Naim's line of Uniti network-enable music servers . . . er, renderers . . . er, digital music players, can be controlled by a uPnP app runing on iPads and iPhones. Doug Graham's iPad doesn't seem disturbed by his frantic handwaving as it hung in mid-air! New at the Show was the UnitiQute player, which combines a preamplifier with two analog inputs, five 24-bit/192kHz-capable digital inputs, a USB port, and WiFI and Ethernet network connections.
Venerable British audio manufacturer, Naim, has an almost-equally-venerable new Canadian distributor, Plurison. Headed by the genial Daniel Jacqueson the right in the photo, with Doug Graham, Naim's International Export Manager on the leftPlurison's list of distributed brands includes Focal, Mordaunt-Short, MartinLogan, Pathos, YBA, Micromega, and a host of others. It must put Jacques in a quandary when he has to decide what product to take home to listen to on the weekend!
Nordost's dem system comprised a Simaudio Moon 750D CD player, Simaudio Moon 700i integrated amplifier (favorably reviewed by Fred Kaplan in March), a Quantum system conditioner, Joseph Audio Pulsar stand-mounted speakers ($6999/pair), and, of course, Nordost cables.
The 2011 SSI was my first chance to see and hear the Limited Edition Les Paul Signature version of Thiel's well-received CS3.7 loudspeaker. The last complete design by the late Jim Thiel, the CS3.7 was favorably reviewed by Wes Phillips in December 2008. Wes concluded that he "loved, loved, loved the Thiel CS3.7!"
Clarity Audio's large room featured three systems set up along three of the walls, one featuring Nola speakers, one featuring Eggleston speakers, and one featuring the YG Anat 2 Studio speakers seen in the photo. Connected to stylin' Jones 300W monoblocks ($24,000/pair) and a Jones Pre-S-1 preamplifier with Kubula-Sosna cable, the sound of a woman singing Sting's "Roxanne" and John Lennon's "Come Together," accompanied by double bass (Musica Nuda), was palpably real. However, although YG introduced a new version of the Anat at January's CES featuring machined aluminum cones, the speakers at SSI were the older Series 1 model.
The other system I auditioned in the Clarity room featured Nola Viper Reference speakers ($16,000/pair) driven by a Mimetism 7500 CD player and 7500 amplifier and with AC power conditioned, as it was for the YG/Jones system in the next story, by a Silver Circle Pure Power One isolation transformer (a Mikey Fremer fave).
"Big sound, uncolored mids, very smooth highs" read my notes from the Lafleur room, scrawled on my pad while I listened to Muddy Waters' classic Folk Singer album. Canadian manufacturer Lafleur had made a big splash at the 2008 Montreal Show with the launch of its two-way X1 standmount and the company's 2011 room featured the X2 ($18,000/pair) driven by a Pathos hybrid integrated amplifier and a Clearaudio turntable.
The Helium2 has long been one of Stereophile's long-term reference monitors, so I was expecting good sound when I went into the VMax Services room. And apart from the ubiquitous upper-bass boom that afflicted the standard-sized rooms at the Hilton Bonaventure, good sound was what I heard.
Live music has always been a big feature of the SSI, and a treat this year for me was the pair of concerts presented by Cardas Audio featuring virtuoso electric bassist Dean Peer and drummer Bret Mann. It was hard to believe at times that there were just two musicians, such was the wall of sound being produced with tracks from Dean and Bret's Airborne album (now available on LP as well as CD and a 24/96 USB key). After the show I felt I had to count Dean's fingers, I was so sure there were more than five on each hand!
Resident band at SSI is Give, featuring vocalist Caroline St-Louis and guitarist Stephen Ritch, who performed for trade and press attendees at the Awards party Thursday night. At the 2010 Show, SSI had their new CD available (a beautifully recorded album that proved that rock music doesn't have to be compressed to sound good); this year, the Show was selling a USB key of the Give Band's music.
I don't know who came up with the idea of having the female SSI staff wear blue wigsas they have been doing for the past two yearsbut I think the idea was a brilliant one. The blue wigs not only make the staff instantly identifiable, but they communicate a sense of fun, and that's just what the show is. It also helps that the staff are unfailingly pleasant and cheerful.
Not just the public attendees made for the Aux 33 Tours room at SSI. Seen here browsing the jazz LPs (in denim jacket and deshabillé hair) is Graeme Humfrey, one of the proprietors of Montreal high-end retailer Coup de Foudre.
Although many (maybe most) of the demos at the 2011 SSI were computer-based, vinyl continued to have a presence, notably in the Aux 33 Tours room, which had an excellent assortment of LPs for sale. And not all the people showing an interest in LPs were old fogeys, as the photo illustrates.
To exhibit at CES, you'd better have deep pockets, and while, to a lesser extent, the same is true about exhibiting in the large rooms at SSI, the venue also permits small companies to set up displays in the nooks and crannies of the hotel corridor, with correspondingly lower price tags. Audio Sensibility offers a line of high-end audio and video cables that use Ohno Continuous Cast (OCC) copper and silver wire, Furutech connectors, cryogenic treatment of all wire and connectors, Mundorf silver-gold and supreme silver-gold solder, and their own custom-manufactured stainless-steel connector bodies.