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.
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.
I walked into Jay Rein’s Bluebird Music room and was immediately taken by the hard-rocking sound of Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick,” reproduced with appropriate drama, impact, and scale. Here we see Rein standing beside Spendor’s new A9 loudspeaker ($7295/pair). Introduced at this year’s Bristol Show, the A9 made its North American debut at SSI 2010, and sounded excellent, driven by Exposure’s new 3010S2 series: 100W monoblocks ($2595/pair), preamp ($1395), and CD player ($2195). The S2 series replaces Exposure’s Classic line and represents a 50% power increase for one-third less money, Rein told me. Van den Hul’s D352 speaker cables and D102 interconnects ($929) tied this impressive system together.
Leema Acoustics’ Mark Perfect dwarfs the little Leema Xero ($1400/pair), driven by Leema’s own Tucana II 150Wpc integrated amplifier ($8000) and Antila Multi-DAC CD player ($6000), all producing a surprisingly BIG sound with tightly focused images placed within a fairly wide and deep soundstage. Perfect explained that Leema takes its name from design partners Lee Taylor and Mallory Nicholls, recording studio engineers who met during their tenure at the BBC. Designed and manufactured in Wales, the Leema Zero uses custom-made Audax drive units, and has a rated sensitivity of 85dB.
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.
The mystery of the Sanyo JCX 2600K stereo receiver that I wrote about in an earlier blog posting is solved. I went back to the booth of Aux 33 Tours, a Montreal store that sells used new CDs and LPs, and there it was, combined with a Revolver turntable. Aux 33 Tours' Christian Provost told me that they bought the Sanyo receiver from a widow whose husband had been a music lover/audiophile. In addition to a record collectionwhich they boughthe had two of these receivers, one that he had used on a regular basis, and the other that he kept as a spare, in case the first one broke down. It was still in the box, sealed in plastic. That's the unit that was at the show. No wonder it looked to be in good shape! The picture shows Christian Provost playingwhat else?a record.
In addition to ingenuity in dealing with setup problems, Grant Audio had another claim to show exhibitor fame: their sign said "Nothing Over $2500," In fact, most of their productssome designed by Ian Grant in Canada but made in China, and others of Chinese design as well as manufacturewere well under $2500. One of the more expensive items was the W30GT: tube-based integrated amplifier designed by Ian Grant that includes a phono stage and a DAC. It's $1950.
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!
Nordost's Lars Kristensen can always be relied on to give an enthusiastic and instructive demonstration, and so it was at SSI 2010. I missed the first part of the demo, but I was there for what I was most interested in: the effects of the Quantum Qx2 ($1700) and Qx4 ($2700) Resonant Technology "power purifier" devices that Art Dudley has written about. I can't say that I really understand the technical explanation of how these devices work, but the demonstration showed that they certainly do work, the soundwhich without the Quantum devices was actually better-than-averageacquired greater dynamic freedom, sharper imaging, and the soundstage became more spacious.
The Focal Electra 1037 Be that was reviewed by Michael Fremer a while back has been superseded by the Electra 1038 Be II ($13,500/pair). The major change is the upgrading of the beryllium tweeter to the level of the units used in the Utopia series. There is also the inevitable crossover change, and the manufacturing of the midrange and woofer drivers has been made more precise. Here's Daniel Jacques of Audio Plus/Plurison, the North American Focal importer, with the Electra 1038 Be II.
As a Quad ESL enthusiast, I know how difficult it is to blend subwoofers with very good, very fast loudspeakers. Consequently, I was impressed with the new A225-M powered subwoofer from the Swiss company PSI, on demonstration at the Simplifi Audio room. Used with the Gradient Helsinki loudspeaker, of which I also have some experience, a pair of PSI subs ($4500 each) provided lots of deep, impactful bass with no apparent change in the Gradients' timbral character: very impressive. The subwoofer was housed within one of the the same IKEA units as Simplifi's Tim Ryan was using for component stands, to show that high-quality sound can still be domestically acceptable.
Simaudio had two product introductions at the show that conform to this approach: the Moon 400M is a 400Wpc fully balanced mono power amp selling for $2995 each, and the Moon 350P preamplifier (also fully-balanced), $1995 without phono stage and CN$2795 with. Dynaudio had the new Focus 220 Mk.II floorstander ($3600/pair) and the DM 2/6 ($800/pair). The DM 2/6 is the least expensive Dynaudio speaker, and although the drivers are not quite at the level of their more expensive brethren, Dynaudio's Mike Manousselis told me that they're still made in the same factory in Denmark, and follow the core Dynaudio technical quality. Lionel Goodfield (Simaudio) and Mike Manousselis look pleased with their new products.
Simaudio, represented in my photo by Lionel Goodfield (left) and Dynaudio, represented by Mike Manousselis (right) often exhibit together, an arrangement that seems to represent the friendly relationships between people in these companies as well as the synergistic relationships between the products. They certainly sound good together, and both companies seem to be guided by a desire to offer not necessarily the cheapest possible products, but ones that offer high quality combined with good value.
In the Son Ideal room, Harbeth’s Compact 7ES-3 loudspeakers were being driven by Rogue Audio’s Cronus Magnum ($2200), which swaps the standard Cronus’s EL34s for beefier KT90s, delivering 90Wpc for a more extended top end and more robust bottom, Robert DeKoninck told me. I’ve been interested in Rogue Audio for awhile, and hope to listen to a Cronus soon.