As I made my way through the hall, I hesitated before entering the room of Lawrence Audio, makers of some very attractive floor-standing loudspeakers: They were playing the Nils Lofgren song "Keith Don't Go," which I really don't like, really loud. Even so, it was standing-room only: Mine appears to be the minority opinion, at least as far as the trampoline-loving Mr. Lofgren is concerned...
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.
Manley tube electronicsthe same 300B preamplifier plus a pair of Snapper ampswere used in another Acoustique Technologies room, where they drove a pair of Nola Metro Grand Reference III loudspeakers ($30,900), with the Meitner MA-1 D/A converter ($7000) as a source. I'm sorry to say the Nolas proved impossible to photograph in the back-lit but otherwise dark and very crowded room. And the excessive volume leveland consequently harsh treblesdiscouraged me from lingering.
Heard at one of the three SSI rooms sponsored by Montreal dealer Coup de Foudre was this serene-looking record player by Clearaudio, comprising the company's Concept Wood Edition turntable, Satisfy Carbon tonearm, and Performer V2 moving-magnet phono cartridge. Sold as a package for $2200, the Clearaudio player sounded open and engaging in a system including a Unico Primo integrated amplifier with built-in phono stage ($2450), Opera Grand Mezza loudspeakers ($2800/pair), and cabling by Transparent Audio.
I have found that, under show conditions, some of the sweetest sounds often come from the smallest systems; so it was in the room sponsored by distributor VMAX, where a Hegel H80 integrated amplifier with onboard D/A and five digital inputs, including USB ($2000) drove a lovely pair of Triangle 30th Anniversary Comete loudspeakers ($1800/pair), with a Hegel CDP-2A CD player ($2600) used as a transport.
Dollar for dollar, the TD-M1 wireless loudspeaker system from Eclipse ($1300/pair) was among the most impressive products I heard at SSI. Imported by the American distributor On a Higher Note and displayed at the show by Coup de Foudre, the self-powered TD-M1 system, which includes a built-in digital-to-analog converter, combined Quad-like detail and transparency with exceptional levels of presence and substance. Notably, the system retained those qualities even at very low listening levels.
Ontario-based Kevro International, which distributes Monitor Audio loudspeakers and British-built Cyrus electronics in the US and Canada, demonstrated a system using a pair of Monitor Silver 10 loudspeakers ($2700/pair in gloss finish) and a stack of Cyrus amplification and digital components (total price approximately $12,000). Apart from lacking a bit of bass weightsurprisingly, given the speakers' size and the sheer amount of bass-driver real estate), the sound was smooth, spacious, and open, with very good melodic flow and momentum.
In one of three rooms sponsored by the dealer Acoustique Technologies, Marten Getz 2 loudspeakers ($23,000/pair) were driven by a pair of Manley 250 "Neo-Classic Design" mono amplifiers ($13,750/pair), in turn driven by a Manley "Neo-Classic Design" 300B preamplifier ($6500) and fed by a Feickert Woodpecker turntable/tonearm combination ($6090) with Dynavector XX2 cartridge ($2150).
When I return home from Montreal I'll be able to tell my 16-year-old daughter, truthfully, that I listened to Lorde's "The Royals" on a very good system, the value of which rivals the expected cost of her first two years of college. Included in this Coup de Foudre-sponsored system were a Luxman DA-06 D/A converter ($5000), Luxman C 900 preamp ($19,000), the big Luxman M 900 stereo amp ($19,000), and Vivid Giya G3 loudspeakers ($40,000), used with Cardas cables.