Art's Saturday Morning at the Show

Saturday at the Montreal Audio Fest dawned snowy: a clear sign that God wanted us to stay inside all day and listen to music. So I made an early start and began my rounds at the Bluebird Music suite, where proprietor Jay Rein and I had the luxury of a mostly empty, pre-throng room in which to listen and catch up.

Before being shushed and chased out of the room—by the same co-exhibitor who ignored me when I first walked in!—we listened to the new Spendor D9 floorstanding loudspeakers ($US9995/pair), driven by a Chord SPM 1200 power amplifier ($US12,300), fed by Chord's Dave DAC ($US10,588; review by JA to appear in our June issue) and newer-than-new Blue Mk.2 transport ($US9995), with cabling by Kubala-Sosna. On one CD, the title of which I didn't catch, the meaty sound of Joe Henderson's tenor sax popped out of the mix with starting presence—something we could easily hear and enjoy, even from our off-axis seats. The system overall had an impressive combination of clarity and beauty, openness and substance: I could have stayed there all day.

It's one of those everybody-says-it but not-everybody-does-it things: Reinhard Goerner, of the distribution company Goerner Audio, is among the most musically knowledgeable, musically sensitive people in this business—and, as always, he turned me on to lots of great music during my visit to his room. An example: For some reason (it might have been the cover art), I had never listened to the sole, eponymous album by Sandy Denny's post-Fairport Convention band, Fotheringay, a blank now filled-in by Goerner and his gear: Also as always, he brought a system comprising little-known but evidently high-quality, high-resolution components. For Montreal 2017, the source was the Volta digital server ($CDN14,000) from the Italian company Grandinote, with the same manufacturer's Shinai integrated amplifier ($CDN18,000) and a pair of Diva IV loudspeakers ($CDN18,000/pair) from Wiener Lautsprecher Manufaktur (WLM). There was no analog source—and, for once, I didn't miss it in the least. (It's worth adding that the iPad-based user interface that comes with the Volta is awesome.)

Just as I am not Mister Subwoofer, I am also not, nor will I ever be, Mister Headphone. Sorry: I just don't enjoy listening that way, and, for the most part, I don't like having things on my head. (Like my father before me, I am also not Mister Hat.) But at my request, colleague Robert Schryer popped into the hotel's Bonaventure room—designated, for Montreal Audio Fest 2017, as the Zone Audio Personnelle—and had a look around, noticing in particular the two pairs each of AudioQuest NightHawk open-back headphones ($US699/pair) and NightOwl closed-back headphones (also $US699/pair), displayed here by the company's Rashpal Rai. (Pic by Robert Schryer, thankfully.)

I suppose that, for all of us, there are companies whose products earn our respect but don't quite speak to us. There have been a number of such brands for me, among them Ontario's Bryston Ltd., whose preamps and amps were, in the early '80s when I first began to frequent Lyric Hi-Fi, virtually the first high-end electronics I encountered. But the Bryston sound (or maybe lack thereof) never reached out and grabbed me—until Montreal Audio Fest 2017, when I spent some time with an all-Bryston system that, coincidentally or not, included the company's Model T Active loudspeakers ($US8685/pair) and BAX-1 three-way external digital crossover ($US3495). I heard the same clarity and detail I'd always associated with Bryston, but this time with more meat on its bones, and a greater drive and purposefulness behind the music. Incidentally, the source components were Bryston's BDP-3 digital player ($US3495) and BDA-3 DAC (which also hits the magic number $US3495).

Before leaving the Bryston suite, I snapped a photo of their BCD-3 CD player (you guessed it: $US3495), which is on its way here for review.

Finally, a little something for the folks back home—particularly for Editor and measurer-in-chief John Atkinson, whose Audio Precision SYS2722 system is the go-too tool for the amplifier, preamplifier, and digital-source reviews that appear in our pages and on Gerr Audio Distribution, which represents Audio Precision in Canada, was on hand with the new Audio Precision APx555 audio analyzer (prices start at $US28,300), seen here with Audio Precision's 426-M12 test microphone ($US2500). Sadly not on hand for the pic was another product handled by Gerr, the Outline ET250-3D rotating platform ($US5800), intended for use in polar measurements of loudspeakers (footnote 1). (The Outline's specified capacity: 3300 lbs!)

Footnote 1: JA uses an earlier Outline turntable for his loudspeaker measurements (and he lusts after an APx555).

Allen Fant's picture

Nice pics! I am looking forward in reading about the BCD-3 model.

Bluebird Music's picture

I just wish to note, for the record, the suite was a collaborative effort with our Montreal Chord & Spendor dealer Codell Audio, and this system is available for demo at the store's new location on Chemin Devonshire.