Among the many SSI rooms sponsored by Canadian distributor Plurison was a ballroomthe Verdun, to be precisewhere the signage promised MartinLogan loudspeakers on demonstration. I stepped a short distance inside and was swallowed by darknessand sound. I followed the latter, turned left, and felt more than saw a row of theater-style seats, most of them filled with people who were enjoying Avatar on a large screen. The sound was indeed impressive, but it was impossible to see, let alone photograph, the gear being demonstrated, and I could locate neither personnel nor literature. Unsure how to illustrate such an experience, I grabbed my chance and, on the way out, photographed the next guy going in.
Avatar Acoustics' Darren Censullo brought to Montreal a variety of new iFi products, including a rack system that can hold up to four of the company's Micro-series products. Two versions are available: one without cables ($99) and the one shown here ($149), which includes two short cables and one long, wrap-around cable. In the foreground is another new iFi accessory: their in-line USB iPurifier ($99), which is said to be effective on DC power and digital signal alike.
Mark Waldrep of AIX Records didn't bring to SSI any new releases, per se; instead, he brought along a renewed enthusiasm for debating the controversies within the high-resolution music communityand an invitation for showgoers to visit him on www.realhd-audio.com, where they'll find up-to-date news and views on all things HD, as well as a selection of free high-definition-audio sample files.
Here we see Steven Huang of Audio Sensibility waiting on a customer at his SSI display. His Toronto company offers custom cables at sanely low pricesstarting at $129/meter for their entry-level interconnectand sweetens the deal with custom-machined stainless steel (not aluminum, or even aluminium) connector shells and a 30-day money-back guarantee.
On my second day in Montreal I had an enjoyable conversation with Jean Barbeau of Solen Electronique, the Quebec manufacturing company whose capacitors and other passive components remain popular with hundreds of manufacturers (including the vintage-inspired Shindo Laboratory). Monsieur Barbeau, who co-designed the fine-sounding loudspeaker project being demonstrated in Solen's SSI room, observed that more and more young listeners have been approaching Solen in recent months for DIY parts and advice"A very healthy trend."
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.