Arcam, the British company that brought to market the first outboard D/A converter for domestic-audio applications in 1989, exhibited a couple of their newest variations on the digital-processor theme. Seen on static display in the room of Erikson Consumer AudioCanadian distributors for Arcam and Missionwas the new Arcam airDAC (left, ca $750), which uses AirPlay to allow perfectionist-quality wireless streaming from iPads, iPhones, and iPods. On the right is the similarly new Arcam irDAC (price to be determined), a remote-control 24/192 D/A whose innards are based on those of the company’s popular D33 processor.
AudioShop, the Canadian distributor for Cabasse loudspeakers, demonstrated the interesting combination of Cabasse loudspeakers with McIntosh electronics, focusing in particular on the latter company’s model 601 monoblock power amplifiers ($11,500/pair), driven directly by the MCD 1100 CD player ($10,000). The loudspeakers seen here (which, I’m told, sold for $16,000 per pair in passive form) sounded impressively punchy, but, with all due respect, this system was being played at a volume level I considered both uncomfortable and unrealistically loud, so I didn’t linger long.
Gershman is getting into the component support/vibration control business. The LEC Levitation device ($240 for a set of four), shown here by Ofra Gershman, uses the repulsion of two magnetic poles to provide isolation of the component from the surface it's placed on. Improvements in clarity, soundstage, imaging, and bass response are promised.
The folks at the Montreal Emile Berliner museum always bring to SSI some fascinating vintage audio equipment. The item in the picture is a "Personal Disco" component, Velo Model DK-990 (R), circa 1986, and it has everything you might want for your next disco party: two cassette players, radio, equalizers, four speakers, and a claimed output of 100W. Stephen, here's the subject for your next "Entry Level" column!
One doesn’t normally think of a private concert by a gifted recording artist as a particularly bad way to start the day, but. . .
On Saturday morning at SSI, I stepped into the Oracle Audio room just in time for owner Jacques Reindeau to invite me to hear a few selections from the album Blue Mind by the Montreal-based composer and chanteuse Anne Bisson, played on an almost all-Oracle systemwith the artist standing in front of me, singing along with her recorded self.
Atoll paired up with ProAc, assembling a system that, knowing something about these brands, I would guess would be a fine-sounding one, but it was only on passive display. Not the most effective way to attract new consumers, I'd say. The star of this system was the ProAc Tablette Anniversary ($2295/pair), the latest version of a speaker that has had enormous following over the years, and was combined with the Atoll CD30 CD player ($899) and Atoll IN30 itegrated amp ($799).
Also seen in the Canadian Pavilion at SSI 2013: Simaudio Moon 600i integrated amps (125Wpc), in a choice of red or blue finish. The price of these limited-edition amps has yet to be determined; the 600i’s normal retail price is $9500.
Despite its unfortunate physical resemblance to an electric shoe-shine machine, the Leedh E loudspeaker sounded open and airy during my visit to the room sponsored by Conceptas Sound and Engineering. I was prevented, by the language barrier, from learning anything about the E or its companion Lua brand electronics, including prices; one of two people running the room handed me some information sheets, but the other person snatched them away. I requested and was given more, but my moment of triumph was dashed when I saw that all of the literature was in French. All I have deciphered from it so far is that the Leedh E weighs less than “a dozen kilos” (I think), and one of its drivers is 17cm in diameter.
The US company Dupuy Acoustique demonstrated their stand-mounted MTM loudspeaker ($5500/pair) alongsideliterallya new product called the Daisy Reflector, which is said to allow a loudspeaker’s back-wave information to reach the listening area in manner originally intended: without time-delay or phase shift. According to designer Rudy Dupuy, it accomplishes this with a carefully designed and precision-machined core of acoustic foam, covered in fabric. Daisy Reflector prices vary with size; the one shown here is $995.
I thought the Raidho D-1 loudspeaker ($28,000/pair, including stands), was among the most interesting and musically impressive new products at SSI. Raidho, a Danish company known for their work with ultra-lightweight ceramics, has developed a process for bonding to their speaker diaphragms a thin coat of industrial diamond, conferring even greater stiffness and freedom from unwanted resonances. Paired with a Jeff Rowland Aeris D/A converter and Jeff Rowland 625 power amplifier, the Raidhos were impressive on a variety of material. We’ve all heard demonstrations where we came away saying, “I can’t believe they got so much bass out of such little loudspeakers,” but in terms of the sheer quality and scale of that bass, the Raidho/Rowland combination was on another plane altogether.
The first Gershman speaker I heard was the GAP 828 (maybe in 2004). The GAP 828 has been tweaked over the years, but this is the first time that the changes resulted in a change in model designation: it's now called the GAP 888 ($25,000/pair). The midrange and the tweeter are the same, but there's a new woofer, and consequent changes in the crossover, with some changes in the use of stuffing in the speaker. I've always enjoyed the sound of the GAP, but this was the best that I've heard it soundand the associated components were moderately-priced Quad electronics and CD player.
Finnish company Gradient is known for its unusual-looking speakers (they have a model that always reminds me of one of those ergonomically-designed office chairs), and unconventionalbut effectiveapproach to bass response. At SSI 2013, they introduced an interesting new small speaker, the Gradient 5.0 ($2000/pair), which features the same coincident mid-tweeter driver used in their larger speakers, and a passive radiator for the bass that looks like a mini-version of the famed KEF B139 woofer.
Rega comes to affordable audio products honestly: that's the only kind they make. For $5000, the system assembled at SSI 2013 included the Brio-R integrated amp ($900), Apollo-R CD player ($1095), and RS7 speakers ($3195/pair). You can substitute a DAC or a turntable for the same price. If you do the math you'll find that this comes out to $200 more than the limit, but I was told that the dealer will offer a discount that brings the price down to $5000, and will even include some cables. A very easy-on-the-ears system, and obviously good value.
Distributor Audio Plus Services made a fine, impactful, and well-balanced sound with the Focal Electra 1038 Be loudspeaker ($13,499). Driven by the impressive Devialet D-Premier integrated amplifier ($15,995), connected with Crystal Cable Reference loudspeaker cable ($6000 for a 3m pair), and fed from a MacBook running iTunes with Audirvana, this system did a good job on a version of Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man of unknown origin, in which kettledrums in particular really sounded like kettledrums, and not merely a very large inner-tube being struck with the blade of a shovel.