One of the more controversial products at this year's SSI was the demo of "Axial Triphonic Speakers" by Lys Audio. According to company president Jacques Gérin-Lajois (given a running translation from French by one of his associates), this is based on a patent that was obtained 65 years ago, but has not been put into practice until now. As I understand it, it involves starting with a monophonic source, obtained by summing the stereo channels (or multiple channels), and then splitting the mono signal into bass, midrange, and treble, sending these to the appropriate speakers. Depending on the impedances, you can use just one amp to drive all three speakers, or (as was the case with the SSI demo), one amp for the midrange and treble, and another for the bass.
As far as I can tell, Omaha Audio has no connection with the city in Nebraska: its headquarters are in California, and the products are made in China—but "created, designed and checked in the USA." The system they were playing used their own speaker (named, fittingly enough, the Omaha Speaker), a fairly large two-way with some resemblance to Sonus Faber products ($2000/pair), the Omaha Tube CD player ($1600), and the OD-300B single-ended-triode integrated amplifier ($1400, photographed here by Larry Greenhill). At the Stereophile Ask the Editors session, Sam Tellig was raving about this amplifier and the value it represented. Based on the sound of the system (smooth, highly musical) I have to agree with him.
"Joseph and Cardas must be stopped! Don’t let them win best sound again! Give someone else a chance!" That was the bit of tongue-in-cheek "reverse psychology" stated on buttons handed out by Jeff Joseph. The upgraded speakers at the show were the RM7XL ($2299/pair) and the RM22XL ($3199/pair).
In addition to ingenuity in dealing with setup problems, Grant Audio had another claim to show exhibitor fame: their sign said "Nothing Over $2500," In fact, most of their productssome designed by Ian Grant in Canada but made in China, and others of Chinese design as well as manufacturewere well under $2500. One of the more expensive items was the W30GT: tube-based integrated amplifier designed by Ian Grant that includes a phono stage and a DAC. It's $1950.
"Women in Audio" was the title of the panel discussion, the panel consisting of four women of varied backgrounds who have been in the audio business for some time (left to right): Anna Popova (Conceptas cables), Agata Mossop (Lenbrook Industries), Gabi van der Kliej-Rijnveld (Crystal and Siltech cables), and Angie Lisi (American Sound and Angie's Audio Corner retailers, and AudioPathways, distributor). The lively discussion covered a variety of topics, including whether male customers tend to "test" female sales staff on their technical knowledge (the answer: yes, but if you know your stuff they will respect you), and how to attract more women to participate in the audiophile hobby (the incorporation of music into a couple's or family's lifestyle had broad support).
After seeing audio components that cost thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars, I always find it refreshing to encounter ones that cost a fraction of those prices. Case in point: the Nu Force S-1 integrated amp (10Wpc), which costs just $199, shown here by Jason Lim, CEO of Nu Force. The company also offers a matching speaker, the Icon-1, a small unit using a single driver, the combination, including cables, selling for $399. The system sounded pretty good, too!
The two most expensive systems at the show, each costing about US$200,000, were the all-McIntosh system, and the system using Pierre Gabriel Grand Master speakers and Jadis electronics/digital source. (Actually, the Pierre Gabriel system was "only" US$180,000, so you can afford a trip to France with what you would save over the McIntosh.) Did they sound impressive? Yes, but, personally, I have trouble relating to any system whose price is so far beyond the reach of ordinary audiophiles. Having said that, it's good to have systems like this at shows, so that people can judge for themselves what they offer in the way of sound quality. M. Gabriel himself was on hand to demonstrate the system featuring his speakers.
Aside from a few grumbles about the small size of some of the rooms, the 2006 FSI was a resounding success with exhibitors as well as attendees. Show organizer Marie-Christine Prin has managed to maintain the show's appeal to hard-core audiophiles while broadening the show's coverage to include products for the video/MP3/iPod generation. As always, Marie-Christine and her stalwart assistants, Céline Roy, and Diane Hébert, joined for this show by Sarah Bouhali and Elisa Fernandez, ran the show with grace and efficiency. Merci!
As well as being the 20th anniversary of FSI, 2007 also represents a change in its leadership. Marie-Christine Prin, whose hard work, efficiency, and charm had built up FSI to its current success, has passed the reins to Michel Plante, an industry veteran with an impressive background in audio at the technical as well as the sales/marketing level. The transition in leadership appears to have been seamless, a fact that Michel credits largely to the work of Céline Roy, who was Marie-Christine Prin's second-in-command, and who has stayed on with FSI. Michel Plante has ambitious plans to expand the mandate of FSI, making it appeal more to the trade as well as consumers, and finding more ways to attract young people to the audiophile hobby. His rationale for including gaming in FSI is that young people with no current interest in audio may come to check out the latest in games, but in the process of attending FSI would be exposed to some high-quality audio as well, and come to appreciate what it has to offer. Listening to Michel Plante talk about his plans, it's impossible not to be impressed by his commitment and enthusiasm. He's pictured here with one of the lovely FSI hostesses, Virginie Fisette.
In home theater, the latest thing is 3D TV, and while Stereophile doesn’t normally cover Home Theater, I just had to check out the Sony and Samsung 3D demos. With the high-end "shuttered” glasses, the 3D effect was quite startling. However, I thought I’d have a go at producing a 3D-like effect with a 2D image. So here's a photo of Stereophile's assistant editor and blogger Stephen Mejias coming right at you from Montrealand no shuttered glasses needed! Sony/Samsung, eat your heart out. (For the photographically inclined: this was shot with a Panasonic GF1, 7-14mm Panasonic lens set at 7mm. I love this lens!)