CES & THE Show 2011 • Best of Show

Same room, different year, same result -- sort of. At CES 2010, Lamm Industries, Wilson Audio, Critical Mass Systems, NeoDio and Kubala-Sosna combined forces to compile an audio system that was truly memorable. A year later, they've topped it.

Remaining part of the system are the Lamm ML3 Signature mono amps ($139,290/pair), the LL1 Signature preamp ($42,690), and a pair of LP2 Deluxe phono stages ($7590 each); the NeoDio NR22T CD transport ($13,000) and NR22D digital-to-analog converter ($12,000); and the Kubala-Sosna Elation interconnects ($6000/meter pair), speaker cables ($7800/eight-foot pair) and power cords ($2300/two-meter length). New are the all-da Vinci analog rig ($109,204 total), the Critical Mass MAXXUM racks ($33,990 each) and platforms ($5650 each), and, last but not least, the Wilson Audio Alexandria X-2 Series 2 speakers ($158,000/pair).

The single-ended Lamm amps possess enough power to drive a wide array of speakers, but the Alexandrias -- with their 96dB sensitivity and truly full-range sound -- are an ideal match. While it would be possible to string together clauses of flowery adjectives to characterize this system, we'll stick with a simple fact in describing what it accomplished: all of the diverse music we played sounded distinct and distinctly realistic in important ways. It displayed appropriate scale, copious detail, wide bandwidth and, for lack of a better term, lifelike exuberance. Recordings transcended themselves.

Making a splash is what every company showing at CES is hoping to do, and the ones involved in putting together this system succeeded with aplomb.

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