Montreal's Salon Son & Image Starts Friday
Visitors to Montreal's annual Salon Son et Image (SSI) high performance audio show will notice some changes when the three-day event opens to the public on Friday March 22 in its customary location, Hotel Hilton Bonaventure. For starters, instead of the approximately 100 exhibit rooms encountered in 2011, and the approximately 85 last year, visitors will discover 70, including two dedicated to home theater, as well as 370 brands.
Beyond that reality, caused as much by the economic downtown's lingering affect as the shell shock overload of three major consumer audio shows in the course of six weeksAXPONA Chicago March 810, Montreal's SSI March 2224, and the New York Audio Show April 1214attendees will discover bountiful evidence of SSI's commitment to the audio enthusiast of tomorrow. Thanks to SSI co-producers Michel Plante and Sarah Tremblay, a unique, upbeat and contemporary-styled Personal Audio Zone will offer listening comparisons of 80 different models of headphones, costing $75 to $2000. Instead of manufacturers hawking the gear, visitors will get assistance from eight trained SSI section managers whose ages more closely correspond to those of the "can crowd." With manufacturers no longer responsible for the exhibit, many who cannot afford to attend in person have nonetheless been able to submit their products for audition.
Another innovation will be the prominence of systems under $5000. "We always attract a lot of interested new customer," says Plante in his French-Canadian English, "but everything we show is so expensive that they grow frustrated when they can't afford anything. This year, to bring new customer to the stores, we have asked exhibitors to present their best system under $5000 as well as a more expensive system if they wish. Rooms with 'under $5000 systems' will be identified by a special poster. We believe we need to do this to rejuvenate the clientele."
Also new this year is a Women's Conference, scheduled for Friday, March 22 at 2 pm (when, alas, many music lovers of both sexes are at work, and younger people are in school). To quote the homepage, "some very influential women from the high performance audio industry" will discuss the entry of women into an industry currently dominated by men, how women are treated in retail stores, and other issues.
One of the best camera shops in Montreal, Photo Service, will sponsor an exhibit that presents the latest technology in DSLR camera bodies and more. In addition to launching the newest camera systems from Phase One, six different camera and video workshops will take place.
"We want our show to become a place where attendees can take a decision and satisfy their needs," says Plante. To that end, a shopping area will allow people to buy "flat screen TVs, tablets, computers, digital cameras, cables, and home theater.
Even before starting, SSI will present a rock concert on Thursday night, where engineers known for quality recording will run a high quality sound system. Also scheduled is a showing of the "rockumentary," Sound City, directed by David Grohl that explores Southern California's Sound City Studios, birthplace of many of the greatest analog recordings in rock history. In addition, musicians from the Fidelio label will play daily, and Cardas will sponsor Dean Pear performing progressive music.
"When I say we want to change things, I mean it," says Plante. "Classical and jazz are among my favorites, but we have to send the message that rock music is also part of our lives."
Product launches include the Relay from Mass Fidelity, and the visually and technologically unique Leedh E2 speaker from Conceptas Sound & Engineering Group that uses an ironless motor and suspension with a Ferro fluid seal. Also expect something new from Woo amplifiers, and new Blue Circle Amp and preamp, Resonessence Labs DAC, and Meitner DAC. In addition, SSI will again present a Canadian Pavilion with 45 Canadian brands.
To find all this without using the printed show guide, visitors can Google map exhibit locations with their smart phones. Are phones still smart when their users are so distracted by all their bells and whistles that they either walk into people or the path of approaching traffic, or drive off the road or worse? [Editor's Warning: He or she who texts during a Mahler Symphony is doomed to suffer through their nine remaining lifetimes.]
Note that the words "audiophile" and "high end audio" have yet to appear in this show preview. You won't find them on the SSI website either. As if in answer to a concern expressed at the Editors Panel at AXPONA, SSI has ditched those buzzwords in favor of more neutral, less restrictive terms such as "audio enthusiast" and "high performance audio," neither of which implies that better sounding systems are only within reach of those willing and able to pay an arm and a leg for them.
As for the future of SSI as it approaches its 30th year, Plante has canceled the announcement of his 2014 Show pending details of when other winter and spring shows have scheduled their 2014 events. "We want to see what other shows are doing so that we are at least 3040 days away from any other show," he says. "All of these shows in rapid succession is hard on manufacturers. If they run from show to show, there's nothing left for everything else . We want to make sure we don't compromise either manufacturers or the [equally stretched thin] press."
Look for Robert Deutsch and Art Dudley's coverage of SSI to start on this website in less than a week.