As you can see in the picture, Angie loves Jeff Rowland Design Group products, such as the Aeris DAC/preamp ($12,000), which made its debut at SSI 2012. The Aeris features a substantial external power supply, and has the usual array of inputs, including the now-mandatory USB.
This year's SSI included a Canada Pavilion exhibit, honoring Canadian manufacturers of audio products. One of these was Simaudio. This was my first chance to get a close look at the Signature version of their 600i 125Wpc integrated amp. It's $14,200 in ultra-shiny gold finish that's a photographer's nightmare. I mentioned to Simaudio's Lionel Goodfield my difficulty in getting a decent photo of the 600i Signature, and he said that it took their professional product photographer several hours of fiddling with various lighting accessories to get a product picture that they could use. That made me feel better.
What would a high-end audio store party be without some live music? The musicians playing jazz at the Coup de Foudre party were keyboard artist Marie Claire Durand and bass player Martin Hezlop. They're also Graeme Humfrey's recording clients.
One of the unofficial highlights of this year's SSI was the by-invitation-only party given by Montreal dealer Coup de Foudre. The genial hosts were Jennifer Cytrynbaum (Store Manager) and Graeme Humfrey (Product Specialist, Store Owner, jazz guitarist, and a recording engineer of 20 years' experience). They had great food and drinks, and they did their utmost to make sure that everyone has a good time. The picture shows Jennifer in her element, along with Wilson’s Peter McGrath (left), Wavelength’s Gordon Rankin (center) and Graeme Humfrey (far right).
VTL's Luke Manley was one of the many industry luminaries at the Coup de Foudre party.Through the control-room window of Graeme Humfrey's studio can be seen part of Graeme's large collection of classic pro-audio gear.
Loudspeaker specialists Magico were on hand with their recent Q3 ($38,950/pair), which boasts a 90dB sensitivity rating and 5 ohm nominal impedance: not quite SET territory, but easily the California firm's most sensitive speaker yet. Magico rep and fellow bluegrass fan Irv Gross put the Q3 through its paces for me; I was impressed with its speed, scale, drama, and sheer gripnot only in the lowest frequencies but all the way up through its well fleshed-out treble range.
New at SSI was Rethm's first foray into amplifier design: a 16Wpc single-ended integrated amp called the Gaanam ($7750), built around the Russian 6C33C tube and featuring an outboard power supply, 6922-based preamp stage, and an all-transformer driver stage. Using a Lector CD player and Rethm's own all-silver speaker cable ($1250 for an 8' pair), the combination of Maarga speakers and Gaanam amp sounded spacious, clean, well textured, and very tactile, with fine bass extension and bass color; my impression was that the consistently large crowd of listeners in this room agreed.
The ever-enthusiastic Mike Tang, of Mike Tang Audio, had a system to warm the hearts of anachrophiles: Thorens TD124 with custom tonearm to match the Decca cartridge, Meridian MCD CD player (no modifications), Marantz 7C tube preamp, with the new parts of the system consisting of a Feastrex CV4055 power amp (8W, $5500), and Feastrex NF5 driver ($4500/pair, $7000 installed in a custom cabinet.
The Rogue Hydra is a 100Wpc amplifier that combines a tube input with a class-D output section (using only the module's MOSFET output, bypassing the rest), with about 2dB of negative feedback. If Rogue is lucky, then this will appeal to both audiophiles that are tube fans and those that are fans of modern digital technology. If they're not lucky, then tube fans will reject it because it includes the evil of digital, and digital fans will reject it because it includes technology that they regard as obsolete. Ultimately, it's the sound that mattersand, according to Rogue's Mark O'Brien, it's an effective combination of the tube sound with the power of solid-state.
Every hi-fi show seems to harbor a few restful rooms where the music is well selected and the playback quality is serenely good; at SSI, the exhibit space shared by Scandinavian manufacturers Hegel and Amphion served that purpose for me. (The white fabric walls probably added to the sense of calm.) The Amphion Argon7 L loudspeakers ($6k$7k/pair, depending on finish) sounded clear, smooth, and altogether lovely with Hegel amplification and digital source components.
Retailer Coup de Foudre and Canadian distributor Tri-Cell built one of their exhibits around a pair of Joseph Audio Pulsar loudspeakers ($7000/pair, to be reviewed in the June Stereophile by Mikey Fremer), driven by the 70Wpc Brinkmann Audio Vollverstarker integrated amplifier (also $7000), with a MacBook Pro and a Wavelength Audio Brick D/A converter ($2200) as the digital source. As always, Jeff Joseph's room setup was difficult to fault, and the system was smooth, colorful, and dynamic: Listening to the Gypsy swing music of the Howard Fishman quartet, I was happier than I'd been all day.
I've been an admirer of MBL's omnidirectional speakers, the latest 101E Mk.II reviewed by Michael Fremer in the April 2012, issue. These were demoed at SSI 2012, and sounded great, as always. While certainly an impressive illustration of the art and science of speaker design, for me, the 101E Mk.II, being priced at about $70k/pair, is a speaker that I just can't relate tothe audio equivalent of a Lamborghini.
What I found exciting at SSI was MBL's new entry-level "baby" speaker, the MBL126. With a new radial midrange driver and tweeter, and two 5" "push-push" drivers, with MBL's less-expensive electronics, the pair of MBL126s at the show had much the same sort of open, non-listener-position-dependent sound that characterizes it senior siblingsand the price is a relatively-affordable $11,800/pair.
Here's the obligatory "People Buying Records" picture, and even though it was taken on Friday, which is usually the show's least-busy day, I had no trouble finding an opportunity to take a suitable picture. There were also quite a few people at the CD racks, but, overall, I'd say there were more LP buyers than CD buyers in evidence. Make of that what you will. (It may be a reflection of the fact that LPs are not as widely available.)
I was delighted by the sound being made by Montreal dealer Audiophoniepartly, I admit, because they were demonstrating an all-new version of the venerable Spendor SP100, now in R2 form ($11,900/pair), an earlier version of which I owned and loved for years. Its tone, touch, spatial presentation, and vibe were all just about perfect. I will begyes, begfor the opportunity to write about the Spendor in the months to come.