Experience says that one must wait in line to hear the MBL system at any hi-fi show, and SSI 2014 was no exception. Similarly unsurprising was the realistically vivid sound on tap, with levels of color and texture that, in a strange way, stood in contrast to the resolutely smooth, monochromatic appearance of their gear. (Maybe that's intentional?) This year I was entertained by a variety of musical excerpts, including a snippet of Beethoven's Piano Concerto 2, through MBL's C31 D/A converter/CD player ($9200), C11 stereo preamp ($8800), C21 stereo amp (9200), and 116 F loudspeakers ($29,000/pair), with Siltech cables and a generous sprinkling of Shun Mook Mpingo discs.
Although their sign suggested that this was a passive display, the Blue Circle Audio table in the Pavillon du Canada was anything but. The always-colorful Gilbert Yeung offered visible and audible proof that his line of PLC Thingee power-line conditionerswith prices starting at $CAD220 each for the four-outlet versions in the foregroundeffectively removed noise from household AC current. I was thoroughly impressed (not to mention entertained).
For whatever reason I didn't hear many word-of-mouth recommendations as I wandered the halls during the first two days of SSI; the few that did break through the haze pointed to two products: the Eclipse TD-M1 desktop loudspeakers in one of Coup de Foudre's rooms, and the Muraudio Domain floorstanding loudspeakers ($58,000 per pair): about as different as different can be. Just as I discovered with the Eclipses, the Muraudio speakers deserved the buzz.
The photography used in the display materials associated with Totem loudspeakers are of consistently very high quality. That said, during my stroll through the Pavillon du Canada at this year's SSI, I finally noticed something about the people in those photos: They are exclusively female, and they are almost always barefoot. As a male who is as ignorant of the principles of the psychology of marketing as he is hesitant to go barefoot anywhere but the beach, the bath, and the bed, I am puzzled (but not troubled).
Like the gentleman seen browsing through the crates of LPs offered by Aux 33 Toursthe Montreal vinyl specialists who shared SSI space with hi-fi retailer Acoustic TechnologiesI too have a record-shopping hat. I wear it for good luck whenever I leave the house in search of rare vinyl. Especially in cold weather.
The 2014 SSI witnessed the official North American introduction of Naim Audio's mighty Statement amplifier (which John Atkinson previewed in his coverage of the 2014 CES). I experienced this behemoth at the unveiling party thrown for it by distributor Plurison Audio, and was struck not so much by its undeniable power but by its very nuanced performance on subtler materialsuch as the classic "Helplessly Hoping" by Crosby, Stills, and Nash. During the chorus, when David Crosby's low harmony was the last to enter ("They are three together. . ."), the audible tension and release were palpableand very impressive. The Statement is something that neither I nor the vast majority of you will ever enjoy at home, but . . .wow.
Bring me the head of anyone who says the Harbeth Monitor 40.1loudspeaker isn't a great rock 'n' roll loudspeaker! As Montreal retailer Son Idéal provedproved, I tell youthe biggest Harbeths are very satisfying on the classic album Led Zeppelin III, especially with the assistance of a Rega RP10 record player with Rega Apheta cartridge; Rega Aria phono preamp; Rega Saturn-R CD player; and Pathos T.T. integrated amplifier.
Ontario retailer and distributor Audio Pathways had a number of new products on displaysome active, some passive. Among the latter were the impressive Magne air-bearing turntable and companion Magne air-bearing linear-tracking tonearm ($14,000 as a package) from Bergmann Audio of Denmark.
Retailer AudioShop and distributor Audio Associé demonstrated a pleasantly impactful system built around a pair of Cabasse Riga loudspeakers ($18,000 /pair, including the Cabasse subwoofer), with a brace of electronics from my upstate New York neighbors McIntosh: the MCD1000 SACD/CD player ($10,000), C2500 tube preamp ($6500), and the beautiful McIntosh 275 power amp ($6500), all plugged into the company's MPC1500 AC power conditioner ($5000).