Simaudio, represented in my photo by Lionel Goodfield (left) and Dynaudio, represented by Mike Manousselis (right) often exhibit together, an arrangement that seems to represent the friendly relationships between people in these companies as well as the synergistic relationships between the products. They certainly sound good together, and both companies seem to be guided by a desire to offer not necessarily the cheapest possible products, but ones that offer high quality combined with good value.
Simaudio had two product introductions at the show that conform to this approach: the Moon 400M is a 400Wpc fully balanced mono power amp selling for $2995 each, and the Moon 350P preamplifier (also fully-balanced), $1995 without phono stage and CN$2795 with. Dynaudio had the new Focus 220 Mk.II floorstander ($3600/pair) and the DM 2/6 ($800/pair). The DM 2/6 is the least expensive Dynaudio speaker, and although the drivers are not quite at the level of their more expensive brethren, Dynaudio's Mike Manousselis told me that they're still made in the same factory in Denmark, and follow the core Dynaudio technical quality. Lionel Goodfield (Simaudio) and Mike Manousselis look pleased with their new products.
As a Quad ESL enthusiast, I know how difficult it is to blend subwoofers with very good, very fast loudspeakers. Consequently, I was impressed with the new A225-M powered subwoofer from the Swiss company PSI, on demonstration at the Simplifi Audio room. Used with the Gradient Helsinki loudspeaker, of which I also have some experience, a pair of PSI subs ($4500 each) provided lots of deep, impactful bass with no apparent change in the Gradients' timbral character: very impressive. The subwoofer was housed within one of the the same IKEA units as Simplifi's Tim Ryan was using for component stands, to show that high-quality sound can still be domestically acceptable.
The Focal Electra 1037 Be that was reviewed by Michael Fremer a while back has been superseded by the Electra 1038 Be II ($13,500/pair). The major change is the upgrading of the beryllium tweeter to the level of the units used in the Utopia series. There is also the inevitable crossover change, and the manufacturing of the midrange and woofer drivers has been made more precise. Here's Daniel Jacques of Audio Plus/Plurison, the North American Focal importer, with the Electra 1038 Be II.
Nordost's Lars Kristensen can always be relied on to give an enthusiastic and instructive demonstration, and so it was at SSI 2010. I missed the first part of the demo, but I was there for what I was most interested in: the effects of the Quantum Qx2 ($1700) and Qx4 ($2700) Resonant Technology "power purifier" devices that Art Dudley has written about. I can't say that I really understand the technical explanation of how these devices work, but the demonstration showed that they certainly do work, the soundwhich without the Quantum devices was actually better-than-averageacquired greater dynamic freedom, sharper imaging, and the soundstage became more spacious.
Audio show exhibitors have a lot of obstacles to contend with: equipment not showing up or showing up damaged, problem with room acoustics, problems with the electrical supply, equipment malfunctioning just as the show starts, and countless others. Ian Grant of Grant Fidelity told me that when he first set up his turntable front end it was picking up the signal from a local radio station! Being an ingenious engineering-type, he located the source of the interference (he could see the station's antenna from the hotel window), and got some building insulation material that had aluminum foil as part of its construction, and taped it to the hotel window. Voilà! Problem solved!
In addition to ingenuity in dealing with setup problems, Grant Audio had another claim to show exhibitor fame: their sign said "Nothing Over $2500," In fact, most of their productssome designed by Ian Grant in Canada but made in China, and others of Chinese design as well as manufacturewere well under $2500. One of the more expensive items was the W30GT: tube-based integrated amplifier designed by Ian Grant that includes a phono stage and a DAC. It's $1950.
The mystery of the Sanyo JCX 2600K stereo receiver that I wrote about in an earlier blog posting is solved. I went back to the booth of Aux 33 Tours, a Montreal store that sells used new CDs and LPs, and there it was, combined with a Revolver turntable. Aux 33 Tours' Christian Provost told me that they bought the Sanyo receiver from a widow whose husband had been a music lover/audiophile. In addition to a record collectionwhich they boughthe had two of these receivers, one that he had used on a regular basis, and the other that he kept as a spare, in case the first one broke down. It was still in the box, sealed in plastic. That's the unit that was at the show. No wonder it looked to be in good shape! The picture shows Christian Provost playingwhat else?a record.
Simaudio's products were featured in several rooms at SSI and on Saturday afternoon, the Montreal-based manufacturer celebrated its 30th anniversary by sponsoring a concert by Anne Bisson, a local and apparently very popular singer/pianist, to judge by the packed house.
Place Bonaventure is located about halfway between St. Catherine street (which I think of as the center of downtown) and Old Montreal, near the river. As such, it's nearly in the shadow of St. Patrick's Basilica. I went for a walk Friday morning before the show started, but my walk was not as long as I had planned: the temperature had taken a big dive overnight, and so it was very...shall we say...bracing. But at least it didn't snow, as in previous SSIs.
As Art mentioned, Totem always does an outstanding job of transforming a simple room into an environment, and at SSI 2010, they surpassed all of their previous efforts. Here’s a look at a row of Totem Tribe on-walls, dressed in new skins. As loudspeakers are often viewed as the most personal component of any system, it makes fine sense to offer the option of truly personalizing them with art. I can imagine buyers selecting fabrics that match their furnishings, or using their favorite artwork, or even creating their own designs.
As last year, Totem Acoustics had by far the show's most aesthetically sophisticated exhibit: a trippy mix of shapes and textures both organic and industrial, in which lights, flowers, textiles, and scents shared senses with the sound. The latter, also in typical Totem form, was exceptionally involvingespecially the Beatles' "Within You, Without You," Insane Clown Posse's "Ain't Yo Bidness," and "lua" by Dudu (no relation) Salinas. At SSI Totem also introduced a product that's still in concept stage, called Totem Skin: a removable sock-style cover that transformed cabinetry into artliterally. Among the company's goals for this show, according to the Totem rep with whom I spoke, was to gauge consumer response to the Skins, and the reaction so far is positive.
The arrangement of Totem's new Tribe 5 wall-mounted speaker in on of their rooms at SSI raised my eyebrows. I asked Totem's main man Vince Bruzzese what gives? "We must reach out to non-audiophiles!" he said, adding that this was one of the impetuses behind the launch of the "skins" that Art Dudley wrote about above. "By arranging these speakers in an unconventional manner but showing that they can still play music, we reduce the fear non-audiophiles have." (My apologies if my paraphrase didn't capture the passion with which Vince spoke.) But the Trentemoller track I listened to, played on Chord CD transport, DAC, and amplifier, didn't sound any the worse for the unusual speaker setup.
“If you don’t mind, ladies and gentleman, I’m going to play you something you don’t ordinarily hear at an audiophile show,” states On A Higher Note’s Philip O’Hanlon, as he moves across the floor and inserts a disc into the lovely Luxman D-06 SACD/CD player ($8500).
Here we see John Atkinson caressing the relatively compact Vivid B1 loudspeaker ($15,000/pair). With the help of a second rear-mounted mid-woofer, the B1 produces a sound far larger than its modest proportions. On A Higher Note’s Philip O’Hanlon tells us that women, in particular, have been fond of this speaker.