On the evening of the first day of the show, John Atkinson, Art Dudley, and I attended a party at Coup de Foudre, one of Montreal's premier high-end audio retailers. There was much to admire there, not the least of which was listening to some of Peter McGrath’s hi-rez recordings on a system featuring VTL MB185 tube monoblocks driving Wilson Sashas and an Alpha DAC being fed USB data from Peter’s MacBook Pro via a Wavelength format converter.
What impressed me the most at the Coup de Foudre party was the recording studio that adjoins the retail store, operated by CdF's co-owner, Graeme Humfrey, who is also a much-in-demand recording engineer. His audio mixing room is filled to the brim with equipment, some of it the very latest, and some of it classics, such as multiple Pultec equalizers that are valued for their sound quality.
For the past three years or so, one of the highlights of SSI has been the concert by the Give Band, featuring singer Caroline St-Louis, who works by day as one of the Show’s blue-haired girls at the ticket desk. And so it was at SSI 2011. Last year, JA took some pictures at the concert with his point-and-shoot camera, but he was disappointed with the amount of blurring in his photos. This time, he had the same camera but brought a monopod to improve camera steadiness, and it worked. Here he is, showing his pictures to Caroline, and she's obviously pleased with the results.
Venerable British audio manufacturer, Naim, has an almost-equally-venerable new Canadian distributor, Plurison. Headed by the genial Daniel Jacqueson the right in the photo, with Doug Graham, Naim's International Export Manager on the leftPlurison's list of distributed brands includes Focal, Mordaunt-Short, MartinLogan, Pathos, YBA, Micromega, and a host of others. It must put Jacques in a quandary when he has to decide what product to take home to listen to on the weekend!
I have a lot of respect for Dynaudio speakers, and have enjoyed listening to them at various shows, but I've never been as taken with one of their speakers as I was with the new Confidence C1 Mk.II ($8200/pair). With Naim amplification and digital source (including a Squeezebox Touch), the sound was simply exquisite, with highs that were revealing and yet not clinical. The legendary Esotar2 tweeter (shown in the photo) has apparently undergone some evolutionary development, and continues to maintain its status as the best dome tweeter in the world.
For big speakers, like the Legacy Whisper XD in the story below, the problem in setting up an effective demo in a show environment is that the room may be too small for the speaker. And then for speakers that are more modestly sized, if they're demonstrated in a big room, the speaker may not be able to play loud enough and the bass response may not be sufficiently powerful for the big space. The LSA (Living Sounds Audio) Group's demo featured the LSA2 Statement ($5999/pair) speakers driven by their own LSA Standard tube hybrid integrated amp ($6200) . . .
Are you in the market for a giant-sized speaker but your wallet is not correspondingly giant-sized? Then check out the Legacy Whisper XD. Weighing 210 lbs, 63"x17"x13", the Whisper XD is for large spaces, and the somewhat bass-heavy sound at SSI suggested that it was not feeling quite at home in the small hotel room. The price is $20,000/pairnot exactly spare change, but you get a lot for your money: a 10-driver system with four 15" subwoofers, four 7" Rohacell-reinforced midwoofers, a 3" ribbon midrange, and a ribbon tweeter. The system includes a DSP crossover with room correction.
John Atkinson (right), Art Dudley (center), and I had a good time at Stereophile's "Ask the Editors" session on Saturday afternoon, and, judging by the response, so did the people who asked the questions. The questions ranged from the general/philosophical, like whether it makes sense to use the "absolute sound" of unamplified music as the only reference in evaluating audio components, and the specific/technical, like the advantages/disadvantages of USB connections for high-performance audio.