It was a really good show. That was the opinion of the people I spoke to at the 2011 SSI, including veteran as well as first-time exhibitors, and members of the public. Even the Trade Day, which in the past was not very popular, was busy enough that it felt like it almost could have been one of the public days. The Lifetime Achievement Awards ceremony was extremely well-attended, as the above photo illustrates. There was a kind of back-to-the-basics feel to the show, with a strong emphasis on music presented in two-channel stereo, and almost nothing in the way of surround sound. (Sorry, Kal!)
What impressed me the most at the Coup de Foudre party was the recording studio that adjoins the retail store, operated by CdF's co-owner, Graeme Humfrey, who is also a much-in-demand recording engineer. His audio mixing room is filled to the brim with equipment, some of it the very latest, and some of it classics, such as multiple Pultec equalizers that are valued for their sound quality.
On the evening of the first day of the show, John Atkinson, Art Dudley, and I attended a party at Coup de Foudre, one of Montreal's premier high-end audio retailers. There was much to admire there, not the least of which was listening to some of Peter McGrath’s hi-rez recordings on a system featuring VTL MB185 tube monoblocks driving Wilson Sashas and an Alpha DAC being fed USB data from Peter’s MacBook Pro via a Wavelength format converter.
On Sunday at 2pm, John Atkinson gave an illustrated talk entitled "How to measure loudspeakers and what the measurements mean." The scheduling was not ideal, just three hours before the show's closing, and the door to the meeting room where the talk was held was locked, and could be opened only from the inside or with a special card, which was not provided. As a result, attendance at the talk was not as great as it might have been, but the people who were there listened with rapt attention. One person told me afterwards that he has a book on loudspeaker measurement that he's had difficulty understanding, but, having heard JA's presentation, it made much more sense to him. Other than the specifics of how loudspeakers are measured, I thought the most interesting part of JA's presentation was . . .
For the past three years or so, one of the highlights of SSI has been the concert by the Give Band, featuring singer Caroline St-Louis, who works by day as one of the Show’s blue-haired girls at the ticket desk. And so it was at SSI 2011. Last year, JA took some pictures at the concert with his point-and-shoot camera, but he was disappointed with the amount of blurring in his photos. This time, he had the same camera but brought a monopod to improve camera steadiness, and it worked. Here he is, showing his pictures to Caroline, and she's obviously pleased with the results.
Are you in the market for a giant-sized speaker but your wallet is not correspondingly giant-sized? Then check out the Legacy Whisper XD. Weighing 210 lbs, 63"x17"x13", the Whisper XD is for large spaces, and the somewhat bass-heavy sound at SSI suggested that it was not feeling quite at home in the small hotel room. The price is $20,000/pairnot exactly spare change, but you get a lot for your money: a 10-driver system with four 15" subwoofers, four 7" Rohacell-reinforced midwoofers, a 3" ribbon midrange, and a ribbon tweeter. The system includes a DSP crossover with room correction.
ProAc is an English loudspeaker manufacturer that doesn't change models willy-nilly: if it works well and people buy it, then why change it? And if change comes, it should be purely evolutionary, perhaps a refinement of the crossover, or drive units replaced by improved versions of the same models. So, for ProAc, replacing the popular Response D38 with the D40 ($12,000/pair) represents. . .
Venerable British audio manufacturer, Naim, has an almost-equally-venerable new Canadian distributor, Plurison. Headed by the genial Daniel Jacqueson the right in the photo, with Doug Graham, Naim's International Export Manager on the leftPlurison's list of distributed brands includes Focal, Mordaunt-Short, MartinLogan, Pathos, YBA, Micromega, and a host of others. It must put Jacques in a quandary when he has to decide what product to take home to listen to on the weekend!
For big speakers, like the Legacy Whisper XD in the story below, the problem in setting up an effective demo in a show environment is that the room may be too small for the speaker. And then for speakers that are more modestly sized, if they're demonstrated in a big room, the speaker may not be able to play loud enough and the bass response may not be sufficiently powerful for the big space. The LSA (Living Sounds Audio) Group's demo featured the LSA2 Statement ($5999/pair) speakers driven by their own LSA Standard tube hybrid integrated amp ($6200) . . .
The title "Ask the Editors" suggests one-way communication: people in the audience ask questions, and, guru-like, Stereophile writers answer these questions. In fact, communication at these events goes in both directions. For example, at the 2011 "Ask the Editors" session, one of the attendees mentioned that he was really impressed with the demo of a speaker made by Live Audio, a company based in Quebec.