The "Swiss Army Knife" metaphor has been applied to many audio products, but the metaphor has never been more apt than referring to the new Cocktail Audio X30 ($1899). Made in Korea and imported to North America by Audio Plus/Plurison, the X30 is described as an "all-in-one HD music server/network streamer/CD storage." However, that doesn't describe all of its capabilities. If you look at the connections in the back (bottom of the picture), you'll see speaker connections, so it's also an amplifier. (I'm not sure, but I think the number in the model designation indicates the watts per channel.)
Now, that's a real speaker! Unless you examine it, or read the literature on the Tannoy Canterbury GR ($30,000/pair), you might think that you're looking at a speaker made more than a half-century ago: a very substantial floorstander that's wide as well as deep, making no concession to modern speaker design ideas like keeping as narrow a front baffle as possible.
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.
At last year's SSI, the show management asked exhibitors to assemble systems that are "entry level" in a high-performance audio context, costing less than $5000. (We can argueand some people didabout whether <$5000 is a realistic figure for "entry level," but, audiophiles being the way they are, you're going to get an argument regardless of the figure.) In any case, relatively few exhibitors followed through with this last year. At SSI 2014, show management made more of a concerted effort to persuade exhibitors to participate, and indeed there were a lot more of the little blue "$5000 System" signs throughout the show.
No audio show would be complete without a new or revised speaker model from Gershman Acoustics. At SSI 2014, the new offering from Gershman was the Avant Garde R-1 ($8000/pair), replacing the previous R-44. It's a fairly unobtrusive tapered-toward-the-top floorstander, and was sounding lively and open with Audio Flight electronics. Gershman has also moved into component supports with their Levitation Vibration Control devices that use opposing magnets. As you can see in the photo, they now have a version of these devices for cables.
A few years ago, SSI introduced Lifetime Achievement awards, honoring individuals who have made notable contributions to the audio business in Canada. This time, the honorees were Michel Girard, President of the Audio Group, and Saxe Brickenden, President of Evolution Audio. Girard's award was presented to him by his niece, and you can see from the picture what an emotional moment this was for both of them.
The revision of the Sasha to Mark II status involves a number of improvements, the cumulative effect of which, according to Peter McGrath, is quite significant. The Sasha II has the same midrange and woofer as the original Sasha, but the tweeter is all newa convex rather than a concave dome as used previously. The tweeter and midrange baffle materials are different from those in the original Sasha, and the effect is a 34% reduction in resonant modes. The mechanism allowing the mid/tweeter module to be tilted, to "focus" the sound, has been revised so that the focusing can be more precise.
A highlight of the Lifetime Achievement award party was another performance by soprano Sophie De Cruz, this time joined by baritone Julianne Horbatuck, her partner in an upcoming production of Lucia di Lammermoor. She sang Musetta's waltz song from La Bohème, tossing off high notes with abandon, and the two of them blew the roof off the place with a duet from Lucia. Pianist Dominic Boulianne provided unobtrusive but effective support.
Montreal dealer Coup de Foudre's Wilson/Dan D'Agostino room had Wilson's new Sasha II speakers ($29,900/pair), combined with Dan D'Agostino's Momentum Line stage preamp and stereo power amp ($32,000 and $29,000, respectively). The sound was truly excellent.