More Robert Schryer in Montreal

Whatever our preference in sound, there are audio components or systems that are not only better than others at plucking our heartstrings, but of doing so on such a level of intimacy it's as if the hardware were delivering the musical performance specially for us. I experienced such moments while listening to Coherent Audio's audio setup, which featured a Baetis Prodigy music server ($US3000), a Triode Labs Au Pre preamp ($CDN2000), a Triode Labs 2A3 SET ($CDN3900), and a pair of dual-concentric Coherent Audio Model 12GR speakers with a sensitivity rating of 96dB and an impedance of 8 ohms.

At not too-high volume, the system's sound was rich, expressive, and heartstring-plucking.

Again this year, my pretend audio product award for "nothing else like it around" goes to perennial Montreal show exhibitors Tri-Art Audio, whose line of products, from their turntables to their wall-mounted room-tuning devices, are made almost entirely out of bamboo, a core building material that company owner Steve Ginsberg prefers over others for its structural rigidity and resonant qualities.

Tri-Art Audio's products are tooled from sheets of 3-ply constraint soaked in hemp oil and finished in bee's wax. I can attest that the bamboo theme is no idle gimmick. Tri-Art Audio's Bam Bam open-baffle speakers ($CDN5530/pair), Bam Bam 60Wpc amplifier ($CDN2400), Bam Bam passive preamp ($CDN1150), Pebbles CD/DVD player ($CDN900) and Sprout 2 DAC ($CDN320) spun musical lines with an effortlessness and warmth that made me want to sit and stay.

Sure, McIntosh's new audio designs can come across as overtly lifestyle-ish, which might lead one to wonder if McIntosh's current priorities might have less to do with providing good sound than trendy status symbols for the moneyed millennials who like their stereos to glow green, but not only did I find the mostly-McIntosh playback system in the Audioshop showroom less gaudy-looking than I expected it to, but I also found it to be reasonably priced for the level of sonics and looks it delivered. The system consisted of a McIntosh MT5 turntable (designed by Clearaudio, now a subsidiary of McIntosh) ($US6500 with arm and Sumiko Blue Point cartridge), a McIntosh C2600 preamp with phono stage and an internal 32 bit/384kHz, DSD-supporting DAC ($US7,000), two McIntosh 75 mono amps ($US9000/pair), and a pair of Sonus Faber Venere S speakers ($US5000/pair).

Hegel strikes me as one those high-value companies that seems determined to provide near state of the art technology at close to populist prices, which is why, on a visit to Montreal retailer Brosseau's showroom, I was surprised to discover in the equipment rack a Hegel Mohican CD-only player—as in, it plays CDs and nothing else—with a suggested retail price of $US5000. (Herb Reichert will be reviewing the Mohican in the May issue of Stereophile.) Still, the musical end result of the Mohican connected to the Hegel Röst integrated amplifir ($US4000), the latter powering a pair of Polish-made Pylon speakers ($CDN3200/pair), proved that this was, indeed, a high-value sound system.