accordingly, its slim, compact loudspeakers boast the same technology as Raidho’s more advanced line, but at a more affordable price point. Scansonic’s flagship MB-6 loudspeaker debuted in December and retails for $9,900 a pair. The MB-6 has an interesting setup: Six 4.5-inch carbon cone midrange/bass drivers are arranged in a line array, while the center drivers are midrange and the outer drivers are bass. You’ll find the tweeter—a ribbon-style tweeter with an aluminum and kapton membrane—in the very center of the array. The MB-6 is tall and slim, about 4.6 feet high and less than half a foot wide, and it’s housed in an MDF/carbon fiber tower that comes in a black or white finish.