SSI 2015, Robert Deutsch Concludes

An event at SSI 2015 that, to the best of my knowledge, was unique for an audio show, involved the setup of an "on location" recording studio, and the making of actual recordings. No, not a "Garage Band" App, not a "home recording studio," but a real professional studio, involving some $300k's worth of equipment, and the services of professional recording engineers. The project, called La VibZ Studio, was initiated by Stephan Rich, musician and sound technician, and brought together for the SSI 2015 event vocalist/pianist Anne Bisson, the Give Band (featuring vocalist Caroline St-Louis and Stephan Ritch on the guitar), and Hans Wilwright. The attendees were provided with Sennheiser cordless headphones for listening to the playback.

At the session I attended, the recording made was of the Give Band, with Anne Bisson on the keyboard. There were some initial setup glitches, but when these were sorted out, and they started playing, the atmosphere was, well, electric. It was loud, but somehow not too loud, just what the music required. What impressed me particularly was the fact that, despite the unfamiliar surroundings and the presence of observers, the performers seemed fully into the music. I guess that's what it means to be a professional.

I had an unusual experience while taking the escalator down to the lower level, where most of the larger rooms were located. I heard what sounded like live music, featuring a jazz guitar. I knew that SSI 2015 had a number of live music events scheduled, and I assumed that this was one of them. I followed the sound to the open area behind the escalator—and was surprised to find that it was produced by speakers! The speaker company is called ClaeCast, which is also the name of the speaker, the only model from this company. It's a three-way design, with two woofers, two magnetic-planar midranges, and a ribbon tweeter. Heard at a closer listening distance, the speakers had a startling immediacy; this, combined with the acoustics of the space in which the speakers were placed, must have been responsible for the "live" impression. They were driven by tube electronics designed by Zdenko Zivkovic, well-known in Canadian audio circles, who also collaborated on the design of the speakers with Sam Rota.

Having just written this, I checked the Stereophile website, and saw Art Dudley's report on these speakers. Art wrote: "their loudspeakers . . . sounded snappy and believable—all the way from the downstairs entrance to the escalator!" What's the saying about great minds??

Somewhere between DIY and finished loudspeakers are the ones from PureAudioProject, which they refer to being a Modular Open Baffle Design. The DIY aspect was made apparent to me when I asked about the price, and was told it depended on whether it was to include delivery. Different degrees of assembly are available; the finished Trio 15 TB demoed costing USD$3750/pair. The kit versions are said to involve "breeze-simple tool-less self assembly." The modular aspect comes into it by the availability of different midrange/tweeter modules. These are easy to swap, and allow you to get effectively a different speaker. For example, the module with Heil drivers costs USD$1200. They all use the open-baffle design, and the sound was suitably open and dynamic. The electronics were some highly-affordable ones, imported from China by Grant Audio.

Turntables can be differentiated along a number of dimensions, but if what you're looking for is drop-dead-gorgeous looks, it's hard to beat the ones from Triangle Art. Just look at the picture: isn't this something that you would like to have in your listening/living room? This is the Triangle Art Signature, with Asiris tonearm (CAD$26,000). I'm sure it sounds good, too, but with appearance like this sound almost becomes secondary.

SSI 2015 was rather short on the availability of LPs that attendees could buy; the best choice—and the lowest prices—were at Audio Sensibility, which also had a good selection of cables and other accessories at very reasonable prices.

Those expecting to see only audio, and maybe video, equipment at SSI 2015 may have wondered what the model of the Montreal Olympic Stadium was doing in the area near the bottom of the escalator. Well, it turns out that a company named Delaney Technologies has a design for a retractable roof for the Montreal Olympic Stadium, and they're trying to persuade the municipal powers-that-be to go for this design. To this end, they had on display the model of the Stadium, complete with retractable roof, and they sponsored performances by Maison Corbeau, which I wrote about earlier. They also had on display a sound system designed for the Stadium, which is said to have been developed "by our team of physics and electronics scientists." There was no-one around that I could ask about this sound system, but, in any case, I have a feeling that it can play very loud.

ppgr's picture

There were a lot of attendees at SSI, but the organizers and exhibitors seem to have deserted the show... What was promoted as a spectacular exhibit (see picture above) was no more than a redux of a bad disco set-up. The most expensive system was, well... expensive. All in all, I feel Chester group did not really know what they were doing.

