Despite its unfortunate physical resemblance to an electric shoe-shine machine, the Leedh E loudspeaker sounded open and airy during my visit to the room sponsored by Conceptas Sound and Engineering. I was prevented, by the language barrier, from learning anything about the E or its companion Lua brand electronics, including prices; one of two people running the room handed me some information sheets, but the other person snatched them away. I requested and was given more, but my moment of triumph was dashed when I saw that all of the literature was in French. All I have deciphered from it so far is that the Leedh E weighs less than “a dozen kilos” (I think), and one of its drivers is 17cm in diameter.
Montreal retailer Audio Club presented a simple, effective all-Linn system, comprising the Ethernet-friendly Linn Akurate DSM preamplifier/digital player ($9300) and Akurate 2200 power amplifier ($6300), seen above, and a pair of Linn Majik Isobarik loudspeakers ($6300/pair). An outboard file-storage device, of indeterminate make and model, was tucked away underneath the credenza. Unfortunate room dimensions were surely responsible for the trace of bass boominess I heard, yet the Linn system was compelling and listenable, nonetheless.
I thought the Raidho D-1 loudspeaker ($28,000/pair, including stands), was among the most interesting and musically impressive new products at SSI. Raidho, a Danish company known for their work with ultra-lightweight ceramics, has developed a process for bonding to their speaker diaphragms a thin coat of industrial diamond, conferring even greater stiffness and freedom from unwanted resonances. Paired with a Jeff Rowland Aeris D/A converter and Jeff Rowland 625 power amplifier, the Raidhos were impressive on a variety of material. We’ve all heard demonstrations where we came away saying, “I can’t believe they got so much bass out of such little loudspeakers,” but in terms of the sheer quality and scale of that bass, the Raidho/Rowland combination was on another plane altogether.
Lars Kristensen of Denmark’s Raidho Acoustics, who has yet to overcome his shyness, presented the Raidho/Rowland system with all of the good cheer and powers of persuasion for which he is known and admired in our industry.
AudioShop, the Canadian distributor for Cabasse loudspeakers, demonstrated the interesting combination of Cabasse loudspeakers with McIntosh electronics, focusing in particular on the latter company’s model 601 monoblock power amplifiers ($11,500/pair), driven directly by the MCD 1100 CD player ($10,000). The loudspeakers seen here (which, I’m told, sold for $16,000 per pair in passive form) sounded impressively punchy, but, with all due respect, this system was being played at a volume level I considered both uncomfortable and unrealistically loud, so I didn’t linger long.
In one of several rooms sponsored by Montreal’s Coup de Foudre, A href="http://www.stereophile.com/content/gift-flower-garden">Philip O’ Hanlon demonstrated a system comprising a Luxman PD-171 turntable/tonearm ($6400) with Brinkmann P1 phono cartridge ($2700), Luxman DA-06 DSD D/A converter ($6000), Luxman L550AX integrated amplifier ($5400), and Vivid B1 loudspeakers ($15,000/pair), with Cardas cables throughout. (The computer-audio source was an old MacBook running Audirvana playback software.) Not to take away from the goodness of the other gear, but I was once again mightily impressed by the manner in which the Vivid loudspeakers, in spite of looking like surprised Cyclopian aliens, delivered music with such human warmth and touch. (Lou Donaldson’s organ on “Alligator Boogaloo” sounded especially fine.)
Another Coup de Foudre room offered a system built around the curiously named but thoroughly engaging Twenty 23 loudspeakers ($4389/pair) from PMCwhich, I’m told, stands for professional monitor company. The amplifier in use was the less inscrutably named Integrated Amplifier from Brinkmann ($7499), while the source was the Unico CD Primo CD player ($1900). On a vocal number by Andrea Bocelli, percussion instruments sounded a bit compressedthat might be the fault of the recording, for all I knowbut I heard a great deal of realistic texture and color from this detailed but not at all light-sounding system.
In yet another Coup de Foudre room, a Clearaudio record player acted as source for a Unico Nuovo integrated amplifier ($2400, with phono section), itself driving a pair of ASW 404 loudspeakers ($2000/pair). This relatively affordable system loaded the room nicely, and sounded hypnotically good on “Autumn Leaves” from the Cannonball Adderley album Somethin’ Else.
Blue Circle Audio first came to prominence (or perhaps notoriety) with whimsical products like an amplifier in a shoe and a preamplifier in a purse. Although the Music Pumps and the Music Purse are still available, according to their website , Blue Circle brought more conventional products to SSI 2013, and their demo room provided one of the show's most relaxing listening experiences. There is just something very soothing about a night sky as a background to musicand the music presented by the system (BC507 DAC, $2600, BC309 preamp, $8500, BC1022 amp, $7000, BC6040 power line conditioner, $4000, BIS Audio Maestro cabling, $9500, and Ledoux Acoustique DIVA speakers and GAiA subs, $21,000) showed that Blue Circle does not need quirky products to get our attention at SSI. The SHow continues today (Saturday) and tomorrow.
One of the best events at every SSI is the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award to two individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the industry. This is the Oscar of the consumer audio industry, and I've always found these presentations quite touching. That was certainly true at SSI 2013. Angie Lisi, who owns two stores (American Sound and Angie's Audio Corner) in the Toronto area, and is the owner of Audio Pathways, a distribution company, has been in the business for over 30 years (she started when she was 19), and has not lost any of her passion for high-quality reproduction of music. She was introduced by Adrienne Surtees (left in the photo above) and presented with the award by Sarah Tremblay (right). It was a very moving moment, and I was glad that I was able to capture it with my camera.
The second Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Brian Russell, President of Bryston (right side in the photo), the presentation made by Michel Girard (left). Brian is a big, tough guy, so I figured we wouldn't see him cryingbut I think he came awful close when he said that he owes his achievement to each and every member of the Bryston team.
After the awards presentations, the rock band, Hans Wilwright, took the stage, with a typically energetic series of numbers. I know that some of my industry and media colleagues found this music too loud, but, hey, it's rock, and although I'm far from being a rock fan, I expect rock to be loud, and this was not nearly as loud as I've heard. (Sitting in the fifth row of Rent on Broadwaynow, that was LOUD!)
You might think that this is a photo of mother and daughter attending SSI 2013, but that wouldn't be correct. The woman on the left is pianist/vocalist Anne Bissonwho I hope will be performing at some point during the showand the young girl is Alexandra, Sarah Tremblay's daughter. A photogenic pair, n'est ce pas?
Sarah Tremblay and Michel Plante are the dynamic duo responsible for the success of SSI. Like the shark, they believe in always moving forward, coming up with new ideas every year, such as the focus on sub-$5000 systems and headphones at SSI 2013.