The magic numbers, for Salon Son et Image, are 25, 100, and 10,000. Canada's first and largest high-end audio show, whose 25th-anniversary show arrives March 2325 (press day March 22) in downtown Montreal's Hilton Bonaventure, expects to set a new attendance record as up to 10,000 visitors explore 100 exhibit rooms.
I know that Sennheiser has an ever-expanding line of wireless headphones, and I've seen these at CES. Something I haven't seen before, was a package labeled Duo Cinema. This is a kit that includes two sets of HDR 170 wireless headphones and a base unit, for $599.95. These are intended to be used for home theater; the base unit can accommodate two more sets of headphones. The Duo Cinema package is available only in Canadaso no wonder I didn't see it at CES. It's shown here by Nadine Girard- Business Director, Retail Strategy of Sennheiser Canada.
This year's SSI included a Canada Pavilion exhibit, honoring Canadian manufacturers of audio products. One of these was Simaudio. This was my first chance to get a close look at the Signature version of their 600i 125Wpc integrated amp. It's $14,200 in ultra-shiny gold finish that's a photographer's nightmare. I mentioned to Simaudio's Lionel Goodfield my difficulty in getting a decent photo of the 600i Signature, and he said that it took their professional product photographer several hours of fiddling with various lighting accessories to get a product picture that they could use. That made me feel better.
Loudspeaker specialists Magico were on hand with their recent Q3 ($38,950/pair), which boasts a 90dB sensitivity rating and 5 ohm nominal impedance: not quite SET territory, but easily the California firm's most sensitive speaker yet. Magico rep and fellow bluegrass fan Irv Gross put the Q3 through its paces for me; I was impressed with its speed, scale, drama, and sheer gripnot only in the lowest frequencies but all the way up through its well fleshed-out treble range.
I was delighted by the sound being made by Montreal dealer Audiophoniepartly, I admit, because they were demonstrating an all-new version of the venerable Spendor SP100, now in R2 form ($11,900/pair), an earlier version of which I owned and loved for years. Its tone, touch, spatial presentation, and vibe were all just about perfect. I will begyes, begfor the opportunity to write about the Spendor in the months to come.
Two venerable British makeswho share a North American distributor and neither one content to rest on their laurelsteamed up at SSI 2012, the Tannoy Definition DC8T ($6200/pair) being combined with the Linn Akurate DSM digital streamer ($9200) and Linn Akurate 2200 integrated amp ($6000) to produce a very clean, dynamic sound.
After having been at the show for some time, I received an email from John Marks, fellow Stereophile scribe, urging meand Art Dudley, who got the same emailto try to listen to the Bricasti DAC that John Atkinson reviewed in February, which he said was adding five minimum-phase filters, as well as offering an optional asynchronous USB input. As it happened, I read the email just as I was walking by the Bricasti room, and I took this to be a sign that I should follow JM's recommendation.
Another product imported by Mike Tang is the Carot One ($399, $370 tax-in show price), which can be used as an integrated amp, preamp, power amp (6Wpc), or headphone amp. It uses a single 6922 tube, with a class-D output section. It's so cute that you want to buy one whether you need it or not. It's pictured here, with my iPhone included to provide a sense of scale.
One of the unofficial highlights of this year's SSI was the by-invitation-only party given by Montreal dealer Coup de Foudre. The genial hosts were Jennifer Cytrynbaum (Store Manager) and Graeme Humfrey (Product Specialist, Store Owner, jazz guitarist, and a recording engineer of 20 years' experience). They had great food and drinks, and they did their utmost to make sure that everyone has a good time. The picture shows Jennifer in her element, along with Wilson’s Peter McGrath (left), Wavelength’s Gordon Rankin (center) and Graeme Humfrey (far right).
The Light Harmonic DaVinci USB is perhaps the most unusual-looking DAC I've seen, with the top of the unit that can be rotated. It's a non-upsampling, non-oversampling, no-negative-feedback design, with up to 384kHz/32-bit capability. The DaVinci uses three transformers in the power supply: one for digital, one for analog, and one for USB and control. This looks like a very serious design, and the price is correspondingly serious $20,000.
I've been an admirer of MBL's omnidirectional speakers, the latest 101E Mk.II reviewed by Michael Fremer in the April 2012, issue. These were demoed at SSI 2012, and sounded great, as always. While certainly an impressive illustration of the art and science of speaker design, for me, the 101E Mk.II, being priced at about $70k/pair, is a speaker that I just can't relate tothe audio equivalent of a Lamborghini.
What I found exciting at SSI was MBL's new entry-level "baby" speaker, the MBL126. With a new radial midrange driver and tweeter, and two 5" "push-push" drivers, with MBL's less-expensive electronics, the pair of MBL126s at the show had much the same sort of open, non-listener-position-dependent sound that characterizes it senior siblingsand the price is a relatively-affordable $11,800/pair.
New at SSI was Rethm's first foray into amplifier design: a 16Wpc single-ended integrated amp called the Gaanam ($7750), built around the Russian 6C33C tube and featuring an outboard power supply, 6922-based preamp stage, and an all-transformer driver stage. Using a Lector CD player and Rethm's own all-silver speaker cable ($1250 for an 8' pair), the combination of Maarga speakers and Gaanam amp sounded spacious, clean, well textured, and very tactile, with fine bass extension and bass color; my impression was that the consistently large crowd of listeners in this room agreed.
Rethm, most of whose distinctive loudspeaker designs have been designed and built around full-range Lowther drivers, has now switched to a driver design of their ownwhich, like Rethm's loudspeakers themselves, are manufactured in India. The Rethm Maarga ($8750/pair) supplements a 6" version of that new driver with an isobaric pair of powered, 6.5" paper-cone woofers.