GuillaumeLN's picture

I'm not sure this only applies to the Montreal show. The Toronto, NY and Chicago shows which I've all attended over the past year were all missing a direction. I feel like these shows are so focused on pleasing old ears that they're leaving behind what I consider the essence of the show: music. With jazz and classical music (1) being the most forgiving types of music for a system and (2) requiring the least amount of education on the listener's part, it doesn't make any sense to keep showing systems using these types of music. To me, it doesn't make any sense to set up shows if exhibitors don't even have the very least knowledge about music required to challenge a system.

The NY and Chicago shows showcased many brands which according to my lowest expectations are no more than personal DYI projects; that definately includes Merrill and Red Wine audio.

No one would attend a music conference where all music would be played by average soundsystems (the likes of Arcam & Cambridge), so why do I keep attending audio shows where only average music (the likes of jazz & classical) is being played?

corrective_unconscious's picture

Classical requiring the least education on the part of the listener....

Troll. Sounds like Osgood is back with another elaborate name.

GuillaumeLN's picture

I can't think of lazier music aficionados than those listening to classical, oh wait there's also jazz aficionados.

corrective_unconscious's picture

That pointless nonsense is different from your pointless nonsense which I replied to.

Maybe a thinking appreciation course is in your future.

Joe Whip's picture

is another's man's superb and visa versa. To say average music (the "likes" of jazz and classical? is snobbery at its worst. I guess this is reverse sbobbery as jazz and classical lovers are often accused of being snobs. There are 2 kinds of music, good and bad. Which is which depends on your personal taste. Obviously, your taste differs from mine but I don't see the need to denigrate yours. Wait until you have kids and they laugh at your music. It has happened to people of my generation and gives one a different perspective. Quite humorous actually.

GuillaumeLN's picture

Classical and jazz music are for lazy minds. Hundreds of music genres took on different lives through time, a look at the Google music timeline suffices. My point is that older men who define the vast majority of enthusiasts and business leaders in the higher end audio niche are trying to appeal to a «narrower and narrower slice of the populace» by developing more and more gear intended for classical and jazz music - they've been left sitting in their own stew for so long they forgot the enthrilling feeling that almost any other type of music can bring. I truly believe jazz and classical music are for people with a thin/dissoved/diluted appetite for music. It is an immense paradox that they maintain an interest in audio gear.

Joe Whip's picture

but enthralling is not what I think of when I read your list of music on another thread. I guess sitting and hearing Beethoven's 9th in one of the world's great concert halls is a waste of one's time? Same with hearing a great big band blasting away. I used to be into more rock as a teenager and in my early 20's. That was in the 70's and 80's. Now I listen to very little of it. I find it boring and intellectually and emotionally uninspiring, kind of like your posts. A really good system should make any well recorded music sound great. I had a friend play his electronic tracks that he played and recorded on my system which was heavy in the bass and he LOVED it. He is in his 30's. I had my fingers in my ears however! I will agree that too many high end systems, for my taste anyway, don't go deep enough and are too midrange centric. People have thier own tastes and that is OK with me. I bet you tell a friend that his wife is too fat or thin and that any vision of beauty other than your own of course, is of no use or consequence. if we all thought like you, the world would be even worse off and BORING.

GuillaumeLN's picture

If your system can deliver decent bass, then you might be among the very few who do try to exercice their minds a bit. I happen to provide playlists to a modern furniture gallerist in Paris for his events. This guy is in his 60s and he really enjoys my selections. My library oscillates between experimental and electronic music.

