Nordost provided the lanyards for the all badges (attendees, exhibitors, and press), with the Nordost name prominently displayed, and to the casual observer it might have seemed that everyone at SSI 2014 worked for Nordost! Not so, but Nordost cables were in a number of systems, and Nordost did brisk business at their booth selling cables and other accessories at a show discount.
Montreal dealer Coup de Foudre's Wilson/Dan D'Agostino room had Wilson's new Sasha II speakers ($29,900/pair), combined with Dan D'Agostino's Momentum Line stage preamp and stereo power amp ($32,000 and $29,000, respectively). The sound was truly excellent.
The revision of the Sasha to Mark II status involves a number of improvements, the cumulative effect of which, according to Peter McGrath, is quite significant. The Sasha II has the same midrange and woofer as the original Sasha, but the tweeter is all newa convex rather than a concave dome as used previously. The tweeter and midrange baffle materials are different from those in the original Sasha, and the effect is a 34% reduction in resonant modes. The mechanism allowing the mid/tweeter module to be tilted, to "focus" the sound, has been revised so that the focusing can be more precise.
A few years ago, SSI introduced Lifetime Achievement awards, honoring individuals who have made notable contributions to the audio business in Canada. This time, the honorees were Michel Girard, President of the Audio Group, and Saxe Brickenden, President of Evolution Audio. Girard's award was presented to him by his niece, and you can see from the picture what an emotional moment this was for both of them.
Evolution Audio's Saxe Brickenden was equally pleased with his awardeven though his name on the award statuette was mis-spelled. "I've seen my name mis-spelled so many ways over the years that I'm used to it."
A highlight of the Lifetime Achievement award party was another performance by soprano Sophie De Cruz, this time joined by baritone Julianne Horbatuck, her partner in an upcoming production of Lucia di Lammermoor. She sang Musetta's waltz song from La Bohème, tossing off high notes with abandon, and the two of them blew the roof off the place with a duet from Lucia. Pianist Dominic Boulianne provided unobtrusive but effective support.
Ontario-based Kevro International, which distributes Monitor Audio loudspeakers and British-built Cyrus electronics in the US and Canada, demonstrated a system using a pair of Monitor Silver 10 loudspeakers ($2700/pair in gloss finish) and a stack of Cyrus amplification and digital components (total price approximately $12,000). Apart from lacking a bit of bass weightsurprisingly, given the speakers' size and the sheer amount of bass-driver real estate), the sound was smooth, spacious, and open, with very good melodic flow and momentum.
I have found that, under show conditions, some of the sweetest sounds often come from the smallest systems; so it was in the room sponsored by distributor VMAX, where a Hegel H80 integrated amplifier with onboard D/A and five digital inputs, including USB ($2000) drove a lovely pair of Triangle 30th Anniversary Comete loudspeakers ($1800/pair), with a Hegel CDP-2A CD player ($2600) used as a transport.
Seen in the same room as the Hegel-Triangle system was a frustratingly silent display: one of a pair of brand-new, full-range electrostatic loudspeakers from the Dutch company Essence. Apparently its mate suffered a bit of rough handling, and the people of VMAX decided, commendably, not to trust its high-voltage circuitry before giving the speaker a thorough check-up. In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for this $4000/pair beauty, the stators of which are created from acrylic using a 3D printer.