Dan Wright of ModWright started out modifying CD/SACD players and D/A converters (I still use the ModWright version of the Perpetual Technologies D/A converter), and his success in this area has encouraged him to come out with products of his own. New at the show was the SWLP 9.0SE prototype phono+line stage preamp (about US$4000).
Bruce Edgar has been refining his Edgarhorn loudspeakers, available in kit form, for a good number of years now, and I've noticed a steady improvement in the sounds he's been getting at shows. The ones I heard at the Montreal Show were the best-sounding yet.
Bang & Olufsen, a company that usually gives audio/home entertainment shows a wide berth, had an extensive display, featuring their futuristic-looking omnidirectional speakers. I enjoyed the sound—maybe because they were playing Frank Sinatra.
The big news at this years Festival Son & Image (FSI, aka "The Montreal Show")
was the change in venue. After many years at the Delta Hotel in downtown Montreal, the Show moved this year to another downtown hotel, the Sheraton Montreal.
An amplifier producing nearly 400Wpc, weighing close to 100 lbs...from Rotel, of all people? Don't they know their place in the audio world? Next thing you know, Krell will start making integrated amplifiers! Oops—Krell is making integrated amplifiers...
Just in case you didn't know this when you bought the Parasound HCA-3500, it says on the cover of the owner's manual: "Designed in California, USA by John Curl." Described as an "audio design legend," an appellation with which he seems quite uncomfortable, John Curl has certainly been around the audio business longer than most. He's been employed by or has consulted for some of the biggest names in consumer and professional audio—including Harman/Kardon, Ampex, and Mark Levinson—and was the designer of at least two classic products: the Mark Levinson JC-2 preamplifier and his own Vendetta Research phono stage, still considered by many people to be the best phono stage ever built.
Lovers of Italian wine, travelers to Italy, and, of course, Italians, may be familiar with this story. It seems that in the year 1111, Henry V was traveling to Rome to be crowned Holy Roman Emperor. A member of his entourage, one Giovanni Defuc, was very fond of wine, and had the practice of sending ahead one of his servants to sample the wine in each place. When the servant found a wine that he particularly liked, he would write "Est!" on the door of the establishment, which was a signal to his master that the wine is (est) good. Having arrived at Montefiascone, the servant found a wine he thought so superb that he wrote on the door of the inn "Est! Est!! Est!!!"
PS Audio's first product, back in 1973, was a standalone phono stage; more recently, their PCA-2 preamp had an optional phono board. The GCC-100 integrated amplifier that I review this month has no room inside for a phono board, so they've gone back to producing a separate phono stage: the GCPH ($995). Like the other products in PS Audio's current line, this one is based on the Gain Cell, one module on the input side connecting to the cartridge, followed by a passive RIAA curve (with a claimed accuracy of 0.1dB over the 40dB range of the curve), and another Gain Cell on the output side.
Hansen is a new line of ultra high-end speakers from Canada, using proprietary drivers and said to feature extremely dense, non-resonant enclosures. The company is headed by Lars Hansen, who, as former president of the Dahlquist Corporation, is no stranger to the world of high-end speakers. The sound of the Prince ($27,000/pair, third model from the top) was simply excellent—an auspicious debut, I felt.
Audiopax, the Brazilian manufacturer of the Model 88 single-ended tube amplifier that I reviewed most favorably three years ago, introduced the Model 55 amplifier at T.H.E. Show. Solid-state rather than tubed, the 55 is still single-ended and still features the unique "Timbre Lock" control. According to designer Eduardo De Lima, this MosFET design sounds very close to the Model 88. Price is $11,990/pair (compared to the $14,990/pair of the current Model 88 Mk.II).