I first heard the prototypes of the almost-all-glass Arabesque from Dutch wire manufacturer Crystal Cable at the 2009 CES, where they produced sound in the Audio Basics room that belied my negative expectations. Demmed at SSI with Simaudio 5.3 series CD player and amplification, the Arabesques, now in full production, again produced a promising sound. With my my recording of "The Mooche," from Editor's Choice, the Arabesques put me squarely in the church acoustic of Chad Kassem's Blue Heaven Studio in Kansas, where the recording was made.
Wilson Audio Specialties' Peter McGrath (second from left) is embraced by the crew of Coup de Foudre (lr): Jennifer ("Just Jennifer. No surname. You may have heard of me."), Graeme Humfrey, and Erik Fortier.
Okay, so the system in the big room from Montreal dealer Coup de Foudre was very expensive, and the room's acoustics I knew from the 2008 Show were excellent, but the sound was both my best at show and the best I heard in that room. Not only did Peter McGrath's high-resolution recordings, played back from his Sound Devices recorder feeding the very promising Playback Designs' D/A processor, reproduce with extraordinary dynamics and a superbly transparent window into the soundstage, my own recordings sounded the best I have experienced, with the audiophile attributes supporting/reinforcing rather than getting in the way of the music. And that was from CD!
It did not require great perspicacity to predict that SSI2009 would not be as well attended as last year's show. Things are tough all over. In any case, as I write this, on Saturday evening on a train en route to Torontoyes, I manage to catch the train this time!the show still has another day to go, and, as Michel Plante, with Sarah Tremblay the SSI's organizers, admitted, what often makes or breaks a show like this is the Sunday attendance.
Son-Or-Filtronique's Dany Poulin stands with the Verity Audio Finn. Paired with the Audio Research VSi60 integrated amplifier and CD 8 disc player, the Finns, which are rated at 91dB efficiency and use a rear-firing woofer, were making some gorgeous sounds.
I adored the sound in the small Son-Or-Filtronique room with the Audio Research VSi60 integrated amplifier, Audio Research CD8 disc player ($10,000), Verity Audio Finn loudspeakers ($6000/pair CAN), and Shunyata cables. Adored it.
Box Furniture Co.'s Anthony Abbate started as an apprentice to furniture maker Robert Martin. A love for music, sound, and hi-fi would soon get Anthony building equipment racks for his personal system. Later, a chance meeting at Max Fish, the colorful little bar on Ludlow Street in the Lower East Side, with speaker designer John DeVore, would lead to a partnership with DeVore Fidelity, building John's handsome speaker cabinets. (Oddly, but perfectly, Anthony would later later discover that John had sold him some of his old hi-fi equipment. Their relationship was obviously a product of fate. And you can't mess with that.) Anthony's equipment racks and isolation platforms, like the speaker cabinets, are nothing exotic or gaudy. Instead, they are simply elegant. But not elegant in the precious sort of way. Elegant in that nothing is wasted. Elegant in that form matches function. Anthony's work simply is what it is; pure and honest lines, mortise and tenon construction, catalyzed finishes, handmade in Brooklyn, New York.
SSI had a display of vintage gramophones and radios, courtesy of Montreal's Emile Berliner Museum. They've had this for several shows now, and it's always wonderful to see these artifacts that tell the history of our hobby. The Museum is member-supported, and publishes a pamphlet, His Master's Voice, four times a year, in English and French.
The Pierre Gabriel speakers usually demonstrated at the Montreal show are normally humongous affairs, and, with partnering equipment by Jadis, the system price may leave you with little change from a $500k bill. I was surprised, then, to see a relatively modest-lookingbut still very-good-soundingspeakers playing in the Pierre Gabriel/Jadis room.
I am only familiar with the name "Solen" from the company's audiophile-quality capacitors and other passive components, so I wasn't sure what to expect when I entered the room labeled "Solen." The beautifully finished speakers, demmed with an Ayre C7-xe CD player, Accuphase preamp, and Rotel power amp, were one-off designs to show off what coud be achieved by the audiophile interested in "rolling his own." (Selections from AudioXpress magazine's library of speaker design books were also on show.) The large speaker with the outboard crossover sounded pretty good, I thought. It combined a JBL subwoofer with an Audio Technology woofer, ATC dome midrange, and Dynaudio Esotar tweeter.
Is it just my perception, or do people who are looking through bins of LPs have a kind of happy excitement about them? The vinyl-buying folks at SSI sure seemed to be a really happy lot. Selecting CDs seems to be a much more matter-or-fact endeavor. And I can't imagine anyone getting too excited about the act of buying a new hard drive for their music server.