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.
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.
Resonessence Lab, based in Kelowna, BC, is a company making cutting-edge digital equipment. The top of the line is the Invicta Mirus ($4995), a D/A converter that uses 8 DACs per channel, and handles DSD64/128, DXD, and claims THD of 0.0002% (114dB). In true trickle-down fashion, it has been joined by the Invicta ($599), still with the same DSD/DXD capability, and THD only a slightly less impressive 0.00032%. Their latest product is the Herus headphone DAC ($350), this one with THD a whopping 0.003% THD. They're shown right-to-left in the photo.
“What’s new?” is the question that comes up first with established manufacturers when considering whether there’s something worthy of a blog item. In Polk Audio’s case, the answer was “Everything!” According to Polk rep, Jim Crowley, their entire home audio line has been revamped, with changes in the cabinetry, drivers, and crossovers. Perhaps the most significant change is that now, for the first time, some Polk speakers feature a midrange driver. And with all that, Polk loudspeakers continue to be reasonably priced: the pictured LSiM is a modest-by-audiophile-standards $4000/pair.
Revel's well-received Performa series of loudspeakers has been completely overhauled, with a number of advances in materials and manufacturing technologies. The new Performa3 series now consists of 10 models, including three floorstanders, two stand-mounted monitors, and various home theater speakers. The drivers are all new, and, according to Revel's Kevin Voecks, they have exceptionally low distortion, which contributes to clarity and transparency. This was very much in evidence with the pair of M106s ($1700/pair) and F308s (at $6000/pair, the most expensive speaker in this series) that I listened to.
The Stereophile Ask the Editors session at Showsin which John Atkinson (left), Art Dudley (center), Stephen Mejias, and I fielded questions from the audience at SSIin something that I enjoy a lot, and so, I know, do JA, AD, and SM. Through the years, I've learned that it's almost impossible to anticipate what the questions will deal with. And that was certainly true this time. The questions covered a wide range of topics: why are there so few active speakers on the market; why doesn't Stereophile review more vintage equipment; what system that we've heard (at the show or elsewhere) represents to us audiophile nirvana; music recorded in what format will be reproducible a thousand years from now; why is the interest in high quality audio less popular now than it was a few decades ago; has loudspeaker quality improved through the years; and many more. All thoughtful, interesting questions.
John Atkinson opened Saturday afternoon's "Ask the Editors" session with a brief introduction in French—which got applause from the audience—but the rest of the session was conducted en anglais, and the quality of questions from the audience was easily up to best that I've experienced at such sessions at the Home Entertainment shows. The questions covered a wide range, dealing with topics such as the cost of producing LPs and SACDs, advances in loudspeaker technology, the sonic quality and pricing of cables, how to allocate resources in assembling a system, and discussion of what systems had particularly impressed us at the show. I think I can speak for John Atkinson, Wes Phillips and John Marks (as well as myself) in saying that we had a good time and were most impressed with the level of interest and dedication to good sound showed by the audiophiles participating in this event. Here's a picture of the Stereophile crew, taken just after the "Ask the Editors" session (from left to right): John Marks, yours truly, Wes Phillips, and John Atkinson.
One of the characteristics of shows like SSI, where many of the exhibitors are dealers rather than manufacturers or distributors, is that you may get a chance to hear equipment combinations you would never encounter at CES. At SSI 2015, the Totem Earth speakers were combined with McIntosh electronics, to good effect. Another thing that distinguisher these dealer-exhibitors is that you can buy the products on displaysomething that's strictly forbidden at CES. The Totem Earth has a list price of CAD$9000/pair, but you could have it a "show special" price of CAD$6000/pair...
Montreal audiophiles are a hardy lot. Last winter, the city experienced the most devastating ice storm in its history, with power lines demaged to the point that almost the entire city was plunged in darkness. At the time of the 1998 Festival du Son et de l'Image (aka the Montreal Audio/Video Show), residents were still recovering from the effects of the storm. Did this calamity stop the show? No way! By all accounts, the 1998 show was the most successful in the event's 11-year history. I missed it myself, but I made sure that I wouldn't miss the next one.
At the "Ask the Editors" session on Saturday afternoon, Stereophile editor John Atkinson asked each of us on the panel—John Marks, Wes Phillips, and myself—what systems featuring low-priced equipment particularly impressed us at the show. There were actually several such systems that I could have named—but the one that first came to mind was the system based on the Rogue Cronus tube-based integrated amp ($1750, 55Wpc, includes a phono stage and headphone amplifier, with PSB Alpha B1 speakers ($279/pair). A nice, well-balanced sound, very easy on the ears. Mind you, they had an Oracle turntable as the front end, which might be classified as cheating, but, hey, it's an audio show.