My selection for the winner is not based on hype or sheer “flash” as many of the magazines seem to focus on. I actually believe that any CES winner has be something that’s a cut above anything else in it’s field. In the pure electronics field, there wasn’t any TV, camera, computer or almost anything else that was a giant improvement or tech break though. Considering that this is where probably 98% of all new tech products are unveiled, that’s really odd. But despite the challenge, I did find a deserving winner.

Here’s how the winner was found … almost by accident.

I wandered into the “Totem” suite, and the gentleman doing the presentation of the new “Ember” from their “Element” line, reminded of a really tall “Doc Brown” from “Back to the Future”, with a huge grey afro and more than a bit of a “New Yorker attitude”. The rather pedestrian looking speakers on display didn’t look any different than any other $100 book shelf speakers at Best Buy. I started to head for the door as it looked like hundreds (if not thousands) of small speakers I’ve seen in the last 40 years. Then the music started … It literally stopped me in my tracks. No exaggeration, this eighteen inch tall loudspeaker sounded bigger and better than almost every seven foot+ speaker I’ve ever heard. I found myself looking for the cheat to make it sound like this (a hidden subwoofer or stupidly powerful amps over-driving the elements via a signal processor to the point where their lives are measured only in minutes, a’ la the old Bose stuff). Yes, they were using somewhat expensive electronics, but certainly not even remotely close in cubic dollars to what other companies were using. I don’t believe he was even using a SACD disc as a music source. Just a normal CD. Trying to describe a sound with words can be a futile attempt, so I’ll just say … it’s jaw-dropping. I can only compare it to you turning on your clock radio, and the next thing you hear is a sound like sitting front row in a night club, complete with all the power. It’s very disorienting. It’s also not cheap. Around $4200 a pair. And bizarrely, it doesn’t come with grills (extra cost).  But considering I heard it absolutely trounce a pair of $263,000 speakers (using several hundred thousands of dollars of electronics to boot … the speaker cables alone cost more than the entire Totem system), it seems like the bargain of the century for an audiophile with limited room.


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