The Sonist Concerto 3 ($3495/pair) is a favorite of Art Dudley's, who praised its "SET-friendly" nature (April 2009). The system I heard in the Sonist room at T.H.E. Show used the Concerto 4 ($5895/pair), which JA wrote about in his report from the 2011 Atlanta Axpona, The Concerto 4 is claimed to have a sensitivity of 97dB, 2dB higher than the Concerto 3, and the bass is claimed to extend 3Hz lower, to 27Hz. (When it comes to the extremes of sensitivity and bass extension, even small gains are hard to come by.) With a Cary 306 Pro SACD/CD player as the source, Increcable Acoustic Lab TIA216 integrated amp (300B-based), Acoustic Revive power conditioner, and Exakte cables, the sound was clean, open, and "fast" on percussion.
The party on the Trade Day of the show, hosted by SSI, is always well attended, and provides a good indication of the general mood. This time the mood was decidedly upbeat: people in the trade looking forward to having a good show.
Never mind all those fancy audio components; this is all you need. Well, maybe not if you're the typical Stereophile reader or FSI attendee. This RCA console stereo (model SFA 1091) is circa-1968, and I note that it's "All Transistor." It was a part of a display of vintage audio equipment at FSI from the Emile Berliner exhibit at the Montreal Musee des Ondes.
Ask the Editors: the view from the stage. The questions this year did not include the usual ones about which exhibits people liked the most, recommendations about tweaks, and why Stereophile doesn’t do blind testing in all reviews. Instead, there were questions about things like intellectual property rights, the future of various audio formats, and whether multichannel represents a worthwhile enhancement of the music-listening experience. Very polite and friendly.
There are probably no speakers that have a more old-fashioned look than those made by Tannoy, nor audio equipment more futuristically high-tech than the Devialet D-premier DAC/preamp/power amp. Audio Eden, a high-end audio dealer located in Newmarket (about 35 miles from Toronto), combined a pair of Tannoy Turnberry SEs ($7300/pair) with the Devialet D-premier ($16,500). Demoed by Mike Hamelin, this unusual combination worked well, producing an easy-on-the-ears, relaxed type of sound.
The fabled Threshold Stasis amplifier is back. The S/350 reissue, built in China by Threshold International Ltd., is said to have the same circuit as the original, but with updated components. The original cost $3900 in 1992, so for those who long to own this famous amplifier, the S/350 reissue at $2000 is a bargain!
Speaker manufacturers at audio shows often go to considerable trouble to make sure that their products sound good in the exhibiting rooms, but their efforts usually stop there. Totem is one of the few manufacturers that go beyond being concerned with sound quality; their exhibits are aimed at creating a total environment, in which the visual aspect is as important as the auditory. This was the case at SSI 2012, as you can see in the picture. The speakers included two Element Metals for the front, one Element Wood for center channel, two Tribe 5s for the rear, and two Storm subs.
Turntables were much in evidence at TAVES. Oracle was here, of course, and another "Made in Canada" line of turntables that I was not familiar with: TTWeights Audio. Located in Newmarket, Ontario, TTWeights have an honest-to-goodness aerospace CNC facility: their website notes that they have just signed a Long Term Agreement to supply the Curtiss-Wright Corporation critical cabin-pressure controls for the Boeing 737 passenger aircraft. This high-tech expertise has been applied to the design and manufacture of turntables. These include the Momentus, Momentus Supreme, and the GEM, which utilize a Duo Drive design: Direct Rim Drive or Tri-Belt. Prices are in the $6000$15,000 range. This is serious stuff, beautifully made.
Convergent Audio Technologies' SL-1, in its various iterations, has been my reference preamp for some time. When the SL-1 Ultimate came out, I kidded designer Ken Stevens about the fact this designation implied that there was simply no way to improve it, so what was he going to do when—inevitably, in my view—he found ways to tweak the design? Well, sure enough, the SL-1 Ultimate is now the SL-1 Ultimate Mk.II, and Ken has a new preamp called the Legend, which is said to be even better. Improvements over the Ultimate Mk.II include a Teflon circuit board, Black Gate electrolytic capacitors, separate left and right volume controls, and a constrained-layer aluminum/steel bottom plate. An interesting feature is that the AV bypass works even without the preamp being turned on, saving tube life. The price is $15,995, which makes the $7995 for the Ultimate Mk.II seem like a positive bargain.
More than once, I've teased Convergent Audio Technology's Ken Stevens about calling his preamp SL-1 Ultimate. I mean, once you've got something that's the Ultimate, where can you go if it's improved—and there is no audio product that can't be improved, even if only to a minor degree. He subsequently introduced a preamp called the SL-1 Legend, but it was about double the price of the SL-1 Ultimate, and Ken said that it was sufficiently different from the SL-1 Ultimate that it could be considered a new preamp, deserving of a new name.