Retailer AudioShop and distributor Audio Associé demonstrated a pleasantly impactful system built around a pair of Cabasse Riga loudspeakers ($18,000 /pair, including the Cabasse subwoofer), with a brace of electronics from my upstate New York neighbors McIntosh: the MCD1000 SACD/CD player ($10,000), C2500 tube preamp ($6500), and the beautiful McIntosh 275 power amp ($6500), all plugged into the company's MPC1500 AC power conditioner ($5000).
As I made my way through the hall, I hesitated before entering the room of Lawrence Audio, makers of some very attractive floor-standing loudspeakers: They were playing the Nils Lofgren song "Keith Don't Go," which I really don't like, really loud. Even so, it was standing-room only: Mine appears to be the minority opinion, at least as far as the trampoline-loving Mr. Lofgren is concerned...
Ontario-based Kevro International, which distributes Monitor Audio loudspeakers and British-built Cyrus electronics in the US and Canada, demonstrated a system using a pair of Monitor Silver 10 loudspeakers ($2700/pair in gloss finish) and a stack of Cyrus amplification and digital components (total price approximately $12,000). Apart from lacking a bit of bass weightsurprisingly, given the speakers' size and the sheer amount of bass-driver real estate), the sound was smooth, spacious, and open, with very good melodic flow and momentum.
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.
Seen in the same room as the Hegel-Triangle system was a frustratingly silent display: one of a pair of brand-new, full-range electrostatic loudspeakers from the Dutch company Essence. Apparently its mate suffered a bit of rough handling, and the people of VMAX decided, commendably, not to trust its high-voltage circuitry before giving the speaker a thorough check-up. In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for this $4000/pair beauty, the stators of which are created from acrylic using a 3D printer.
In one of three rooms sponsored by the dealer Acoustique Technologies, Marten Getz 2 loudspeakers ($23,000/pair) were driven by a pair of Manley 250 "Neo-Classic Design" mono amplifiers ($13,750/pair), in turn driven by a Manley "Neo-Classic Design" 300B preamplifier ($6500) and fed by a Feickert Woodpecker turntable/tonearm combination ($6090) with Dynavector XX2 cartridge ($2150).
Manley tube electronicsthe same 300B preamplifier plus a pair of Snapper ampswere used in another Acoustique Technologies room, where they drove a pair of Nola Metro Grand Reference III loudspeakers ($30,900), with the Meitner MA-1 D/A converter ($7000) as a source. I'm sorry to say the Nolas proved impossible to photograph in the back-lit but otherwise dark and very crowded room. And the excessive volume leveland consequently harsh treblesdiscouraged me from lingering.
When I return home from Montreal I'll be able to tell my 16-year-old daughter, truthfully, that I listened to Lorde's "The Royals" on a very good system, the value of which rivals the expected cost of her first two years of college. Included in this Coup de Foudre-sponsored system were a Luxman DA-06 D/A converter ($5000), Luxman C 900 preamp ($19,000), the big Luxman M 900 stereo amp ($19,000), and Vivid Giya G3 loudspeakers ($40,000), used with Cardas cables.
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.