High End 2011

Living legend Ken Ishiwata, the brains behind Marantz’s European audiophile success, demo’d Boston Acoustics’ high-end prototype Axperience speakers (right, €20,000/pair) with top-of-the-range Marantz separates. Ken said the speaker was part of a new range, but no details were available beyond the speaker featuring a suspended, isolated midsection, and that another Euro legend, super-fix-it guy Karl-Heinz Fink, had a hand in the design. Axperience speakers will be made strictly to order.

When KEF showed the Concept Blade two years ago, they said it was a design study -- period. They were bluffing: they found a way to put that gorgeous shape into production, with polished, glass-reinforced composite rather than carbon fiber for the carcass, and with the Concept Blade’s Uni-Q driver with Tangerine Waveguide to the fore. KEF said that the original Concept Blade, had it reached the market in its carbon-fiber form, would have had to retail for Muon money, which is north of six figures, so the production Blade, at €20,000 per pair, is something of a technical and commercial coup. The demos for the Blade were packed to standing-room-only levels, as they were for the Concept. Part of the brand’s 50th-anniversary celebrations, the "normal" Blade uses four newly developed 9" bass drivers configured in opposed, side-firing, symmetrical pairs with their massive rear magnets bonded directly to each other. (A note of disclosure: I am at present working on the forthcoming history of KEF, to be published this autumn, so conspiracy theorists knock yourselves out.)

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