The Rau Research $20k system was, by far, the most unique sounding system at the show. To get right into the tech talk, the speakers are three ways, but when I asked what was up with the additional drivers and where the crossover points were, I received the good ol' "if I told you, I'd have to kill you" line. After I deadpanned amusement (I deadpan with the best of them), the Rau designer revealed that central horn is an ambiance tweeter. Above the horn is the standard tweeter and a foot below is the midrange driver, followed by the woofer below that. At least, that's what he told me.
Now, ambiance tweeters aren't that bizarre, but the Rau sound was distinctly bizarre. Only the orchestral tracks sounded normal. In fact, the orchestral tracks sounded fantastic with just a huge amount of depth and sense of space. However, on my other tracks the sound stage was a mess. Voices came from 10 feet behind the speakers while instruments were right in front of me and other frequencies were scattered about the room.
Questioning Rau designer Greg Rau about his design sensibilities, he was quick to proclaim regular visits to his local orchestra for extended live listening sessions, and the Rau speakers, he says, are the only speakers he has ever heard that recreate what he hears at his orchestra. I believe him. I have never heard a speaker more purpose-built.
Also worth noting is another first (as far as I know): wooden heat sinks. Yup, instead of aluminum fins for dissipating heat, the Rau solid state monoblocks wear fins in a variety of hard wood finishes. Fancy.