Shanling is known for the striking industrial design of their tube electronics. Seen in the Music Hall room, the new A500 integrated amp ($6499) maintains the striking looks, but it's solid-state. Lots of nice blue lights, though.
On their website, the only products listed are cables and stepup transformers, but at TAVES, Blueberryhill Audio had a new speaker on demo. And what a speaker! The Rhapsody 3D has a bipolar arrangement of two 8" full-range Fostex drivers, supplemented by a Fostex supertweeter, and a servo-controlled powered subwoofer, with all the drivers in cylindrical cabinets. The sound was fabulous, with startling dynamics, great imaging, and bass that was tight, well-controlled, and extended. The Rhapsody 3D was being driven by an 8W 300B amp for the mid/highs and another 25W tube amp for the supertweeter (or maybe the other way around; my notes are not clear on this). Sold factory-direct at $15,000/pair, the Rhapsody 3D system provided for me one of the best sounds of the show.
A well-balanced sytemboth in terms of the price of its components and the soundwas demonstrated by Jay Rein of Bluebird Music. The speakers were Spendor SP2/3R2s ($4295/pair), a reworking of the classic BC1, with the tweeter from the A line. CD player, preamp, and amplifiers were by Exposure, and cables by Van den Hul (which Jay told me were the most neutral sounding Van den Hul has produced so far).
Toronto-based Focus Audio has been around since 1993, and they manufacture a vast array of speakers. The ones on demo (Chord CD player, Conrad-Johnson ET5 preamp and LP125M power amps) were the FP88s ($6800/pair). I enjoyed a recording of Eva Cassidy played through this system.
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.
Bruce Edgar has been refining his Edgarhorn loudspeakers, available in kit form, for a good number of years now, and I've noticed a steady improvement in the sounds he's been getting at shows. The ones I heard at the Montreal Show were the best-sounding yet.
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.
When Bryston's Model T speaker was introduced at SSI 2012, it was in the form of a prototype, on passive display. From a comment that I've seen by James Tanner (who headed up the design team for the Model T), at one point it was not clear whether this was going to be a commercial product or just a personal reference. But now it's full steam ahead for a line of Bryston speakers. Model T is available in three versions: the basic passive model, $6495/piar, the Model T Signature (outboard passive crossover, with custom-made air-core chokes and proprietary film capacitors, $7495/pair), and an active version ($9495/pair, requires six channels of amplification, not included). Other speakers in the line are the Middle T ($4600/pair), mini t, as well as home-theater-oriented speakers, a sub, and in-wall and on-wall speakers. Most of these are available now, and others are slated for shipping in May and a few in Q3. Bryston is definitely serious about their speaker line.
A few years ago, back when Salon Son & Image was called Festival Son & Image, Frch manufacturer Cabasse demonstrated their flagship La Sphère speaker systemwhich is still in the line, and currently sells for $168,565/system. It was most impressive sonically, and look was certainly unique, but with a tax-in price that's close to $200k, this is not a speaker that sells in large numbers. But lovers of the Cabasse sound can rejoice: for less than the Quebec provincial sales tax and Canadian federal Goods and Services tax on La Sphère ($22,756), you can get the Cabasse Artis Riga ($11,805/pair) and Santorin subwoofer ($5065). And the sound of this demo system (with McIntosh electronics)while perhaps not at the level of La Sphèrewas very nice indeed: open, non-boxy, and with great imaging.