Sarah Tremblay and Michel Plante are the dynamic duo responsible for the success of SSI. Like the shark, they believe in always moving forward, coming up with new ideas every year, such as the focus on sub-$5000 systems and headphones at SSI 2013.
When an exhibitor installs, near to the door, something as exotically beautiful as the Scheu Analog Cantus tonearm ($1560), it takes me longer than ususal to make my way into the rest of the room. So it was in the exhibit of distributor Charisma Audio, whose lovely and accommodating staff more than justified their name. While there I also enjoyed a system comprising a Well-Tempered Amadeus GTA record player ($4325), EMT TSD 15 cartridge ($1999), Audio Exklusiv P 0.2 phono stage ($`1299), the same company’s P 7 preamplifier ($7999), Calyx Audio Femti amplifier ($2099), and Capriccio Continuo (ATD) Admonitor 311 speakers ($5999). The system, which gave the sense of wanting just little more breathing roomit was arranged along the long wall did a nonetheless convincing job with Cannonball Adderley’s Riverside album Know What I Mean.
Most of us know Canada’s Solen Electronique as a manufacturer of well-regarded capacitors (they call them condensateurs up here) and inductors, but they offer a wide variety of parts to manufacturers and hobbyists alike. Here we see a selection of hardware, the likes of which you won’t find at your local Home Depot.
Not being fully up on the names of the various Sonus Faber speakers, I asked one of the reps the name of the giants on demo. "Ida" was his answer. Come again? "Ida! Sonus Faber gives their speakers names that have a musical connection, like the titles of operas." But how could that be? The only remotely relevant opera connection that I'm aware of for "Ida" is Gilbert & Sullivan's "Princess Ida," and somehow I doubt if the Italian designers of Sonus Faber speakers would name the speaker after this not-all-that-popular English operetta.
And then I got it. The speaker was named after Aïda, pronounced "eye-ee-duh," the well-know opera by Verdi.
The Tannoy/Linn room had a nice-sounding setup featuring the Tannoy DC-10S speakers ($17,500/pair), Linn Akurate preamp/media streamer ($9350), and Akurate 4200 four-channel amp ($8360). The speakers were had a very attractive glossy finish, which is now offered as an alternative to the traditional Tannoy satin.
Mark Waldrep of AIX Records was on hand with Tearing it Up, the Albert Lee performance film that was recently featured in Stereophile’s pages. Waldrep also showed off a processor called the Realiser (ca $3000), from Smyth Research, a listener-adaptive device that, in this demonstration, allowed me to hear surround effects just as Mark Waldrep hears them in his own installation. Even this headphone-phobic monophile was impressed.
The management of SSI requested exhibiting manufacturers, distributors, and retailers to set upin addition to whatever equipment they wanted to demonstratean entry-level system, with a total price of $5,000 or less. Some high-end audio manufacturers had nothing that would qualify, but others stepped up to the plate. Totem and Creek had a nifty little system that featured a pair of Totem Arros, Creek CD player and integrated amp, which have a combined price of $4,100, leaving $900 for cables, etc.
The product literature for Tri-Art Audio says that their products are "designed, fabricated, and assembled in Canada." What all these products have in common is that bamboo is used in their construction. Pictured: the Bam Bam TA-2 turntable and tonearm (price TBD). The Pebbles turntable and TA-1 tonearm ($1200) are available now. (I'm going to make a wild guess and suggest that the designer is a Flintstones fan.)
The striking Kronos turntable that I first saw at the 2012 Montreal show was on display again, but this time it had a new tonearm. Designed by André Thériault, this prototype tonearm is distinguished by its simplicity, with only 11 parts used. No name yet, and it's expected to sell for about $8000. That's André Thériault in the picture.
Audio Note has long been a believer in high-torque turntables, having brought to market a number of belt-drive designs that use multiple motors (à la the original Voyd). One of the less expensive such models in their line, the twin-motor TT Two ($3500), has now been upgraded, with a plinth made from the same veneered Russian-birch plywood as the company's well-regarded loudspeakers. (The sample here is in Rosewood.) And external power supply ($2400) is also available, either at the time of initial purchase or as a subsequent upgrade, providing greater electronic stability and easy speed selection. Seen with the TT Two are the Arm Three V2 captured-unipivot tonearm ($2000) and an Audio Note Io-I moving-coil cartridge ($4100)which, for SSI, drove an S4L silver-wired transformer ($6200).
Aragon is back! Originally marketed as a kind of common man's Krell (the first Aragon amplifier and preamp were designed by Krell's Dan D'Agostino), Aragon electronics attained considerable popularity, but the brand disappeared from the audiophile landscape a few years ago. But it's back, with new, improved products that build on their history, the amplifiers featuring the familiar "V" on the top of the chassis.
French manufacturer YBA has kept a low profile for several years now, but the brand has been re-launched, with Yves-Bernard André still in charge of design. The reference line products are made in France, but the production of the other YBA products is in Asia. I know that production of YBA's affordable Audio Refinement had problems with that arrangement, but they've apparently learned their lesson, and the new production will have much greater control effected by Yves-Bernard himself. The Passion 650 amplifier ($6999), shown in the photo, was on static display.
The folks at the Montreal Emile Berliner museum always bring to SSI some fascinating vintage audio equipment. The item in the picture is a "Personal Disco" component, Velo Model DK-990 (R), circa 1986, and it has everything you might want for your next disco party: two cassette players, radio, equalizers, four speakers, and a claimed output of 100W. Stephen, here's the subject for your next "Entry Level" column!
Are there too many audio shows? With the Chicago AXPONA having been held two weeks ago, the Montreal SSI having just concluded, and the New York Audio Show coming up in what their website currently indicates is 16 days, 21 hours, 51 minutes, and 9 seconds away, people are starting to wonder whether we're getting an overload on audio shows. This is a sentiment that I've heard expressed by manufacturers and distributorsand, from the business point of view, their concerns are well founded. Participating in shows is an expensive endeavor, and the benefits in terms of additional business, while real, are difficult to measure.