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.
Plurison, which distributes the products of Rega Research throughout Canada, sponsored a press breakfast in which they unveiled a series of Rega turntables that had been transformed by the Quebec artist Zilon (seen above). On display were three RP1s and three RP3s, the plinths and platter hubs of which were painted using Molotow oil-based markers; 100 copies of each of these six originals will be madeby means of silk-screeningand sold, with more designs to follow.
AudioQuest also announced their entry into the world of Ethernet cables, with a line that includes nine distinct models; seen here is the Audioquest Cinnamon Ethernet cable, priced at $69 for a 1.5-meter length. "USB won't go away," said the company's Steve Silberman, "But Ethernet will continue to grow.
The family-owned electronics chain Son X Plus sponsored a number of exhibits at SSI, including this active display of Skech wireless headphones, in a rainbow of colors. I gave them a brief trynot the pink onesand was mildly impressed at the progress being made in Bluetooth audio.
It only looks as though Steve Silberman of Audioquest is trying to ignore a corpse behind the loudspeakers; in actual fact he's explaining the finer points of JRiver playback softwarea topic in which he is remarkably conversantwhile a colleague works on their system's cabling.
Here's a closer look at one of Plurison's customized Regas. The face motif, according to Michel Plante, plays on the idea that an LP has two "faces" (French for "sides"), and the notion that music itself has many faces. Exact prices were not immediately available, but the plan is to sell each of the silk-screened Regas for 15% above the normal price; all of that premium will go directly to the artists who created the designs.
In addition to AudioQuest cabling, the demo system put together by Montreal retailer Audioville comprised a pair of KEF Blade loudspeakers ($30,000), stirred into action by Chord electronics: the SPM5000 amplifier ($25,000), CPA3000 preamplifier ($10,000), and DSX1000 DAC/streamer ($13,000). The sound, as noted in Steve Silberman's demonstration, was explicit without being relentless about it: Music flowed naturally, and with decent color and very good impact, especially at the louder end of the spectrum.