What with CES a little more than two months ago, and the Chicago AXPONA show just two weeks ago, it was difficult for SSI 2013 to claim new product introductions. Typically, the most they could claim was "First time in Canada." But there was at least one product introduction that was billed as World Premiere: the Arteluthe Satie, the entry-level speaker in the company's AirForce line, made entirely in Montreal. It's a fully active design, with two built-in 175W amplifiers in each speaker, no passive elements in the signal path, high sensitivity, and claimed 30Hz20kHz bandwidth. All this technology, and only $7999/pair. There are two other speakers in the line: the Alegria and the Kantante, both fully active, with a top price of $15,000. The photo shows designer Robert Gaboury.
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.
"Women in Audio" was the title of the panel discussion, the panel consisting of four women of varied backgrounds who have been in the audio business for some time (left to right): Anna Popova (Conceptas cables), Agata Mossop (Lenbrook Industries), Gabi van der Kliej-Rijnveld (Crystal and Siltech cables), and Angie Lisi (American Sound and Angie's Audio Corner retailers, and AudioPathways, distributor). The lively discussion covered a variety of topics, including whether male customers tend to "test" female sales staff on their technical knowledge (the answer: yes, but if you know your stuff they will respect you), and how to attract more women to participate in the audiophile hobby (the incorporation of music into a couple's or family's lifestyle had broad support).
Another very listenable sub-$5000 system consisted of a pair of Bob Reina's favorite Monitor Audio RX-6s ($1600/pair), NAD X356 integrated amp ($800), NAD C515EE CD player ($400), and $340's worth of cables, at a total price of $3140.
Dynaudio took a decidedly computer-oriented approach to providing a system for under $5000, with a choice between two powered wireless speakers: the Xeo 3 ($2300/pair) and the Xeo 5 (at $4500/pair, just under the $5000 limit). And these speakers are serious high-end products, not built-to-a-price budget offerings. You save on not having to buy an amplifier or cables (not always a trivial amount). The only catch is that there is no source component included; it's assumed that the consumer already has a suitable computer and/or iPod, iPad, or similar device.
Atoll paired up with ProAc, assembling a system that, knowing something about these brands, I would guess would be a fine-sounding one, but it was only on passive display. Not the most effective way to attract new consumers, I'd say. The star of this system was the ProAc Tablette Anniversary ($2295/pair), the latest version of a speaker that has had enormous following over the years, and was combined with the Atoll CD30 CD player ($899) and Atoll IN30 itegrated amp ($799).
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.
The management of SSI requested exhibiting manufacturers, distributors, and retailers to set upin addition to whatever equipment they wanted to demonstratean entry-level system, with a total price of $5,000 or less. Some high-end audio manufacturers had nothing that would qualify, but others stepped up to the plate. Totem and Creek had a nifty little system that featured a pair of Totem Arros, Creek CD player and integrated amp, which have a combined price of $4,100, leaving $900 for cables, etc.
The folks at the Montreal Emile Berliner museum always bring to SSI some fascinating vintage audio equipment. The item in the picture is a "Personal Disco" component, Velo Model DK-990 (R), circa 1986, and it has everything you might want for your next disco party: two cassette players, radio, equalizers, four speakers, and a claimed output of 100W. Stephen, here's the subject for your next "Entry Level" column!