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.
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.
Distributor Plurison Audio used SSI 2014 as an opportunity to demonstrate the newest and most affordable amplifier/digital processor from Devialet: the model D-110 ($6495), which was introduced at the 2013 CEDIA show. The combination of Devialet D-110 and Focal Aria 926 loudspeakers ($3495/pair) was in pleasant contrast to its (stylistically) cool surroundings: The sound was pleasantly inviting and, forgive me, surprisingly organic for digital playback and the company's proprietary ADH technology, which combines class-D current dumpers with a high-quality class-A voltage amplifier. Nice.
Bring me the head of anyone who says the Harbeth Monitor 40.1loudspeaker isn't a great rock 'n' roll loudspeaker! As Montreal retailer Son Idéal provedproved, I tell youthe biggest Harbeths are very satisfying on the classic album Led Zeppelin III, especially with the assistance of a Rega RP10 record player with Rega Apheta cartridge; Rega Aria phono preamp; Rega Saturn-R CD player; and Pathos T.T. integrated amplifier.
Presumably someone snapped-up this show special, seen in the second room of Montreal retailer Son Idéal: a Rega RP40, which is the 40th Anniversary edition of the Rega RP3, complete with the reddest mat in existence. Son Idéal offered it for $CAD1199, instead of the usual $CAD1699.
Montreal dealer Filtronique Son-Or brought to SSI a system built around Magico's floorstanding S3 loudspeaker ($22,500), with a digital source in the form of the dCS Puccini CD player/D/A converter (ca $25,000) and amplification by Ayre Acoustics. The latter consisted of the Ayre KXR 20 line-level preamp ($27,500) and the newer-than-new, long-anticipated Ayre MXR 20 mono amplifiers (price to be determined).
I kept seeing pictures of something that looked a little like a DeVore O/96 and not really knowing what it was. Now, thanks to the GTT Audio room at SSI, I know that the thing I was seeing is the Grimm Audio LS1-S ($39,900), a three-way powered loudspeaker pair plus digital preamp with USB interface.
At the GTT Audio room, turntable designer Louis Desjardins introduced a more affordable alternative to the original Kronos turntable: the Kronos Sparta ($21,000, plus an additional $6500 for the companion Helena tonearm).