SSI 2015, Art Dudley Sums Up
In fairness, I'm sure there exists almost no such conceit among the people behind the system in question, which was built around the commanding Domain Omni PX1 omnidirectional electrostatic loudspeaker ($CAD65,000/pair) from Ottawa-based Muraudio. At the other end of the system, the Montreal-made Kronos Pro turntable ($CAD38,000) and Kronos Black Beauty tonearm ($CAD8500) served as the source of choice.
The Kronos record player was supported by an anti-vibration stand ($CAD9505) from Solid Rack, also of Montreal. The selfsame stand supported a variety of electronics from Montreal-based Tenor Audio: their Phono 1 phono preamp ($CAD50,000), and combination Line1/Power 1 preamplifier ($CAD100,000). Tenor's hybrid 350 HP monoblock amplifiers, seen in the photo above ($CAD125,000), were another story: They were too large for the stand, but seemed comfortable enough on the floor.
By the time I visited the ballroom containing The World's Best Canadian Audio System, the playing of records was to be replaced by an even more refined entertainment: the gifted cellist Vincent Bélanger, no stranger to SSI, had agreed to accompany his recorded self for a pair of duets. No more daunting comparison exists in the world of domestic audio, and I won't pretend that the two "cellists" were indistinguishable from one another. Yet the one made of metal and plastic and glass aspired to keep company with the other, and succeeded on its own terms; what mattered most was the beauty of the music being made, and the too-rare opportunity to enjoy, in person, the artistry of a world-class musician.
Before wrapping-up for the day, I re-visited the Westmount ballroom, half of which was dedicated to the above-mentioned Personal Audio Zone, the other being given over to the Canada Pavilion: a series of mostly small, static, and often un-staffed displays of the wares of Canadian audio manufacturers. While most of these were redundant, inasmuch as their featured products could be seen and heard elsewhere at the SSI, the exhibit by Pro Design Audio, whose Alain Provencher is seen in the photo above, deserves mention. Show prices for the very beautiful diffusion/diffraction panels made by Pro Design Audio started at a mere $CAD600, which seemed quite the bargain.
Also in the Canada Pavilion were our friends and colleagues from Magazine TED, which is the audio-video magazine of Quebec. Here the lovely Lucie Beauchamp of Magazine TED displays one of the limited number of Rega P3 record players that were decorated last year by the Quebec artist Zilon; the player is the grand prize in an upcoming drawing, for which I filled out an entry form of my own. I have yet to hear back, but I remain optimistic.
Well, there you have it: The stage is empty, and, by the time you read this, the big WATTS sign will have been turned off for another year.
SSI 2015 will be remembered for a number of reasons, some good and some bad. On the good side, the show appears to have been very well-attended, and Salon Son et Image endures as warmest, most convivial audio gathering I know, and also the one with the highest percentageinformally tallied, of courseof female attendees. And in spite of the fact that it is no longer a Hilton property, the Hotel Bonaventure remains attractive, comfortable, friendly, and well-managedand their restaurant has, if anything, gotten even better. (I mourned the loss, from the menu, of their excellent Greek salad, but the black cod appetizer more than made up for it.) The Bonaventure breakfast buffet remains the best on Earth.
On the down side . . . well, let's not mince words: The number of exhibitors had dropped to a level I would describe as disappointingly low. Gone were some regulars of which many are fondincluding AIX Recordings, May Audio Marketing, Wilson Audio, MBL, and Ayre Acousticswhile other exhibitors brought fewer products, and occupied far less space than in previous years. There was distressingly little software for saleand no new LPs at all. And although this is a criticism that can be directed at virtually any contemporary audio showthe notable exception being the titanic and very professionally run High End Audio show in Munichit has become far too common for the SSI show guide to list brands of gear that don't actually appear to be on hand for demonstration.
A transitional show, thenor one with potential to be so. I dearly hope that, with a bit of freshening-up and a few new ideas, Salon Son et Image will be back next year, bigger and better than ever.