Another Coup de Foudre room offered a system built around the curiously named but thoroughly engaging Twenty 23 loudspeakers ($4389/pair) from PMCwhich, I’m told, stands for professional monitor company. The amplifier in use was the less inscrutably named Integrated Amplifier from Brinkmann ($7499), while the source was the Unico CD Primo CD player ($1900). On a vocal number by Andrea Bocelli, percussion instruments sounded a bit compressedthat might be the fault of the recording, for all I knowbut I heard a great deal of realistic texture and color from this detailed but not at all light-sounding system.
Not being fully up on the names of the various Sonus Faber speakers, I asked one of the reps the name of the giants on demo. "Ida" was his answer. Come again? "Ida! Sonus Faber gives their speakers names that have a musical connection, like the titles of operas." But how could that be? The only remotely relevant opera connection that I'm aware of for "Ida" is Gilbert & Sullivan's "Princess Ida," and somehow I doubt if the Italian designers of Sonus Faber speakers would name the speaker after this not-all-that-popular English operetta.
And then I got it. The speaker was named after Aïda, pronounced "eye-ee-duh," the well-know opera by Verdi.
In one of several rooms sponsored by Montreal’s Coup de Foudre, A href="http://www.stereophile.com/content/gift-flower-garden">Philip O’ Hanlon demonstrated a system comprising a Luxman PD-171 turntable/tonearm ($6400) with Brinkmann P1 phono cartridge ($2700), Luxman DA-06 DSD D/A converter ($6000), Luxman L550AX integrated amplifier ($5400), and Vivid B1 loudspeakers ($15,000/pair), with Cardas cables throughout. (The computer-audio source was an old MacBook running Audirvana playback software.) Not to take away from the goodness of the other gear, but I was once again mightily impressed by the manner in which the Vivid loudspeakers, in spite of looking like surprised Cyclopian aliens, delivered music with such human warmth and touch. (Lou Donaldson’s organ on “Alligator Boogaloo” sounded especially fine.)
Designed by Hans Deutsch (no relation), made in Vienna, Brodmann Acoustics speakers come from the "musical instrument" rather than the "sound reproducer" tradition, rejecting the use of filters and damping materials to minimize distortion and unwanted speaker cabinet resonances. The theory may be controversial, but the Brodmann VC 7 ($25,000/pair) , with Electrocompaniet electronics, sounded superb, with great clarity, precise imaging, and, yes, a very "musical" sound.
The management of SSI requested exhibiting manufacturers, distributors, and retailers to set upin addition to whatever equipment they wanted to demonstratean entry-level system, with a total price of $5,000 or less. Some high-end audio manufacturers had nothing that would qualify, but others stepped up to the plate. Totem and Creek had a nifty little system that featured a pair of Totem Arros, Creek CD player and integrated amp, which have a combined price of $4,100, leaving $900 for cables, etc.
Dynaudio took a decidedly computer-oriented approach to providing a system for under $5000, with a choice between two powered wireless speakers: the Xeo 3 ($2300/pair) and the Xeo 5 (at $4500/pair, just under the $5000 limit). And these speakers are serious high-end products, not built-to-a-price budget offerings. You save on not having to buy an amplifier or cables (not always a trivial amount). The only catch is that there is no source component included; it's assumed that the consumer already has a suitable computer and/or iPod, iPad, or similar device.
The Oracle Audio system that sounded so lovely included the two most recent entries in the company’s Paris line of products: the Paris CD 250 CD player and Paris DAC 250 D/A converter, both pictured above ($3750 apiece). Other highlights were the current Oracle Delphi turntable with Oracle SME arm and Benz-made Corinth Reference cartridge (a $22,500 package), Paris phono stage ($1795), Delphi SI 1000 MOSFET integrated amplifier ($12,500), and Focal Grand Utopia Scala loudspeakers ($32,000/pair), with all-Kimber Kable wiring.
In a very different financial world than the Wilson/VTL and Magico/Constellation offerings belowand a world that, frankly, I'm much more comfortable inwere the Cambridge range of electronics and speakers. The small Minx speakers in the foreground of the picture above are $200/pair, $599 in a 2.1 setup that includes a subwoofer.
One of the best events at every SSI is the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award to two individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the industry. This is the Oscar of the consumer audio industry, and I've always found these presentations quite touching. That was certainly true at SSI 2013. Angie Lisi, who owns two stores (American Sound and Angie's Audio Corner) in the Toronto area, and is the owner of Audio Pathways, a distribution company, has been in the business for over 30 years (she started when she was 19), and has not lost any of her passion for high-quality reproduction of music. She was introduced by Adrienne Surtees (left in the photo above) and presented with the award by Sarah Tremblay (right). It was a very moving moment, and I was glad that I was able to capture it with my camera.
You might think that this is a photo of mother and daughter attending SSI 2013, but that wouldn't be correct. The woman on the left is pianist/vocalist Anne Bissonwho I hope will be performing at some point during the showand the young girl is Alexandra, Sarah Tremblay's daughter. A photogenic pair, n'est ce pas?
The Tannoy/Linn room had a nice-sounding setup featuring the Tannoy DC-10S speakers ($17,500/pair), Linn Akurate preamp/media streamer ($9350), and Akurate 4200 four-channel amp ($8360). The speakers were had a very attractive glossy finish, which is now offered as an alternative to the traditional Tannoy satin.
The train I took from Toronto to Montreal arrived at 2:30pm, right on schedule, so I was able to meet Art Dudley in the hotel lobby at 3:00 to discuss the game plan for covering the 2013 Salon Son & Image. As we pored over the map of the exhibits, Wilson Audio's Peter McGrath (right, with VTL's Luke Manley) came over to us and reminded Art that he had agreed to visit the Wilson/VTL room at 3:30. As it turned out, Art and I decided to cover the show geographically, and the Wilson/VTL room was going to be part of my beat, so I went along with Art.
Blue Circle Audio first came to prominence (or perhaps notoriety) with whimsical products like an amplifier in a shoe and a preamplifier in a purse. Although the Music Pumps and the Music Purse are still available, according to their website , Blue Circle brought more conventional products to SSI 2013, and their demo room provided one of the show's most relaxing listening experiences. There is just something very soothing about a night sky as a background to musicand the music presented by the system (BC507 DAC, $2600, BC309 preamp, $8500, BC1022 amp, $7000, BC6040 power line conditioner, $4000, BIS Audio Maestro cabling, $9500, and Ledoux Acoustique DIVA speakers and GAiA subs, $21,000) showed that Blue Circle does not need quirky products to get our attention at SSI. The SHow continues today (Saturday) and tomorrow.
After the awards presentations, the rock band, Hans Wilwright, took the stage, with a typically energetic series of numbers. I know that some of my industry and media colleagues found this music too loud, but, hey, it's rock, and although I'm far from being a rock fan, I expect rock to be loud, and this was not nearly as loud as I've heard. (Sitting in the fifth row of Rent on Broadwaynow, that was LOUD!)
Audio Plus/Plurison is the importer of the Pathos line of audio electronics. Like Cambridgeanother Audio Plus importthese fall into the moderately priced category. The products pictured are the Convert o DAC ($1295) and the Aurium ($1495) headphone amp.