Art's Friday Morning in Montreal

What better way to start an audio show than with live music? With that in mind, one hour before the official start of the 2017 Montreal Audio Fest, Canadian distributor Plurison hosted, in their capacious display room, a too-brief performance by cellist Vincent Bélanger and singer-pianist Anne Bisson. They performed a few selections from their new LP Conversions—a project that was sponsored by Lily Luo and cable manufacturer XLO. While listening, I remembered something Steve Guttenberg once said (and I'm paraphrasing): How can one expect playback of a piano recording to sound realistic in a room in which a real piano wouldn't sound good? The answer, of course, is that one shouldn't—but here the question was moot: the talented Ms. Bisson's piano (a baby grand) sounded magnificent, as did Bélanger's cello, and the songs themselves—one with lyrics in both French and Chinese—were lovely.

By the time the concert wound down, the Montreal Audio Fest had officially begun, so it was okay to talk shop—as I did with Plurison's Michel Plante (the co-founder, with Sarah Tremblay, of the Show itself), who showed off Crystal Cable's new Triple Crown AC cord ($CDN15,000). Also visible in the pic is Crystal's Cube System Integrated integrated amplifier ($US14,995)—and, in the lower-right corner, you might recognize a bit of the Crystal Cable Arabesque Minissimo Diamond loudspeaker ($US19,995/pair) that John Atkinson recently reviewed.

Naim Audio's new Managing Director, Trevor Wilson, led me through the company's evolving Uniti line of multipurpose audio products—a line that, he says, "started four years ago, when we asked ourselves: How do we give more to the customer? 20 years ago, it was just CDs and LPs, and now the sky's the limit—but [to some people] it becomes a 'features race,' not about music." On the left in this pic is Naim's latest blow against such me-too thinking, the Uniti Nova ($US6999), an all-in-one UPnP music player—including S/PDIF and HDMI inputs, plus Bluetooth and AirPlay wireless capabilities—combined with an 80Wpc class-AB amplifier whose smart power supply switches seamlessly from low-power switching mode to full (toroid-based) analog mode when needed. Asked about MQA capability, Wilson replied that Naim is giving it serious consideration.

On static display in the Plurison space: an almost insanely good-looking system built around Devialet's Expert 220 integrated amplifier ($CDN13,995), partnered with a Music Hall MMF 5.3 record player ($CDN1399).

Not at all static—and sounding quite good, under the circumstances (ie, competing sound from other systems in Plurison's very large space), was this system built around the mighty Focal Grand Utopia loudspeaker ($US197,500/pair), with Naim's Statement S1 amplification system ($CDN300,000 for the preamp and monoblock amps) and the same company's Superline phono stage ($CDN4900) with Supercap power supply ($CDN8900).

The source for the above system was Clearaudio's Statement turntable ($CDN175,000) with Clearaudio TT1 tonearm ($CDN31,000) and Goldfinger phono cartridge ($CDN19,000).

Also in the Plurison room: In honor of their 35th anniversary, they brought along a system one might have seen in the finest homes, ca 1982, with an original Rega Planar 2 turntable (with had been upgraded with a modern RB300 tonearm, in place of the comparatively cruddy original, from Lustre), and all Naim electronics: a 32.5 preamp with SNAPS power supply and an NAP250 amplifier. Except for the SNAPS, I used to own every product in that pic (including the LP)!

Anton's picture

Looking forward to my upcoming vicarious show thrills!

Devialet is a fascinating company. Quite a spectrum they cover, and innovative.

This weekend I am going to spin those "Lost recordings."

stellavox's picture

recording is "Conversations". They are already converted.

Hope Stereophile reviews it!