CES 2015 • Best of Show

THE Show Las Vegas ran concurrently with CES for so many years that it seemed like a fixture in January. But when organizer Richard Beers announced that it would not be held in 2015, no one was more dejected than Wendell Diller of Magnepan, who had been THE Show's staunchest supporter. Wendell had his selfish reasons this. He had his routine down pat, using one of the larger rooms at The Flamingo, site of THE Show, to demo many different combinations of Magnepan speakers and creating a not-to-be-missed event in the process.

So, without THE Show, what's a guy like Wendell to do? Lean on a friend, in this case Lew Johnson of Conrad-Johnson, and share a room at the Venetian. But this seemed to create more problems than it solved. "I know how these speakers can sound," said Wendell, "and this isn't close." Well, it still sounded very good to us, especially given the speaker system's reasonable price: $2200 for Magnepan .7s with a single DWM woofer.

A Conrad-Johnson MF-2275 SE amp ($3850 for the base version, $6150 for the upgraded version), ET3 SE preamp ($4500) and discontinued HP3 digital-to-analog converter ($3000) were used with the speakers. All cables were from Cardas. The one negative of this system was the fact that it didn't include at least a CD player, so we couldn't play our cuts -- a computer was the only source, and luckily a few cuts we knew were loaded on it. When we supplied a thumb drive of our music, no one knew how to play it, so that was out as well.

Still, this was a very polished system. It fit into a standard room, didn't cost an arm and leg, and resolved the entirety of each recording we heard. It sparkled with life and made Wendell's statement that there was still more to be gotten from it in a better room especially intriguing.

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