Finnish company Gradient is known for its unusual-looking speakers (they have a model that always reminds me of one of those ergonomically-designed office chairs), and unconventionalbut effectiveapproach to bass response. At SSI 2013, they introduced an interesting new small speaker, the Gradient 5.0 ($2000/pair), which features the same coincident mid-tweeter driver used in their larger speakers, and a passive radiator for the bass that looks like a mini-version of the famed KEF B139 woofer.
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.
Gershman is getting into the component support/vibration control business. The LEC Levitation device ($240 for a set of four), shown here by Ofra Gershman, uses the repulsion of two magnetic poles to provide isolation of the component from the surface it's placed on. Improvements in clarity, soundstage, imaging, and bass response are promised.
The first Gershman speaker I heard was the GAP 828 (maybe in 2004). The GAP 828 has been tweaked over the years, but this is the first time that the changes resulted in a change in model designation: it's now called the GAP 888 ($25,000/pair). The midrange and the tweeter are the same, but there's a new woofer, and consequent changes in the crossover, with some changes in the use of stuffing in the speaker. I've always enjoyed the sound of the GAP, but this was the best that I've heard it soundand the associated components were moderately-priced Quad electronics and CD player.
Not being fully up on the names of the various Sonus Faber speakers, I asked one of the reps the name of the giants on demo. "Ida" was his answer. Come again? "Ida! Sonus Faber gives their speakers names that have a musical connection, like the titles of operas." But how could that be? The only remotely relevant opera connection that I'm aware of for "Ida" is Gilbert & Sullivan's "Princess Ida," and somehow I doubt if the Italian designers of Sonus Faber speakers would name the speaker after this not-all-that-popular English operetta.
And then I got it. The speaker was named after Aïda, pronounced "eye-ee-duh," the well-know opera by Verdi.
The train I took from Toronto to Montreal arrived at 2:30pm, right on schedule, so I was able to meet Art Dudley in the hotel lobby at 3:00 to discuss the game plan for covering the 2013 Salon Son & Image. As we pored over the map of the exhibits, Wilson Audio's Peter McGrath (right, with VTL's Luke Manley) came over to us and reminded Art that he had agreed to visit the Wilson/VTL room at 3:30. As it turned out, Art and I decided to cover the show geographically, and the Wilson/VTL room was going to be part of my beat, so I went along with Art.
Another room that made no claim to being anywhere close to "entry level," featured the ultra-expensive Constellation electronics (Virgo preamplifier, $27,500, Centaur monoblocks, $54,000/pair, and Cygnus Media Player, $29,000). The speakers were the Magico S5s; at $29,500/pair, these are below the median of the Magico price range. The sound was admittedly lovely. Pictured (left to right) are Irv Gross of Magico and Peter Madnick of Constellation.
In a very different financial world than the Wilson/VTL and Magico/Constellation offerings belowand a world that, frankly, I'm much more comfortable inwere the Cambridge range of electronics and speakers. The small Minx speakers in the foreground of the picture above are $200/pair, $599 in a 2.1 setup that includes a subwoofer.
The Tannoy/Linn room had a nice-sounding setup featuring the Tannoy DC-10S speakers ($17,500/pair), Linn Akurate preamp/media streamer ($9350), and Akurate 4200 four-channel amp ($8360). The speakers were had a very attractive glossy finish, which is now offered as an alternative to the traditional Tannoy satin.
Audio Plus/Plurison is the importer of the Pathos line of audio electronics. Like Cambridgeanother Audio Plus importthese fall into the moderately priced category. The products pictured are the Convert o DAC ($1295) and the Aurium ($1495) headphone amp.