Sarah Tremblay and Michel Plante are the dynamic duo responsible for the success of SSI. Like the shark, they believe in always moving forward, coming up with new ideas every year, such as the focus on sub-$5000 systems and headphones at SSI 2013.
You might think that this is a photo of mother and daughter attending SSI 2013, but that wouldn't be correct. The woman on the left is pianist/vocalist Anne Bissonwho I hope will be performing at some point during the showand the young girl is Alexandra, Sarah Tremblay's daughter. A photogenic pair, n'est ce pas?
After the awards presentations, the rock band, Hans Wilwright, took the stage, with a typically energetic series of numbers. I know that some of my industry and media colleagues found this music too loud, but, hey, it's rock, and although I'm far from being a rock fan, I expect rock to be loud, and this was not nearly as loud as I've heard. (Sitting in the fifth row of Rent on Broadwaynow, that was LOUD!)
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.
One of the best events at every SSI is the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award to two individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the industry. This is the Oscar of the consumer audio industry, and I've always found these presentations quite touching. That was certainly true at SSI 2013. Angie Lisi, who owns two stores (American Sound and Angie's Audio Corner) in the Toronto area, and is the owner of Audio Pathways, a distribution company, has been in the business for over 30 years (she started when she was 19), and has not lost any of her passion for high-quality reproduction of music. She was introduced by Adrienne Surtees (left in the photo above) and presented with the award by Sarah Tremblay (right). It was a very moving moment, and I was glad that I was able to capture it with my camera.
Blue Circle Audio first came to prominence (or perhaps notoriety) with whimsical products like an amplifier in a shoe and a preamplifier in a purse. Although the Music Pumps and the Music Purse are still available, according to their website , Blue Circle brought more conventional products to SSI 2013, and their demo room provided one of the show's most relaxing listening experiences. There is just something very soothing about a night sky as a background to musicand the music presented by the system (BC507 DAC, $2600, BC309 preamp, $8500, BC1022 amp, $7000, BC6040 power line conditioner, $4000, BIS Audio Maestro cabling, $9500, and Ledoux Acoustique DIVA speakers and GAiA subs, $21,000) showed that Blue Circle does not need quirky products to get our attention at SSI. The SHow continues today (Saturday) and tomorrow.
There's been a lot of concern expressed about the difficulties experienced by bricks-and-mortar audio retailers, and I guess these concerns are well founded, but some retailers continue to not only survive but thrive.
One such retailer is American Sound of Canada, located in the Toronto suburb of Richmond Hill. Owned and managed by Angie Lisi (known to all her customers as just "Angie"), American Sound was founded in 1970, and has recently opened a second location a few miles up the road, called Angie's Audio Corner, specializing in their higher-end lines. Angie's very capable assistants, Leyland and Arnold, now look after the Richmond Hill store, and Angie's Audio Corner is Angie's baby. Converted from an old residential property, Angie's Audio Corner has a more sophisticated upscale boutique vibe than the Richmond Hill store, but, with Angie in charge, the atmosphere is still welcoming rather than stuffy.
Angie's Audio Corner had an event on February 28 to introduce some of their new lines, including Joseph Audio speakers, the latest Meridian Sooloos music server, Brinkmann turntables, and Zesto Audio line stage and phono stage.
Active speakersie, those that that have built-in amplifiersare generally unpopular with audiophiles. One well-known speaker designer working on his state-of-the-art speaker contender told me at CES that he would like it to be active but marketing told him that it wouldn’t sell, so he’s staying with the passive design. I guess Precision Transducer Engineering (PTE) didn’t get the memoor maybe they wrote their own . . .
Invented by Oskar Heil and made popular by speakers under the ESS name in the ‘70s, the Air Motion Transformer (AMT) tweeter and midrange have lost popularity for a while, but have made a major comeback in speakers made by a number of manufacturers, including ADAM Audio in Germany. The Column Mk.3 ($7000pair), reviewed by Kal Rubinson in August 2012 was used by Cary Audio at CES, and had what I now think is a sonic signature that’s apparent in a variety of loudspeaker designs: low in coloration and detailed without being overly bright.
Although a number of speaker manufacturers use Heil AMT drivers, only one company has the rights to use the name of the original speaker company that used Heil drivers: ESS. Headquartered in South El Monte, CA, ESS Laboratories LLC (which we might call “ESS Reborn”) also owns the rights to the original slogan, “Sound As Clear As Light.” Unlike the speakers by ADAM Audio, GoldenEar, etc., these speakers look just like the original ones from ESS. President and CEO of ESS, Ricky “Rico” Caudillo, seen in the photo, told me that he wanted to stay with the original, highly-successful designs, but in recreating these designs managed to improve them in a number of ways, most notably in producing wider dispersion. A brief listen to the LD12 ($3295/pair), modeled on the original ESS Monitor, left me with a very positive impression.