SSI 2011

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John Atkinson Posted: Apr 07, 2011 0 comments
This relatively modest-looking system in yet another Son-or-Filtronique room at SSI produced some superb sound. The Vienna Acoustics Mozart Grand Symphony Edition speakers ($3500/pair) were being driven by an Ayre AX-7e integrated amplifier ($3500), with the source an Ayre DX-5 universal player being used as a DAC for USB data fed from Amarra running on a MacBook Pro. The USB data connection was AudioQuest's inexpensive Carbon and one AC cable and the speaker cable was by Shunyata. There was also a single Nordost Odin AC cable. If you consider that the Ayre player was being used to provide the same functionality as a $2500 Ayre QB-9, it could be argued that this single AC cable cost as much as the rest of the system together. "It gives an improvement in sound quality and that's justification enough," answered Vienna's Kevin Wolff when I queried him about the system's price balance with the Nordost.
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John Atkinson Posted: Apr 07, 2011 2 comments
I had to make several attempts to visit the Son-or-Filtronique room featuring Sonus Faber's new Amati Futura speakers ($34,000/pair), but the line of would-be listeners patiently waiting outside the room was daunting. The Futuras were launched at last January's CES but not being demmed; at SSI, they were being driven by a Boulder 2060 amplifier, with a dCS Scarlatti and Boulder 1021 used as digital sources.
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John Atkinson Posted: Apr 06, 2011 Published: Apr 07, 2011 1 comments
On display in the Burmester room at SSI was the new Phono Preamplifier 100 ($16,995–$22,995), which, with its polished mirror finish, was almost unphotographable. The 100 features two inputs for MM or MC cartridges, and offers a wide range of gain and impedance settings. An optional onboard A/D converter allows owners to digitize their LPs and a unique auto-balance feature equalizes the two channels, to compensate for imbalanced cartridges.
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Apr 07, 2011 2 comments
On the evening of the first day of the show, John Atkinson, Art Dudley, and I attended a party at Coup de Foudre, one of Montreal's premier high-end audio retailers. There was much to admire there, not the least of which was listening to some of Peter McGrath’s hi-rez recordings on a system featuring VTL MB185 tube monoblocks driving Wilson Sashas and an Alpha DAC being fed USB data from Peter’s MacBook Pro via a Wavelength format converter.
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Art Dudley Posted: Apr 07, 2011 0 comments
I was never happier to be an audiophile than when my train stopped at the US/Canada border on my way home. The customs officers who boarded our train were quite serious-minded, and as I waited in my seat I heard them grill other passengers regarding the precise nature of the Canadian goods they harbored. When it came my turn, a surly-something man in a black uniform examined my Customs Declaration, saw that I was bringing some new LPs into the US, and broke into a friendly smile: “What vinyl did you get?” We chatted amiably for a moment about old Quads and Garrard 301s before he went on to crack other skulls than mine. (Just kidding. In fact ours was the rare train—in my experience, at least—from which no passengers needed to be removed for lack of a passport.)
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Art Dudley Posted: Apr 07, 2011 0 comments
The trouble with audio shows—apart from the cheap call girls and the occasional gangland-style execution—is the fact that, even in nice hotels, the smallest rooms tend to sound like crap. So it was at the Hilton Bonaventure, where acoustical challenges plagued no exhibitor more than Audio Note. Their excellent AN-E loudspeaker—a pair of which I own and love—requires that both units in a stereo pair are sited close to their respective corners. That proved impossible at the Hilton, but Audio Note’s Dave Cope compensated brilliantly and made a fine sound nonetheless with a pair of AN-E Lexus Signatures in striking maple veneer ($15,200/pair), photographed here by JA and driven by the Jinro integrated amplifier that I reviewed in the March 2011 issue of Stereophile.
MBL
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John Atkinson Posted: Apr 07, 2011 0 comments
MBL has had some changes in its North American distribution the past couple of years, but now has its own US subsidiary run by the affable Jeremy Bryan, an industry veteran. I have always loved the treble quality of the Berlin-based company's omnidirectional high-frequency "RadialStrahler" drive-units, and the Mk.2 version of the 101 speaker was sounding excellent at SSI, driven by two gigantic 9011 monoblock amplifiers (about to be reviewed by Michael Fremer), a 6010D preamp, a 1621A CD transport, and a 1611F D/A converter. Cabling was all Wireworld Eclipse.
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John Atkinson Posted: Apr 07, 2011 0 comments
Here's a glamor shot of the Nagra 300B stereo amplifier in the Verity-Nagra room, this sample being one of the first production units. The integrated features four 300B output tubes—two each per channel in push-pull—and will put out 20Wpc.
