Wednesday March 29, 6:009:00pm, Manhattan retailer Innovative Audio (150 East 58th Street, NYC) is holding "The Master Quality Authenticated Experience," the next in a series of "Meet the Innovators Events." Ryan Donaher and Zaheer Alli from Meridian Audio, Peter McGrath from Wilson Audio, and Mike Jbara from MQA will present original concert recordings with and without MQA.
I entered the Oracle-Gershman room to the sounds of the Albinoni (or Giazotto, if you prefer) Adagio in gfrom an LP that turned out to be by bassist Gary Karrand the sound was gorgeous, with lots of texture (the good kind), color (ditto), and bass weight (very ditto).
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.
One is bound to hear at any hi-fi showeven a superior one such as thisthe live, acoustic version of the Eagles' "Hotel California," just as one is bound to hear, at any Catholic mass, a Hail Mary: no surprise at all, and under the best possible conditions the aural equivalent of comfort food. At the 2017 Montreal Audio Fest, I first heard it at the exhibit sponsored by France's Atoll Electroniqueand it reminded me of Ian Anderson's gracious comment, when asked if he was dismayed at the undeniable similarities between that Eagles song and Jethro Tull's own "We Used to Know," from the album Stand Up: "[Hotel California] is a very, very fine song.
I was pumped about this year's Montreal Audio Fest, the city's 30th consecutive audio show, for a couple of reasons. First, I was pumped because I was covering the show for Stereophile with the estimable Art Dudley, and, second, because after last year's debacle that saw the show being unceremoniously cancelled by then-fest organizers/owners, the Chester Group, then resurrected by previous and self-re-instated show organisers, Michel Plante and Sarah Tremblay, the event's rapid revival was proof to me that the Montreal audio show still has legs and a purpose. (The show is taking place this weekend at the Hotel Bonaventure.)
When it comes to Focal loudspeakers, I've been a lurker. For decades now, their demonstrations at audio shows have been memorablea highlight was when, several years ago, I got Focal to play a powerful percussion track through a pair of their Grande Utopias at very high volume on a show's last day. Just to hear and feel how this mammoth system could deliver clarity and impact was awe-inspiring, and it was underscored by seeing folks from all the neighboring rooms quickly entering to enjoy it with me. It has also been a continuing pleasure to relax and listen to music with Stereophile's former Senior Editor, Jonathan Scull through his Focal Utopias, which he purchased in 1998. Alas, the years have turned, speakers have come and gone, and I had not yet had any Focal speakers in my own system. (Bob Deutsch seemed always to get the jump on me!)