Art's Friday Evening

I entered the Oracle-Gershman room to the sounds of the Albinoni (or Giazotto, if you prefer) Adagio in g—from an LP that turned out to be by bassist Gary Karr—and the sound was gorgeous, with lots of texture (the good kind), color (ditto), and bass weight (very ditto).

The gear responsible for the fine playback included Oracle's recent Origin turntable ($US2000, including Oracle tonearm and Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge) and PH100 phono preamp ($US900), along with Gershman Acoustics' Grand Avant Garde G2 three-way loudspeaker ($US13,000/pair), which is a revision of the company's original Grand Avant Garde, with all-Nordost cabling. Also in the system was an evidently good-sounding Musical Fidelity integrated amplifier, but no one in the room knew its model designation, and the room was way too crowded for me or anyone else to go poking around behind the gear rack.

The notes I made for my next entry read: Typical Audio Note musicality, served up with a slightly boomier bass than I'm used to hearing from the brand. The first selection I heard in the Audio Note room was a recording of a pop singer with acoustic guitar and percussion, with the latter (bongos, I think) sounding truly remarkable, with realistic impact and touch. Mario Binner, who was running the dem, was engaged in conversation while that track was playing, so I never learned the identity of the artist, but before I left the room he identified the speakers in use as AN J-SPe Hemps (the last word is a reference to their woofer-cone material). The digital sources in use were Audio Note's CDT One/II transport and DAC 2.1x Signature digital-to-analog converter, while amplification chores were shared by Audio Note's M2 Phono Balanced preamplifier and P2 SE Signature stereo power amp. I asked Binner for prices, but he demurred: owing to a change in distribution, he said, new pricing information is pending.

Last year's Montreal show saw the debut of a new Montreal audio manufacturer called Artist Cloner, the sound of whose exhibit I described in my 2016 report as "quite good" but with bass that was "boomy and ill-defined." Lucky for me, in the same breath, I let myself off the hook by saying the flawed bass "coulda been the room"; Artist Cloner and proprietor Sylvio Comtois returned to the show this year and made a point of getting a different room—and that, as Robert Frost might say, has made all the difference. Also new were the Artist Cloner Rebel stand-mounted speakers ($CDN7999.99/pair) and 50Wpc Scorpi integrated amplifier ($CDN5999), and the sound was so good on a recording of the first Bach unaccompanied cello suite—with richly colored, richly textured bass notes that were to die for—that I returned to their room later the same day and asked to hear it again. Sylvio Comtois may be on to something here . . .

You know me, and you know I'm not, like, Mister Subwoofer or anything. So when I tell you that I just experienced the greatest, most enlightening, most entertaining subwoofer demo ever, you can take my word for it. It was in the room co-sponsored by Summit HiFi of Pickering, Ontario, where Gary Yacoubian, the CEO of SVS, demonstrated that company's new SB16 Ultra subwoofer ($CDN2800). The SB16's calling card is, as you might guess from the name, a 16" bass driver—considerably larger than any previous SVS drivers, and endowed with something that may be an industry first: an 8" diameter edge-wound voice-coil. Think of it!

When I entered the room, a scene from one of the Avengers movies was playing: something with no shortage of loud, low noises (eg, when Iron Man and the Hulk's fists made contact with each other), all of which the system reproduced with gut-tingling impact. But then Yacoubian switched gears and played . . . an opera video: Anna Netrebko, Placido Domingo, and Rolando Villazon singing the brindisi from Verdi's La traviata, with a huge outdoor audience air-drinking along with them. The SB16 added what appeared to be just the right amount of bass whomp and color, and I ended Friday on a very up note.

And now it's time to offer a word about the quality of the photography in my Montreal reporting for this year, and that word is: sorry. My camera, which I used to like, started acting up on Friday morning, and I lacked the skills to work around its craziness. My bad, and I promise to take action before again subjecting you to such murky, grainy images—unless of course I happen to be photographing something that's murky and grainy.

Allen Fant's picture

A very fine Friday evening in my book- AD.