MBL finished the job that Oracle Audio began with Anne Bisson (below): They spoiled me not only with live music, but with music by a world-class cellist, Montreal's Vincent Bélanger. Jeremy Bryan, the CEO of MBL North America, took the added step of inviting Bélanger to come by early and record, on ¼" analog tape (15 ips), extra cello parts for various pieces in his repertoire; thus when M. Bélanger set about to perform for a handful of fortunate show attendees, he did so alongside his recorded self, the latter portrayed with what can only be described as surprising realismdynamically, timbrally, and spatiallyby MBL's largest hybrid loudspeaker, the MBL 111 ($42,000/pair), which uses, from 600Hz and up, the same driver complement as even their most expensive loudspeakers.
One doesn’t normally think of a private concert by a gifted recording artist as a particularly bad way to start the day, but. . .
On Saturday morning at SSI, I stepped into the Oracle Audio room just in time for owner Jacques Reindeau to invite me to hear a few selections from the album Blue Mind by the Montreal-based composer and chanteuse Anne Bisson, played on an almost all-Oracle systemwith the artist standing in front of me, singing along with her recorded self.
The Oracle Audio system that sounded so lovely included the two most recent entries in the company’s Paris line of products: the Paris CD 250 CD player and Paris DAC 250 D/A converter, both pictured above ($3750 apiece). Other highlights were the current Oracle Delphi turntable with Oracle SME arm and Benz-made Corinth Reference cartridge (a $22,500 package), Paris phono stage ($1795), Delphi SI 1000 MOSFET integrated amplifier ($12,500), and Focal Grand Utopia Scala loudspeakers ($32,000/pair), with all-Kimber Kable wiring.
Distributor Audio Plus Services made a fine, impactful, and well-balanced sound with the Focal Electra 1038 Be loudspeaker ($13,499). Driven by the impressive Devialet D-Premier integrated amplifier ($15,995), connected with Crystal Cable Reference loudspeaker cable ($6000 for a 3m pair), and fed from a MacBook running iTunes with Audirvana, this system did a good job on a version of Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man of unknown origin, in which kettledrums in particular really sounded like kettledrums, and not merely a very large inner-tube being struck with the blade of a shovel.
When in London, do take in the British Museum, where you’ll find the uncannily well preserved human remains that have come to be known as Lindow Man. (I could recount the circumstances of the discovery of the corpse, but it’s just too horrible to tell...) As with most Druids from a thousand years ago, he was rather small, and because the corpse was cut in two during its discovery (whoops: I let that slip by mistake), you’ll find the remains of Lindow Man encased in a small illuminated box with a glass topvirtually identical to the Gutwire display cases I found in SSI’s Canadian Pavilion.
Also seen in the Canadian Pavilion at SSI 2013: Simaudio Moon 600i integrated amps (125Wpc), in a choice of red or blue finish. The price of these limited-edition amps has yet to be determined; the 600i’s normal retail price is $9500.
For SSI 2013, the talended recordist Rene Laflamme and his Montreal-based company Fidelio introduced a number of titles, including a new Dvorak/Suk release titled Serenades Tcheques (Fidelio FACD036) by Daniel Myssyl and the chamber orchestra known as Appassionata. (Myssyk and Appassionata's recording of the Hindemith Escales Romantique, also on Fidelio, remains in heavy rotation at my house.) A selection from another new Fidelio releasethe eponymous debut by the folk duo June in the Fields (Fidelio FACD044) sounded wonderfully colorful and present over Laflamme’s reference system, comprising a dCS Puccini CD player ($20,000), an older model dCS 955 pro-market D/A ($8000 when new), Audio Research Reference 5SE preamplifier ($13,000), Audio Research Reference 250 power amplifier ($24,000), and Sonus Faber Amati loudspeakers ($36,000).
The US company Dupuy Acoustique demonstrated their stand-mounted MTM loudspeaker ($5500/pair) alongsideliterallya new product called the Daisy Reflector, which is said to allow a loudspeaker’s back-wave information to reach the listening area in manner originally intended: without time-delay or phase shift. According to designer Rudy Dupuy, it accomplishes this with a carefully designed and precision-machined core of acoustic foam, covered in fabric. Daisy Reflector prices vary with size; the one shown here is $995.
Arcam, the British company that brought to market the first outboard D/A converter for domestic-audio applications in 1989, exhibited a couple of their newest variations on the digital-processor theme. Seen on static display in the room of Erikson Consumer AudioCanadian distributors for Arcam and Missionwas the new Arcam airDAC (left, ca $750), which uses AirPlay to allow perfectionist-quality wireless streaming from iPads, iPhones, and iPods. On the right is the similarly new Arcam irDAC (price to be determined), a remote-control 24/192 D/A whose innards are based on those of the company’s popular D33 processor.