The "Swiss Army Knife" metaphor has been applied to many audio products, but the metaphor has never been more apt than referring to the new Cocktail Audio X30 ($1899). Made in Korea and imported to North America by Audio Plus/Plurison, the X30 is described as an "all-in-one HD music server/network streamer/CD storage." However, that doesn't describe all of its capabilities. If you look at the connections in the back (bottom of the picture), you'll see speaker connections, so it's also an amplifier. (I'm not sure, but I think the number in the model designation indicates the watts per channel.)
The 2014 SSI witnessed the official North American introduction of Naim Audio's mighty Statement amplifier (which John Atkinson previewed in his coverage of the 2014 CES). I experienced this behemoth at the unveiling party thrown for it by distributor Plurison Audio, and was struck not so much by its undeniable power but by its very nuanced performance on subtler materialsuch as the classic "Helplessly Hoping" by Crosby, Stills, and Nash. During the chorus, when David Crosby's low harmony was the last to enter ("They are three together. . ."), the audible tension and release were palpableand very impressive. The Statement is something that neither I nor the vast majority of you will ever enjoy at home, but . . .wow.
Distributor Plurison Audio used SSI 2014 as an opportunity to demonstrate the newest and most affordable amplifier/digital processor from Devialet: the model D-110 ($6495), which was introduced at the 2013 CEDIA show. The combination of Devialet D-110 and Focal Aria 926 loudspeakers ($3495/pair) was in pleasant contrast to its (stylistically) cool surroundings: The sound was pleasantly inviting and, forgive me, surprisingly organic for digital playback and the company's proprietary ADH technology, which combines class-D current dumpers with a high-quality class-A voltage amplifier. Nice.
Bring me the head of anyone who says the Harbeth Monitor 40.1loudspeaker isn't a great rock 'n' roll loudspeaker! As Montreal retailer Son Idéal provedproved, I tell youthe biggest Harbeths are very satisfying on the classic album Led Zeppelin III, especially with the assistance of a Rega RP10 record player with Rega Apheta cartridge; Rega Aria phono preamp; Rega Saturn-R CD player; and Pathos T.T. integrated amplifier.
Presumably someone snapped-up this show special, seen in the second room of Montreal retailer Son Idéal: a Rega RP40, which is the 40th Anniversary edition of the Rega RP3, complete with the reddest mat in existence. Son Idéal offered it for $CAD1199, instead of the usual $CAD1699.
Montreal dealer Filtronique Son-Or brought to SSI a system built around Magico's floorstanding S3 loudspeaker ($22,500), with a digital source in the form of the dCS Puccini CD player/D/A converter (ca $25,000) and amplification by Ayre Acoustics. The latter consisted of the Ayre KXR 20 line-level preamp ($27,500) and the newer-than-new, long-anticipated Ayre MXR 20 mono amplifiers (price to be determined).
I kept seeing pictures of something that looked a little like a DeVore O/96 and not really knowing what it was. Now, thanks to the GTT Audio room at SSI, I know that the thing I was seeing is the Grimm Audio LS1-S ($39,900), a three-way powered loudspeaker pair plus digital preamp with USB interface.
At the GTT Audio room, turntable designer Louis Desjardins introduced a more affordable alternative to the original Kronos turntable: the Kronos Sparta ($21,000, plus an additional $6500 for the companion Helena tonearm).
Ontario retailer and distributor Audio Pathways had a number of new products on displaysome active, some passive. Among the latter were the impressive Magne air-bearing turntable and companion Magne air-bearing linear-tracking tonearm ($14,000 as a package) from Bergmann Audio of Denmark.
In one of the rooms sponsored by Audio Pathways, the always-impressive yet consistently difficult-to-photograph-in-the-dark Raidho Acoustics C1.1 loudspeakers ($CAD18,000/pair) sounded excellent with a slightly-less-photo-phobic Jeff Rowland Continuum S2 integrated amp ($10,500), set up with Transparent cabling.
Retailer AudioShop and distributor Audio Associé demonstrated a pleasantly impactful system built around a pair of Cabasse Riga loudspeakers ($18,000 /pair, including the Cabasse subwoofer), with a brace of electronics from my upstate New York neighbors McIntosh: the MCD1000 SACD/CD player ($10,000), C2500 tube preamp ($6500), and the beautiful McIntosh 275 power amp ($6500), all plugged into the company's MPC1500 AC power conditioner ($5000).
As I made my way through the hall, I hesitated before entering the room of Lawrence Audio, makers of some very attractive floor-standing loudspeakers: They were playing the Nils Lofgren song "Keith Don't Go," which I really don't like, really loud. Even so, it was standing-room only: Mine appears to be the minority opinion, at least as far as the trampoline-loving Mr. Lofgren is concerned...