CES & THE Show 2012 • Best of Show

VTL has been nonpartisan in its choice of speakers to use at shows over the past few years, making not just good sound with models from Avalon, Wilson Audio and TAD, but sound that was always in the running for Best of Show honors. This time, with its new S-400 Series II stereo amp ($33,500) driving Rockport's new Avior speakers ($29,500/pair), the presentation was similarly impressive: densely hued and rife with presence and weight, even if it was obvious that the smallish demo space was a limiting factor.

The rest of the system was equally adept, as it included a couple of sources we've heard in other VTL demos: a full dCS Paganini system -- transport, DAC, clock and upsampler ($53,496 total) -- for digital, and a Spiral Groove SG 1.1 turntable with Centroid tonearm ($35,000) and Lyra Skala cartridge ($3200) for analog. VTL's TL-7.5 Series III Reference line stage ($20,000) and TP-6.5 Signature phono stage with moving-coil step-up ($10,500) rounded out the electronics. Cables were from Nordost and Transparent.

At one point, we jokingly asked Luke Manley about carrying everything up a few floors to one of the larger rooms at the Venetian, just to hear what heights this system could reach in a larger space. He chuckled and then said he was game. Our bluff called, we simply settled in to hear a few more cuts.

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