With the Joseph Audio Pulsar ($7000/pair), introduced at the 2009 CES, Jeff Joseph’s goal was to turn his top-of-the-line Pearl into “a convenient, single-serving size speaker with real bass slam.” The Pearl’s 1” tweeter is mated to a magnesium-done woofer made by Seas to Joseph’s specs. Joseph explained that the Pulsar is designed to radiate sound evenly over a very wide angle to avoid wave interference, and make for simple placement and good sound throughout the listening room.
I got to see and to hear the legendary Platine Verdier turntable in the Excel Stereo suite, and though language differences and crowd noise confounded my efforts to learn either its current price or the name of the curious birdsong-and-fiddle record being played, I was delighted to see it in use with a proper (12") tonearm and Ortofon SPU pickup head. Seems I didn't leave civilization behind after all!
As a fan of electrostaticsI used to own KLH Nines and original Quad 57sI was intrigued by the favorable reports of the King Sound Prince II full-range electrostatics in both the 2010 CES and the Axpona show reportss, and was pleased to find out King Sound listed on the list of exhibitors at SSI 2010. It was one of the few exhibits that I actually sought out rather than just allowing myself to find it in the course of walking the show floor. And I was most impressed. The soundwith electronics from McAlister, a company that I'll be writing about in a separate blog entryhad the clarity and lack of "speaker" coloration that reminded me of the KLH Nines and Quads, but the speaker seemed to be able to play louder than than these classic 'static designs. The retail price of $6500/pair seems very reasonable. I think I've found my next speaker to review. Or maybe the King II, which is just being introducedbut it may be too big for my room.
Klaro Audio debuted its Summus loudspeaker ($3300/pair CAN), designed and manufactured in Montreal. This compact floorstander stands 36” H by 6.5” W by 10” D, and has a rated efficiency of 89dB; it uses single-wire binding posts from Furutech and its Russian Birch Plywood cabinet is available in Piano Black, Cherry, Mahogany, Tasso Brown, or Terra Natural finishes. Mated to the CEC TL51XR belt-drive CD player ($2200), Jadis JS1 Mk.III DAC with separate power supply ($18,000), and Jeff Rowland Continuum integrated amplifier, the Klaro Summus, pictured here with Jacintha looking on, impressed me with its large, smooth sound.
Leben Hi-Fi’s CS600 integrated amplifier ($5895), distributed by Tone Imports, produces 32Wpc and is a gorgeous piece of art, recalling the industrial design of 1950s and 1960s American hi-fi. We didn’t listen to the CS600 at SSI 2010, but I had a lot of fun just looking at it. Watch out for John Marks’ review in our June issue.
Barrie, Ontario, about an hour's drive from Toronto, with a population of about 130, 000, is not a city that I associate with the design and manufacture of high performance audio equipment. It doesn't have even a single "real" audio store, just Best Buy, etc. But, as I found out at SSI 2010, Barrie is the home of McAlister Audio, maker of the OTL-195 monoblock amplifier and a prototype preamp. The designer is Peter McAlister, who produced his first prototype output-transformerless power amp ten years ago. The OTL-195 puts out 150W, and appears to be a very sophisticated design: fully balanced, able to drive 4 ohm loads, a circuit that tracks the signal level in the driver stage and modulates the control grids of output tubes, and various other circuit refinements. The OTL-195 is hand-built by Peter McAlister himself, and utilizes high-quality parts. The price is $8500/pair. As I mentioned in the blog posting below, the King Sound Prince IIs sounded great driven the McAlister OTL-195s.
The affordable Monitor Audio Silver RS6 has been a long-term recommended loudspeaker at this magazine since Bob Reina reviewed it in March 2006. The English manufacturer recently replaced its "S" series with "X" models, which feature revised drive-units, better internal bracing, and lacquer finishes. The benefits of the changes are said to be better low-frequency definition and deeper bass extension. Being demmed at SSI was not the replacement for the RS6 but the larger Silver RX8 ($1750/pair in standard finsih, $2000/pair in black or white gloss). With the RX8s driven by a Simaudio Supernova CD player and a Yamaha RXZ-7 receiver, Dave Brubeck's classic "Take Five" did indeed sound fine, with a soundstage that floated free of the speakers themselves and weighty but well-defined lows.
May Audio Marketing, owned and managed by Nizar Akhrass, has been a purveyor of audiophile recordings and accessories since . . . well...shortly after Thomas Edison demonstrated the newfangled device called the phonograph. Or at least so it seems. He and his family are still at it, and, in a move that will be applauded by the audiophile community, the organizers of SSI presented Nizar and his wife Alice with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the opening night reception. Well-deserved, I'd say.
Next door to Cabasse, Samuel and Jean-Pierre of L'Atelier-Audio had somewhat less Englishand my command of French is virtually non-existent. But I had no trouble understanding the music played through their Ocellia Calliope 30 Twin Signature loudspeakers (exhibited in pre-production form, price TBD), driven by their Quaero 300B push-pull amps ($15,000/pair) and Quaero Signature preamp ($9000). As with all Ocellia loudspeakers, the very efficient Calliope 30 Twins use high-sensitivity drivers from the French company Phy, and the exquisitely beautiful cabinets are built with intentionally very thin walls, braced in a manner not unlike a guitar or violin, and equipped with an adjustable port/open baffle system for matching the loudspeaker to the volume of air in the listening room. The performance was lovely, insofar as I could tell in such an unavoidably setting, and I've requested a pair for review.
Place Bonaventure is located about halfway between St. Catherine street (which I think of as the center of downtown) and Old Montreal, near the river. As such, it's nearly in the shadow of St. Patrick's Basilica. I went for a walk Friday morning before the show started, but my walk was not as long as I had planned: the temperature had taken a big dive overnight, and so it was very...shall we say...bracing. But at least it didn't snow, as in previous SSIs.
In one of the excellent-sounding Audio d’occasion rooms, I had the pleasure of meeting Oracle Audio Technologies’ Jacques Riendeau, who introduced me to the latest incarnation of his beautiful Delphi turntable, reviewed by Michael Fremer in our March 2010 issue. Riendeau explained that the Delphi Mk.VI ($11,600, with Oracle/SME 345 tonearm) uses Delrin feet for a better balanced sound across a wider environment; an improved main bearing system for a greater gap between background noise and the signal; and, most importantly, Oracle’s Micro Vibration Stabilizer System, which utilizes three plungers that dip into silicone baths to reduce lateral vibrations, found by Riendeau to have an enormous impact on sound quality.
Today is Press Day at the 2010 Salon Son & Image, located at the extraordinary Hilton Bonadventure, a penthouse hotel perched above the Place Bonadventure exhibition center, built for the 1967 World’s Fair. At the moment, exhibitors and members of the press are just getting acquainted with the unusual hotel, which has an extremely tempting heated outdoor pool and garden views at every turn. Lines are just beginning to form at the registration desk, where I couldn’t help but say hello to the charming staff.
Audio show exhibitors have a lot of obstacles to contend with: equipment not showing up or showing up damaged, problem with room acoustics, problems with the electrical supply, equipment malfunctioning just as the show starts, and countless others. Ian Grant of Grant Fidelity told me that when he first set up his turntable front end it was picking up the signal from a local radio station! Being an ingenious engineering-type, he located the source of the interference (he could see the station's antenna from the hotel window), and got some building insulation material that had aluminum foil as part of its construction, and taped it to the hotel window. Voilà! Problem solved!