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John Atkinson Posted: Apr 07, 2011 3 comments
I knew which was Joseph Audio's room without consulting the Show Guide—the sound of Louis Armstrong singing "St. James Infirmary," which has long been one of Jeff Joseph's dem staples, was audible along the corridor. Jeff's system featured the [Perspective] loudspeakers ($11,800/pair), powered by a Simaudio Moon 600i integrated amplifier with a Moon 650D player being fed USB data from Jeff's MacBook Pro. Wiring was all Cardas.
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Art Dudley Posted: Apr 07, 2011 1 comments
Son Ideal demonstrated with the Harbeth P3ESR: a supremely musical loudspeaker in its own right, and one for which the Montreal dealer has shown a certain affinity over the years. At SSI the Harbeths were paired with brand-new Audiolab 8200 MB mono amplifiers (250W, $1099/each) and 8200 CDQ CD player/USB D/A converter ($1299), that venerable English brand having recently been revived by new owners. The 30-something fellow running the dem asked me to choose an LP from the good selection there, and I lighted upon a well-loved Neil Young album from the ‘70s. Then, while he cued that up, I found another Neil young fave—and, after that, the first album by Crosby, Stills, and Nash. I broke from my reverie long enough to find myself on the receiving end of the sort of pitying look reserved for The Very Old.
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Apr 07, 2011 0 comments
It was a really good show. That was the opinion of the people I spoke to at the 2011 SSI, including veteran as well as first-time exhibitors, and members of the public. Even the Trade Day, which in the past was not very popular, was busy enough that it felt like it almost could have been one of the public days. The Lifetime Achievement Awards ceremony was extremely well-attended, as the above photo illustrates. There was a kind of back-to-the-basics feel to the show, with a strong emphasis on music presented in two-channel stereo, and almost nothing in the way of surround sound. (Sorry, Kal!)
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Apr 07, 2011 0 comments
For the past three years or so, one of the highlights of SSI has been the concert by the Give Band, featuring singer Caroline St-Louis, who works by day as one of the Show’s blue-haired girls at the ticket desk. And so it was at SSI 2011. Last year, JA took some pictures at the concert with his point-and-shoot camera, but he was disappointed with the amount of blurring in his photos. This time, he had the same camera but brought a monopod to improve camera steadiness, and it worked. Here he is, showing his pictures to Caroline, and she's obviously pleased with the results.
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Art Dudley Posted: Apr 07, 2011 2 comments
Let’s get right to it: The Coup de Foudre system comprising DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/96 loudspeakers ($12,000/pair), Leben CS300XS integrated amplifier ($3795) and RS30EQ phono preamp ($2795), Hommage T2 phono transformer ($4995), EMT TSD-15 phono cartridge ($1800), Brinkmann Bardo I turntable with Origin Live Encounter arm ($7990 and $2000, respectively), and Box Furniture 3S3 stand ($2300) was nothing less than wonderful: easily in the show’s Top Five, and quite possibly the best of the bunch. The star was the latest pre-production iteration of the O/96, a 96dB sensitive (geddit?) loudspeaker that uses a 10" paper-cone woofer and a 1" silk-dome tweeter in a wide-faced (geddit?) box with a birch-ply baffle and MDF everything else. Their presentation was solid, substantial, rich, and colorful, with great touch, timing, and, above all, dynamics. Flesh and blood? The system was like a day at the butcher shop—but everyone was smiling, and there were no straw boaters.
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Art Dudley Posted: Apr 07, 2011 1 comments
Master recordist Rene LaFlamme of Fidelio Records marked the release of his first LP—a remastering of Melanie Barney’s and the Buzz Brass Ensemble’s colorful recording of Holt’s The Planets—by adding to his demonstration system an interesting new turntable called the Kronos. Designed and manufactured in Montreal by Louis Desjardins and photographed here by JA, the Kronos is described as the first commercial turntable to use both a fully sprung suspension and a system of twin counter-rotating platters. (The perpetually fascinating 47 Laboratory 4724 Koma turntable, reviewed in Stereophile by Michael Fremer, pioneered the latter but lacked the former.)
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John Atkinson Posted: Apr 07, 2011 0 comments
One of my favorite sounding rooms at SSI was the large suite featuring Verity Sarastro II speakers, the new Nagra 300B stereo amplifier that made its debut at the 2011 CES and a Nagra PLL preamp, with a Nagra CDP CD player and Nagra VI solid-state digital recorder being used for the front-end, all hooked up with Nordost Valhalla cables. The sound of a Jordi Savall ensemble performance of Vivaldi Oboe Concerto, played back on the Nagra VI with 24/48 resolution, was lifelike and easy on the ear, but without sounding either mellow or laidback. perhaps the sound was a little congested on the climaxes with larger-scale music, but this was one of the bigger rooms at the Hilton Bonaventure and the amplifier is limited to 20Wpc.

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