Located in Kelowna, British Columbia, Resonessence Labs is the maker of the Invicta ($4000) described as a "technically excellent, audibly superior, Next Generation DAC." I can't comment on all these claims, but the Invicta is clearly a highly versatile device, with a wide assortment of inputs, including an SD card reader (FLAC, AIFF, and WAV on SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards), HDMI video output to show playlists on a TV monitor, and no fewer than seven digital filter options.
French manufacturer YBA has kept a low profile for several years now, but the brand has been re-launched, with Yves-Bernard André still in charge of design. The reference line products are made in France, but the production of the other YBA products is in Asia. I know that production of YBA's affordable Audio Refinement had problems with that arrangement, but they've apparently learned their lesson, and the new production will have much greater control effected by Yves-Bernard himself. The Passion 650 amplifier ($6999), shown in the photo, was on static display.
Kudos Audio is a line of British speakers designed by Derek Gilligan, formerly of NEAT, which uses custom drivers made for them by SEAS. The one demoed at SSI 2013 was the X2 ($2900/pair), a modestly-sized floorstander, in a system that included a Mimetism 15.2 integrated ($6690). The source was a CD in a laptopnot conforming to audiophile ideals, but the sound did not seem to suffer from it.
As discussed in an earlier blog posting by Art Dudley, one of the innovations of SSI 2013 was the Personal Audio Zone, staffed by SSI, where show attendees could listen to 150 different pairs of headphones, and was hoped to attract younger listeners to the show. I made two visits to the Personal Audio Zone: on the first visit, the place was nearly empty, so I recruited SSI staff member Catherine P. Lauzon to act as model for a photo.
The English translation of the French word image in Salon Son & Image is "picture," or, well, "image." But it's been an open secret for some time that the show is much stronger on the son (sound) than on the image. I saw just one projection video setup at SSI 2013, and there were a few LCD/LED monitors, but no one seemed to pay much attention to them. However, SSI managed to enlist as an exhibitor Photo Service, a major camera store, which offers a wide range of products related to photography. This worked out extremely well for all concerned.
One of the most memorable musical events of SSI 2013 was the "live-plus-recorded" mini-concert by cellist Vincent Bélanger, presented by MBL. There were several of these every day of the show; Art Dudley wrote about it in an earlier blog posting. I had attended one of these events last year, and ended up playing the celloafter a fashion. This time the special guest was Stereophile publisher Keith Pray, and, as you can see in the picture, he had a great time.
One of the by-invitation-only events of SSI is the party held by Montreal high-end retailer Coup de Foudrethe invitees being personnel of their suppliers and the media. This year's CDF party followed their usual formula of good food and drink and genial hosting by Graeme Humfrey and Jennifer Cytrynbaum. Who are the people in this picture? OK, I'll start naming the ones I know. That's Gerard Rejskind of UHF Magazine in the approximate center, next to the right (Gerard's left), Philip O'Hanlon of On A Higher Note, and the tall fellow with the scarf is John DeVore of DeVore Fidelity. Do you know any others?
Are there too many audio shows? With the Chicago AXPONA having been held two weeks ago, the Montreal SSI having just concluded, and the New York Audio Show coming up in what their website currently indicates is 16 days, 21 hours, 51 minutes, and 9 seconds away, people are starting to wonder whether we're getting an overload on audio shows. This is a sentiment that I've heard expressed by manufacturers and distributorsand, from the business point of view, their concerns are well founded. Participating in shows is an expensive endeavor, and the benefits in terms of additional business, while real, are difficult to measure.
MBL finished the job that Oracle Audio began with Anne Bisson (below): They spoiled me not only with live music, but with music by a world-class cellist, Montreal's Vincent Bélanger. Jeremy Bryan, the CEO of MBL North America, took the added step of inviting Bélanger to come by early and record, on ¼" analog tape (15 ips), extra cello parts for various pieces in his repertoire; thus when M. Bélanger set about to perform for a handful of fortunate show attendees, he did so alongside his recorded self, the latter portrayed with what can only be described as surprising realismdynamically, timbrally, and spatiallyby MBL's largest hybrid loudspeaker, the MBL 111 ($42,000/pair), which uses, from 600Hz and up, the same driver complement as even their most expensive loudspeakers.
Glimpsed at SSI's Canadian Pavilion (see earlier stories): The 88dB, 6 ohm Dulcet loudspeaker ($1695/pair) from Reference 3A, a brand that began life in Europe, moved to Canada, and always specialized in SET-friendly speakers.
Like a Studebaker Avantior perhaps even the Concordethe shape of an Elipson loudspeaker from 60 years ago is jarring, albeit impressively so, in its anacronicity: The French design and manufacturing firm has been ahead of the curve for that long. At SSI they had a number of fetching designs on static display, including the Planet L seen here, a two-way coaxial design that's now manufactured in China. For 2013 a pair of Planet Ls can be bundled with a similarly stylish (round, of course) amplifier/CD player for $2500, with stands adding another $300.
At SSI I had the opportunity to hear the slightly more comfortable cousin of the Definitive StudioMonitor 45 loudspeaker that recently impressed Stephen Mejias: the same company's StudioMonitor 65 ($1000/pair). Partnered with a 150Wpc Acurus 2002 integrated amplifier and Bel Canto CD player, the 65s were exceptionally well balanced and pleasantly explicit on Diana Krall's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams." I added it, on the spot, to my cumulative mental list of good-quality affordable loudspeakers.
Bluebird Music, the North American distributor for Chord electronics (and other lines), along with Totem Acoustics and the Montreal retailer Audioville, put together this superbly clear and punchy yet unfailingly smooth system: a Chord Red Reference Mk.III CD player ($25,000), Chord CPA 5000 preamp ($20,000), Chord SPM 5000 Mk.II amplifier ($25,000), and Totem Element Metal loudspeakers ($13,000/pair). Neil Young's "Look Out for My Love," a song I've only recently come to appreciate (its mildly goofy arrangement put me off for the longest time), sounded especially greatno more so than during the entrance of the backing singers, when the sound of this Chord-anchored system seemed to double. Also in this system but not auditioned during my visit was the brand new Chord Music Streamer ($13,000), a CAT 5-happy player with BNC digital inputs that also contains the full Chord QBD76 D/A processor.
The display featuring Definitive Technology's StudioMonitor 65 speakers and Acurus A 2002 amplifier were not part of a designated "Under-$5,000 system," but, with the speakers priced at $1000/pair and the amp at $2499 (I didn't note the source or the preamp), it could have been. The speakers had a nice open sound, and played surprisingly loud in the large hall they were in. Saxe Brickenden (pictured) of Evolution Home Entertainment, the importer, was clever to set up the speakers on tall stands, so that the sound was at ear-level for people walking by.