There are specialty manufacturers that make various parts for loudspeaker drivers, and when ordering specialty drivers it is possible for a manufacturer of finished speakers to select the cone, surround, frame, voice-coil, etc. from various sources and have these parts assembled by a finished driver specialist. That's way it's possible to experiment with different configurations without the expense of fabricating the individual (very expensive) parts only to discard them if the results prove unsatisfactory.
That may or may not be how Wilson or any other specific manufacturer orders its custom drivers, only that it's possible. Note how the midrange driver used in the Sasha from Wilson Audio (and in variations in most of that company's newer speakers) at first glance resembles the driver from SEAS shown below. However, if you look closely the resemblance is mainly in the cone material, with significant differences in the dust cap, frame, surround, and presumably the internal structure as well.
Welcome to the wonderful world of high-end audio. After two eventful days scoping out the latest in video at the Las Vegas Convention Center venue I retired to the relatively relaxing confines of the Venetian Hotel, where I could listen to some tunes played back on deliciously succulent 2-channel gear. Yes, mainly 2-channel. There were a few interesting surround setups, such as in the Atlantic Technology booth where they were showing off the new H-PAS bookshelf speaker, and even a few rare full home theater setups, such as in the Wolf Cinema room. But the Venetian was mostly a 2-channel world.
But an interesting one. I wanted to scope out loudspeakers in particular, some of which have also been covered here by Home Theater's audio tech editor, Mark Fleischmann, and others. But what follows here is what caught my eye…er, my ears.
In the photo above is the new Magico Q7, the largest offering from that loudspeaker specialist. Each speaker is 750 lbs, 60-inches high, and 32-inches deep. A pair of them will set you back $165,000. That’s three zeros, and is not a typo. But they sounded astonishing, as well they should. Don't look for a review of five of them in Home Theater any time soon. In fact, Magico, like many high-end speaker makers, does not offer a center channel speaker.
One manufacturer of pricey speakers (but not nearly as pricey as Magico) that does make center channels is Revel. The model shown here is the news Performa C208 $1700). The entire Revel Performa line has been revised (for mid-2012 delivery), with two floorstanders, two bookshelf models, two centers, a surround, and a subwoofer.
Shown here is the current top-of-the-range Revel F308 floorstander ($4500/pair). A bigger, somewhat higher-priced model that's otherwise similar but has three 8-inch woofers rather than the F308's two) is expected in the fall. All of the Performa models use similar aluminum-coned woofers and identical, aluminum dome, waveguide-loaded tweeters. While the listening environment in the Revel rooms was not ideal, brief auditions of both the largest bookshelf and the F308 sounded very promising.
Wharfedale demoed the top model in its new Jade series, the floor-standing Jade 7. Using vinyl as a source, it sounded most impressive, which was good because a complete surround package built around the Jade 7s is on hand at Home Theater for a future review.
Vinyl is big lately in high-end audio so I had to include at least one turntable or risk appearing hopelessly out of date. It's the Merrill-Williams Audio table that worked so well in the Wharfedale system above. If $7200 sounds steep, you don't get out much; you can spend a lot more for a turntable. And oh, by the way, that price does not include either the Dynavector tonearm ($5000) or the Ortofon Anna cartridge that was used with it here ($8500). That's right, the cartridge costs more than the turntableand more than a good high end surround preamp processor (I had to throw that in!). But if you want to get into vinyl and this is your first exposure to its potential prices, you can do so for a lot less than this.