I got to see and to hear the legendary Platine Verdier turntable in the Excel Stereo suite, and though language differences and crowd noise confounded my efforts to learn either its current price or the name of the curious birdsong-and-fiddle record being played, I was delighted to see it in use with a proper (12") tonearm and Ortofon SPU pickup head. Seems I didn't leave civilization behind after all!
Coming soon to a salon near you: a 45Wpc integrated amp that even a schoolteacher can afford. Advanced Acoustics, whose products are designed in France and manufactured in China, showed a prototype of their forthcoming MAP-101, which sounded decent driving a nondescript pair of tiny tabletop speakers. And if that sounds like darning with faint praise, consider that Advanced's MAP-101 is intended to sell for only $649. Alors!
As last year, Totem Acoustics had by far the show's most aesthetically sophisticated exhibit: a trippy mix of shapes and textures both organic and industrial, in which lights, flowers, textiles, and scents shared senses with the sound. The latter, also in typical Totem form, was exceptionally involvingespecially the Beatles' "Within You, Without You," Insane Clown Posse's "Ain't Yo Bidness," and "lua" by Dudu (no relation) Salinas. At SSI Totem also introduced a product that's still in concept stage, called Totem Skin: a removable sock-style cover that transformed cabinetry into artliterally. Among the company's goals for this show, according to the Totem rep with whom I spoke, was to gauge consumer response to the Skins, and the reaction so far is positive.
Here we see John Atkinson caressing the relatively compact Vivid B1 loudspeaker ($15,000/pair). With the help of a second rear-mounted mid-woofer, the B1 produces a sound far larger than its modest proportions. On A Higher Note’s Philip O’Hanlon tells us that women, in particular, have been fond of this speaker.
Maybe I don't know everything after all. In all candor, Legacy loudspeakers had never struck me as the sorts of things I might like. But here at FSI, driven by an attractive Ayon Triton integrated amplifier ($8500), itself fed by an Ayon CD-5 CD player ($9450), I very much enjoyed the big Legacy Whisper XD speakers ($20,000/pair). I wasn't surprised by the punchy, wide-range presentation, but there was a lot more realistic texture and timbral color than I ever expected. And the very nice young couple who ran the suite were patient with my seemingly limitless supply of inane questions. A fine experience.
On a number of occasions I've heard the CD-77 CD player from Abbingdon Music Research sound wonderful: organic, textured, and altogether analogish. Today was no exception, as proven by the latest 77.1 version of the AMR player ($9995), distributed in the US by Avatar Acoustics. (Avatar also distributes the unique tuning accessories made by Franck Tchang of Acoustic Systems International.) Other components on dem were a beautiful tube preamp and power amp from Japan's Mactone (price to be determined) and Teo Audio's interesting new Runa loudspeaker (projected to sell for $12,000/pair), all wired together with the latest interconnects and cables from the Teo-distributed Liquid Cable. The system was invitingly detailed without a trace of tizz, and while I'm not the sort who obsesses over imaging, I admit that I was charmed by the Teo speakers' very inviting spatial qualities. Also on display but in use during my visit was the Feickert Blackbird turntable (approximately $7500), for which the word "interesting" seems a cruel understatement.
Next door to Cabasse, Samuel and Jean-Pierre of L'Atelier-Audio had somewhat less Englishand my command of French is virtually non-existent. But I had no trouble understanding the music played through their Ocellia Calliope 30 Twin Signature loudspeakers (exhibited in pre-production form, price TBD), driven by their Quaero 300B push-pull amps ($15,000/pair) and Quaero Signature preamp ($9000). As with all Ocellia loudspeakers, the very efficient Calliope 30 Twins use high-sensitivity drivers from the French company Phy, and the exquisitely beautiful cabinets are built with intentionally very thin walls, braced in a manner not unlike a guitar or violin, and equipped with an adjustable port/open baffle system for matching the loudspeaker to the volume of air in the listening room. The performance was lovely, insofar as I could tell in such an unavoidably setting, and I've requested a pair for review.
