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Economy Or Not, New High-End Products Arrive At Retail

7/18/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern
NEW YORK — A challenging economy and challenging high-end market haven’t dampened the enthusiasm of enthusiast-run audio companies that continue to bring new products to market.

Monoblock tube amps, speakers with ribbon tweeters and ribbon midranges, and tower speakers with dipole operation throughout the frequency range are among the new high-end products that audiophile-led companies want consumers to hear. All use a variety of different technologies and design techniques with the goal of delivering high-impact low-distortion sound.

For budget-minded audiophiles, Martin Logan launched a center-channel and surround speaker. For audiophiles who’ve invested in gold, newcomer Audio Power Labs of Columbus, Ohio, has begun shipping the 833TNT, a monoblock tube amp at $175,000/pair. Joseph Audio of Melville, N.Y., plans fall availability of the $9,200/pair Legacy Focus SE tower speaker with ribbon tweeter and ribbon midrange.

For its part, direct-to-consumer speaker supplier Linkwitz Lab of Corte Madera, Calif., is offering the $14,750/pair Orion 4 floorstanding speakers, said to operate in dipole mode throughout the frequency spectrum. And Miami-based Mark Neumann Audio Collection is offering the Coliseum XLS “open-baffle” tower speakers, which start at $40,000/pair and are promoted as delivering 360-degree vertical and horizontal dispersion to emulate real-life performances.

Here’s what these and other highend companies have developed:

Audio Power Labs: The twoyear- old company has just begun shipping the $175,000/pair 833TNT art-deco-style monoblock tube amp, which is available direct to consumers. The company, however, is looking for distributors and dealers, said VP Peeya Iwagoshi.

The push-pull 200-watt RMS amp uses tubes and transformers but lacks capacitors to eliminate phase shifts caused when capacitors age, he said. The amp’s two tubes are large 833C tubes develop in the 1940s specifically for audio use and were often used in AM radio transmitters. A microprocessor- controlled liquid cooling system cools the tubes, which are visible through two transparent cylindrical towers. The tubes glow orange when powered on. The chassis is made of hand-polished aluminum.

Joseph Audio:
The $9,200/pair Legacy Focus SE tower speakers feature ribbon tweeter, ribbon midrange, and proprietary AURA woofer technology. AURA focuses all of the magnetic energy of a woofer’s magnetic motor into the voice coil, whereas other magnet motor designs deliver only up to 25 percent of their energy to the voice coil, the company said.

Previously all three technologies combined were available only in a single Joseph speaker at $22,000/pair.

Besides the ribbon tweeter and ribbon midrange, the speaker features two midwoofers with push-pull motor system and two woofers.

Linkwitz Lab: The $14,750/pair Orion 4 three-way floorstanding speaker configures its drivers in an openbaffle design to radiate sound to the front and back but not to the sides or top. The figure-8 dispersion pattern throughout the frequency range minimizes distortioncreating side reflections, the company said.

The result is a wide, deep and tall soundstage with realistic localization, clarity, and speed, the company said.

To achieve its intended goal, the Orion 4 features front- and rear-firing tweeters, an open-back midrange driver, and two woofers in a special configuration. It comes with active analog signal processor/crossover to which consumers can pair a multichannel amp.

Mark Neumann: The Coliseum XLS floorstanding speakers start at $40,000/pair, all versions with 360-degree vertical and horizontal dispersion said to be inspired by the dispersion characteristics of a concert grand piano.

The XLS features two 7-inch woofers and two highfrequency tweeters per channel, but for what the company called a 35 percent improvement in clarity, speed and refinement over the standard drivers, a version with step-up drivers is available at $12,000 more.

Ordered as a three-way system for an additional $20,000, the Coliseum XLS adds dual mid-bass drivers in front and dual 12-inch woofers per channel.

MartinLogan: The $799-each EM-C2 center channel and $649-each EM-FX2 surround speakers use proprietary thin-film Folded Motion XT tweeter technology for voice matching and price-matching with the recently launched $1,995/pair ElectroMotion-ESL 34-inch-tall electrostatic speaker.

The ElectroMotion-ESL is the Lawrence, Kan., company’s most affordable electrostatic speaker to date, targeted to budget-conscious audiophiles.

The ElectroMotion C2 center channel and FX2 surround speaker bring Folded Motion XT tweeter technology to MartinLogan center and surround channels for the first time.

Using the next generation of Folded Motion technology, the speakers boast a radiating surface that’s 40 percent larger than the surfaces found in the company’s Motion Series products.

The EM-C2 center channel is similar in size to a traditional audio/video receiver and features dual 5.25-inch high-excursion, doped fiber-cone woofers flanking a Folded Motion XT tweeter. Sensitivity is 94dB.

The EM-FX2 surround speakers feature dual Folded Motion XT tweeters in a wide-dispersion array and a single 6.5-inch doped fiber-cone woofer. Available in black or white, the EM-FX2 can be corner-mounted, wall mounted or angle-wall mounted.
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