SSI 2012

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Robert Deutsch Posted: Mar 24, 2012 0 comments
A sign that says "Warning! Extreme Lifelike Sound Levels" is like waving a red cape in front of a bull. Who would be dissuaded from entering a demo room just because you're going to encounter lifelike sound levels? Not me! And are they overstating how loud a sound they're talking about?
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Art Dudley Posted: Mar 23, 2012 0 comments
The speaker of choice in the Audioville room was the brand new KEF Blade ($30,000/pair): a consumer-friendly version of something that started life as a KEF concept speaker. (In particular, in order to reduce costs, the latter's carbon-fiber enclosure has been replaced with one made of a composite resin.) Mid frequencies and treble are handled by the metal-diaphragm KEF UNI-Q array, while low frequencies are given over to two pairs of side-mounted 9" drivers, working in tandem so that bass energy is neither wasted nor allowed to travel through the enclosure structure to modulate the higher frequencies.
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Art Dudley Posted: Mar 23, 2012 0 comments
The VTL MB185 Series IIIs, which sounded great driving the Wilson Sophia Series 3 loudspeakers, offer a choice between XLR and RCA inputs—and, according to designer Luke Manley, they can develop fully balanced performance with single-ended inputs. Their EL34-based output sections can also be switched between triode and tetrode operation.
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Art Dudley Posted: Mar 23, 2012 1 comments
What's 2" long, comes out in May, and responds to external stimulus by changing color? The AudioQuest Dragonfly ($250), a USB D/A converter designed for the company by Wavelength Audio's Gordon Rankin (and whose proprietary software allows it to function as a true asynchronous DAC). The Dragonfly, which is powered by the USB bus, performs at 44.1, 48, 88.2, and 96kHz; the dragonfly icon on its plastic case (not shown here) indicates the sampling rate in use by glowing green, blue, amber, or white, respectively. Features include separate clock oscillators for 44.1/88.2 and 48/96; a 64-position analog volume control that overrides the digital volume control in iTunes/etc.; and proprietary USB input and 3.5mm output connectors.
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Mar 23, 2012 0 comments
Atoll is a French company that I think of as offering affordably-priced equipment, and I suppose that's still where most of their market is, but they've also moved upmarket with the new CD400 CD player ($6800), IN400 integrated amp ($6000), PR400 preamp ($5600), and AM400 ($4000). (If there was a prize for the most sensible model names given to audio products, I would nominate Atoll for these new offerings.) The product literature is in French only, but the technical language of audio to a large extent transcends borders. I was amused by part of the description of the AM400, which said that it was "Amplificateur bridgeable en bloc mono." I doubt if you'd find "bridgeable" in your Larousse French dictionary.
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Mar 23, 2012 0 comments
With the title of Director, Sarah Tremblay is Michel Plante's partner in the SSI enterprise.
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Mar 23, 2012 0 comments
Sonor-Filtronique is a Montreal dealer whose product lines are some of the most prestigious available, including Audio Research, Ayre, Boulder, Sonus Faber, and VPI. They had samples from all these at SSI 2012, but the once that caught my eye was a turntable: the Kronos, a $30,000 high-tech wonder, designed in Quebec by Louis Desjardin, in collaboration with Fidelio Audio. Its major design claim to fame is the secondary platter (below the one that the record is placed on), which rotates in the opposite direction, an approach that is said to cancel unwanted vibrations. The unit on demo had an SME tonearm mounted.
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Mar 23, 2012 0 comments
Partygoer Vince Scalzitti's Tri-Cell Enterprises is Canadian distributor for no fewer than 19 product lines, from Acapella to Vandersteen. Vince is so low-key that he hardly seems to be in a business that involves sales, but he's highly successful at it.
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Mar 23, 2012 0 comments
As B&W's Doug Henderson pointed out in his presentation speech, being a manufacturer's rep in audio is often a thankless job. If sales are slow, the rep gets blamed, but it they're going well, that's just taken for granted. But not this time: the Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Marc Denis (pictured), rep for B&W, Rotel, and Classé.
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Art Dudley Posted: Mar 23, 2012 1 comments
The Montreal audio-video store Coup de Foudre has a reputation for assembling ambitious music systems in the Hilton's Longueuil salon during SSI. Although this year was no exception, the cost of that system had been scaled-back somewhat for 2012—with interesting results.

The loudspeaker of choice was the Wilson Audio Specialties Sophia Series 3 ($18,550 per pair in Macadamia finish—which bore a striking resemblance to the metallic brown paint on my long-gone 1985 Alfa-Romeo GTV6). Wilson Audio's Peter McGrath, also the recordist behind most of the music selections I enjoyed in that room, said there have been no running changes in the Sophia since the introduction of the Series 3.

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Art Dudley Posted: Mar 23, 2012 0 comments
Munich-based T+A, which is distributed in North America by Dynaudio, displayed a prototype of their forthcoming DAC 8 D/A converter, which is projected to sell for under $3000. Built around dual 32-bit Burr-Brown DAC chips, the DAC 8 offers a choice of true balanced or single-ended operation, with all proprietary digital filter designs and sampling rates up to 192kHz.
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Mar 23, 2012 0 comments
Analog stalwart Naim is now heavily into computer audio; new at SSI 2012 was their NDS streamer/DAC, which is to start shipping in May. This is their reference-level network player, which does all the things you expect a product like this to do, including Internet radio. The price of $13,000 does not include a power supply. In true Naim fashion, the NDS offers a choice of three power supplies, which range in price from $3k to $10k.
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Mar 23, 2012 0 comments
The party on the Trade Day of the show, hosted by SSI, is always well attended, and provides a good indication of the general mood. This time the mood was decidedly upbeat: people in the trade looking forward to having a good show.
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Mar 23, 2012 0 comments
Another high-end turntable that impressed me was the Dr. Feickert Analogue Firebird. This is a new model, with new bearing, new platter, new motors (three of them), and all kinds of other refinements. The price is a relatively-affordable—by ultra high end turntable standards—$12,995. The tonearm mounted was a Dr. Feickert Analogue DFA 12.0, the number in the model name referring to the length in inches. The turntable can accommodate two tonearms, of various lengths.
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Robert Deutsch Posted: Mar 23, 2012 0 comments
Seen at the party: Monitor Audio's Sheldon Ginn, winner of the Chris Pine Lookalike Contest.

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