CES 2008: Jonathan Valin Explores the World of High-End Loudspeakers at CES

January 23 , 2008 - Do you have any idea how many loudspeakers above $12,000 are shown at CES? I do. Practically every room on the 29th, 30th, 34th, and 35th floor of the Venetian hotel - which is to say, every room in the CESís primary high-end-audio exhibition area - had a pair or two playing merrily away in the spots where minibars stocked with $4 cans of Coke and $15 nips of Scotch once stood.

Not to mention the half-dozen or so $12k+ speakers in the Venetianís ground-floor Meeting Rooms or the scores off-site at the Mirage, the MGM Grand, the Alexis Park Hotel, the St Tropez Resort, etc. I did my best to cover the field, but, outside the Venetian proper, I failed miserably. My apologies to all those companies I missed. I tried - believe me. Check out the ones I did cover below.

Nola Baby Grand Reference

Speaking of way cool, my second huge surprise at CES (after the McIntosh room) was the Nola Baby Grand Reference ($55k), an open-baffle, floorstanding, three-way ribbon/cone hybrid driven by superb ARC electronics. In every way, this was the best Nola loudspeaker demo Iíve ever heard, and undoubtedly one of the very Best Sounds at CES. "Rainy Night in Georgia," "Keys to the Highway," the Mario Lanza aria, all sounded superbly lifelike. The Grand Reference was exceptional - open, airy, and realistic, with instrumental and vocal images simply bursting with bloom, energy, and color. Nola ought to show with ARC at every show from here on out - the combination was that winning.