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.
Another very listenable sub-$5000 system consisted of a pair of Bob Reina's favorite Monitor Audio RX-6s ($1600/pair), NAD X356 integrated amp ($800), NAD C515EE CD player ($400), and $340's worth of cables, at a total price of $3140.
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.
Lars Kristensen of Denmark’s Raidho Acoustics, who has yet to overcome his shyness, presented the Raidho/Rowland system with all of the good cheer and powers of persuasion for which he is known and admired in our industry.
For SSI 2013, the talended recordist Rene Laflamme and his Montreal-based company Fidelio introduced a number of titles, including a new Dvorak/Suk release titled Serenades Tcheques (Fidelio FACD036) by Daniel Myssyl and the chamber orchestra known as Appassionata. (Myssyk and Appassionata's recording of the Hindemith Escales Romantique, also on Fidelio, remains in heavy rotation at my house.) A selection from another new Fidelio releasethe eponymous debut by the folk duo June in the Fields (Fidelio FACD044) sounded wonderfully colorful and present over Laflamme’s reference system, comprising a dCS Puccini CD player ($20,000), an older model dCS 955 pro-market D/A ($8000 when new), Audio Research Reference 5SE preamplifier ($13,000), Audio Research Reference 250 power amplifier ($24,000), and Sonus Faber Amati loudspeakers ($36,000).
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.
The second Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Brian Russell, President of Bryston (right side in the photo), the presentation made by Michel Girard (left). Brian is a big, tough guy, so I figured we wouldn't see him cryingbut I think he came awful close when he said that he owes his achievement to each and every member of the Bryston team.
Sarah Tremblay and Michel Plante are the dynamic duo responsible for the success of SSI. Like the shark, they believe in always moving forward, coming up with new ideas every year, such as the focus on sub-$5000 systems and headphones at SSI 2013.
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.