To the former rock music fan I would provide something in the area of:
LCD Soundsystem
The Glimmers The Glimmers
Muzik Presents Disco Punk
Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe Timon Irnok Manta
Fabriclive.29 Cut Copy
The Rapture Pieces Of The People We Love
E.S.G. Come Away With ESG
New Build Yesterday Was Lived And Lost
Muslimgauze Jaal Ab Dullah
Oren Ambarchi Sagittarian Domain
WhoMadeWho WhoMadeWho

To the more contemporary club music fan I would provide something more like this:
Four Tet There Is Love In You
Michael Mayer Immer
Caribou Andorra
Alan Braxe & Friends The Upper Cuts
Soulwax Nite Versions
Two Fingers Stunt Rythms
Hot Chip The Warning
The Juan Maclean Less than human
Jesse Rose What Do You Do if You Don't?

And then there’s also my daily listening and personal selection. What kind of system do you have to provide this bass heavy-enough sound?

tevirs's picture

Now that is a playlist for an audio show. I completely agree with you. I went to a show down by San Francisco a few years in a row now. Both years I popped into the room with the big Wilson speakers and no kidding both times FLUTES! Who wants to listen to flutes on a system like that. The bigger Wilson room upstairs playing some dreadful classical music that sounded like it was recorded with a boom mike in the balcony. Yawn. The Vivid Giya room then actually had some younger guys hand up a CD of the (at the time) new Alt J record and it sounded absolutely fantastic. Everyone in the room enjoyed it. Same thing the following year when I brought my own music and we listened to Punch Brothers cover of Another new world, and Billy Gibbons covering Oh Well. So much more fun. BTW, I have plenty of jazz and classical cd's, and lp's too. But musical discovery is what really keeps me going. Both backwards and forwards. Two Fingers / Amon Tobin ST especially great on a high end system, Isam on a mega system? Come on!!! Impressive. Oren Ambarchi at an audio show? Hahaha, put the room to sleep, but great at home! Juan Maclean, best house cleaning music on my iPod. Thanks for sharing!!!

GuillaumeLN's picture

Will get Isam at the municipal library. Vivid is never going to get my praise. Wilson have a boxy sound that I have a hard time making abstraction of. I also find it strange that they got what is probably the world's top interior designer using their products and they don't take advantage of that situation in any way. I'm totally with you on musical discovery backwards, but for everything not jazz and classical.

Joe Whip's picture

and Vandersteen.

GuillaumeLN's picture

This is definately something I would want to hear. I am familiar with each brand, but never heard them together. Are you using some power conditionning too?

Joe Whip's picture

I have 2 dedicated lines going straight from my electric panel straight to the HT room and I use an isolation transfer as well. Works great and really, all I need. Not in the market for any more 2 channel stuff, other than for improvements in DAC tech. Most if not all of my future audio purchases will be involving the HT room.

GuillaumeLN's picture

What's an isolation transfer?

Joe Whip's picture

I meant transformer.

GuillaumeLN's picture

Oh I see, what brand? How would you describe the improvements in sound?

GuillaumeLN's picture


Joe Whip's picture

It is an old PS Audio product. Lower noise floor mostly. I have had it so long, I would have to disconnect it and listen without it.

GuillaumeLN's picture

Oh I see, thanks.

AVphile's picture

I too was fooled (twice) by the ClaeCast system into thinking there was a live band around the corner! Amazing electric bass "demo material" obviously and I wonder what it would sound like with normal, non-audiophile music.
What was the price of the ClaeCase speakers? Not that I would be caught dead with them in my living room.

Robert Deutsch's picture

I asked what the price was, and was told "Twenty-five." "Twenty-five hundred?" "No, twenty-five thousand." Oh... I also asked if they had some sort of cosmetic treatment (e.g., cover) to make the speaker more attractive; the answer was "No."