For SSI 2013, the talended recordist Rene Laflamme and his Montreal-based company Fidelio introduced a number of titles, including a new Dvorak/Suk release titled Serenades Tcheques (Fidelio FACD036) by Daniel Myssyl and the chamber orchestra known as Appassionata. (Myssyk and Appassionata's recording of the Hindemith Escales Romantique, also on Fidelio, remains in heavy rotation at my house.) A selection from another new Fidelio releasethe eponymous debut by the folk duo June in the Fields (Fidelio FACD044) sounded wonderfully colorful and present over Laflamme’s reference system, comprising a dCS Puccini CD player ($20,000), an older model dCS 955 pro-market D/A ($8000 when new), Audio Research Reference 5SE preamplifier ($13,000), Audio Research Reference 250 power amplifier ($24,000), and Sonus Faber Amati loudspeakers ($36,000).
Blue Circle Audio first came to prominence (or perhaps notoriety) with whimsical products like an amplifier in a shoe and a preamplifier in a purse. Although the Music Pumps and the Music Purse are still available, according to their website , Blue Circle brought more conventional products to SSI 2013, and their demo room provided one of the show's most relaxing listening experiences. There is just something very soothing about a night sky as a background to musicand the music presented by the system (BC507 DAC, $2600, BC309 preamp, $8500, BC1022 amp, $7000, BC6040 power line conditioner, $4000, BIS Audio Maestro cabling, $9500, and Ledoux Acoustique DIVA speakers and GAiA subs, $21,000) showed that Blue Circle does not need quirky products to get our attention at SSI. The SHow continues today (Saturday) and tomorrow.
Gershman is getting into the component support/vibration control business. The LEC Levitation device ($240 for a set of four), shown here by Ofra Gershman, uses the repulsion of two magnetic poles to provide isolation of the component from the surface it's placed on. Improvements in clarity, soundstage, imaging, and bass response are promised.
Also seen in the Canadian Pavilion at SSI 2013: Simaudio Moon 600i integrated amps (125Wpc), in a choice of red or blue finish. The price of these limited-edition amps has yet to be determined; the 600i’s normal retail price is $9500.
The Oracle Audio system that sounded so lovely included the two most recent entries in the company’s Paris line of products: the Paris CD 250 CD player and Paris DAC 250 D/A converter, both pictured above ($3750 apiece). Other highlights were the current Oracle Delphi turntable with Oracle SME arm and Benz-made Corinth Reference cartridge (a $22,500 package), Paris phono stage ($1795), Delphi SI 1000 MOSFET integrated amplifier ($12,500), and Focal Grand Utopia Scala loudspeakers ($32,000/pair), with all-Kimber Kable wiring.
Audio Plus/Plurison is the importer of the Pathos line of audio electronics. Like Cambridgeanother Audio Plus importthese fall into the moderately priced category. The products pictured are the Convert o DAC ($1295) and the Aurium ($1495) headphone amp.
One of the by-invitation-only events of SSI is the party held by Montreal high-end retailer Coup de Foudrethe invitees being personnel of their suppliers and the media. This year's CDF party followed their usual formula of good food and drink and genial hosting by Graeme Humfrey and Jennifer Cytrynbaum. Who are the people in this picture? OK, I'll start naming the ones I know. That's Gerard Rejskind of UHF Magazine in the approximate center, next to the right (Gerard's left), Philip O'Hanlon of On A Higher Note, and the tall fellow with the scarf is John DeVore of DeVore Fidelity. Do you know any others?
MBL finished the job that Oracle Audio began with Anne Bisson (below): They spoiled me not only with live music, but with music by a world-class cellist, Montreal's Vincent Bélanger. Jeremy Bryan, the CEO of MBL North America, took the added step of inviting Bélanger to come by early and record, on ¼" analog tape (15 ips), extra cello parts for various pieces in his repertoire; thus when M. Bélanger set about to perform for a handful of fortunate show attendees, he did so alongside his recorded self, the latter portrayed with what can only be described as surprising realismdynamically, timbrally, and spatiallyby MBL's largest hybrid loudspeaker, the MBL 111 ($42,000/pair), which uses, from 600Hz and up, the same driver complement as even their most expensive loudspeakers.
Meredith Gabor shows off a Qv2 “harmonizer,” manufactured in Massachusetts by QRT and distributed by Nordost. The Qv2, which contains both passive and active components, is meant to be plugged into an available AC socket in the user’s listening room, as (electrically) close as possible to the system itself, and is claimed to effectively “clean up” the soundstage and improve detail and resolution. Qv2s, the effects of which are said to be cumulative, sell for $350 each.
Another Coup de Foudre room offered a system built around the curiously named but thoroughly engaging Twenty 23 loudspeakers ($4389/pair) from PMCwhich, I’m told, stands for professional monitor company. The amplifier in use was the less inscrutably named Integrated Amplifier from Brinkmann ($7499), while the source was the Unico CD Primo CD player ($1900). On a vocal number by Andrea Bocelli, percussion instruments sounded a bit compressedthat might be the fault of the recording, for all I knowbut I heard a great deal of realistic texture and color from this detailed but not at all light-sounding system.
I thought the Raidho D-1 loudspeaker ($28,000/pair, including stands), was among the most interesting and musically impressive new products at SSI. Raidho, a Danish company known for their work with ultra-lightweight ceramics, has developed a process for bonding to their speaker diaphragms a thin coat of industrial diamond, conferring even greater stiffness and freedom from unwanted resonances. Paired with a Jeff Rowland Aeris D/A converter and Jeff Rowland 625 power amplifier, the Raidhos were impressive on a variety of material. We’ve all heard demonstrations where we came away saying, “I can’t believe they got so much bass out of such little loudspeakers,” but in terms of the sheer quality and scale of that bass, the Raidho/Rowland combination was on another plane altogether.
Granted, I know little to nothing about the home theater market, but I thought this was kind of cool: a paint called Screen Goo, available through all Sherwin-Williams dealers, that can be used to transform any flat, paintable surface into a projection screen. This two-stage treatmenta reflective undercoat, topped with a semi-translucent diffusive top coatis 100% acrylic, with a very low VOC content. Screen Goo is available with different degrees of pigmentation; the photo above compares unity-gain white, on the far right, with two other shades. This company’s biggest market? According to Kevin Nute of Goo Systems, it’s theme-park installations (eg, the Haunted Mansion at Disney World).
Rega comes to affordable audio products honestly: that's the only kind they make. For $5000, the system assembled at SSI 2013 included the Brio-R integrated amp ($900), Apollo-R CD player ($1095), and RS7 speakers ($3195/pair). You can substitute a DAC or a turntable for the same price. If you do the math you'll find that this comes out to $200 more than the limit, but I was told that the dealer will offer a discount that brings the price down to $5000, and will even include some cables. A very easy-on-the-ears system, and obviously good value.
Located in Kelowna, British Columbia, Resonessence Labs is the maker of the Invicta ($4000) described as a "technically excellent, audibly superior, Next Generation DAC." I can't comment on all these claims, but the Invicta is clearly a highly versatile device, with a wide assortment of inputs, including an SD card reader (FLAC, AIFF, and WAV on SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards), HDMI video output to show playlists on a TV monitor, and no fewer than seven digital filter options.