The Salon Son & Image has been organized for the past 4 years by Michel Plante and Sarah Tremblay, who were to be seen everywhere on the Show's opening day. I have been involved in running Shows for almost 30 years, and I must say that from the visitors' perspective and, I hope, the exhibitors', the 2010 event was superbly organized. Good signage, a great venue, and overall good sound, I take my hat off to Michel and Sarah. They even partnered with CEDIA for the first time at the 2010 Show to present "CEDIA University," a series of training seminars for custom installation. The evening of the first day, Michel thanked everyone in a short speech at the opening reception and wished them "Bon Salon!" before handing the stage over to the Give Band.
I was also impressed by the sound of the $7000/pair Joseph Pulsar stand-mount that Stephen Mejias blogged about. What was notable about the set-up was that, in order to tame the hotel room acoustic, Jeff had set-up the speakers, driven by Simaudio's new 175Wpc Moon 700i integrated amplifier via Cardas Clear cables, to fire across the room's diagonal. If you have problems getting an optimal transition between the mid-bass and upper bass in your room, you might want to try this set-up (significant other not objecting, of course).
With the Joseph Audio Pulsar ($7000/pair), introduced at the 2009 CES, Jeff Joseph’s goal was to turn his top-of-the-line Pearl into “a convenient, single-serving size speaker with real bass slam.” The Pearl’s 1” tweeter is mated to a magnesium-done woofer made by Seas to Joseph’s specs. Joseph explained that the Pulsar is designed to radiate sound evenly over a very wide angle to avoid wave interference, and make for simple placement and good sound throughout the listening room.
Hathor Acoustik takes its name from the Ancient Egyptian goddess said to have the ability to “cure humanity with her song,” explained designer Luc Allair (right). Salon Son & Image 2010 presents the debut of Hathor’s Reference loudspeaker ($20,000 CAN). Partnered with an elegant, all-Naim system, including CDX2 player, NAC 252 preamp, and NAP 250 amplifier, the Hathors produced a warm, inviting sound, marked by an especially wide and deep soundstage and fleshy, well-focused images.
Like Art Dudley below, I started my first day at SSI at the Coup de Foudre room featuring DeVore speakers and Leben amplification. And like Art, I was impressed by the sound, listening to LPs of Skip James and Gil Scott-Heron. (John and Jonathan never play audiophile favorites.) And note the judicious use of the hotel's bed heads, usually hanging on the wall, in front of the window alcove to tame the room acoustics. Good Show sound benefits from the prepared mindor something.
In home theater, the latest thing is 3D TV, and while Stereophile doesn’t normally cover Home Theater, I just had to check out the Sony and Samsung 3D demos. With the high-end "shuttered” glasses, the 3D effect was quite startling. However, I thought I’d have a go at producing a 3D-like effect with a 2D image. So here's a photo of Stereophile's assistant editor and blogger Stephen Mejias coming right at you from Montrealand no shuttered glasses needed! Sony/Samsung, eat your heart out. (For the photographically inclined: this was shot with a Panasonic GF1, 7-14mm Panasonic lens set at 7mm. I love this lens!)
Of one room I can honestly say: The sound pulled me in. A succession of convincingly deep, tactile drumbeats caught my ear, and I followed the thwacks to Cabasse, where the Sphère ($150,000/pair, more or less, and reviewed by Michael Fremer a year or so back) held court, driven by Cabasse's own Bel Canto-sourced amps; the Cabasse outboard digital crossover; and McIntosh's C2300 preamp and MCD500 SACD/CD player. No less impressive was Christophe Cabasse himself (left), who patiently led me through the Sphère's impressive technical backgroundin English, I'm thankful to say. Monsieur Cabasse also reminded me that his company celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, having been founded by Georges Cabasse (père) all the way back in 1960.
I was intrigued by Grant Fidelity’s small B283 Mk.II tube processor ($225). Placed between a source component and integrated amplifier or between a preamp and amp, the B283 offers users the ability to “feel the difference of tube sound versus solid-state sound, and to experiment with tube-rolling,” Rachel Zhang explained. Interestingly, guitarists have also been known to use the B283 in front of their solid-state amps. Neat.