JA Wraps up his Montreal Report

As well as live music, the Montreal show offered a full schedule of seminars. Roon's Steve Silberman presented two seminars to packed houses on Saturday on getting the best from the Roon music app and the Roon Nucleus servers, including how to take advantage of the system's powerful DSP engine.

While the Roon seminars were held in the large St-Laurent 7 room, most of the other seminars took place in the smaller Outremont 3 room. Presenters included VTL's Luke Manley answering the question "Why Tubes?" and VPI's founder Harry Weisfeld talking turntables. I took in Elac's Andrew Jones talking about speaker design and speaker measurements—this old speaker measurer knows there is always more to learn—and one thing Andrew mentioned has had me scratching my head ever since, which is how to measure a loudspeaker's frequency response without a microphone. What?!?

Andrew designs loudspeakers for Elac, and his affordable models, like the Debut B6, are impressing reviewers. I took a listen to the little three-way Elac Navis Bookshelf powered loudspeaker ($1998/pair), which uses a 4" coaxial midrange/HF drive-unit. Eschewing class-D amplification, the Navis uses three separate amps for each transducer: a 160W BASH class-AB amplifier for the woofer, a 100W BASH class-AB amplifier for the midrange, and a 40W class-AB amplifier for the tweeter. Hooked up to the analog outputs of a network-connected DAC with AudioQuest interconnects, the Navis produced a surprisingly full-range sound.

The other half of the huge room where Steve Silberman gave his Roon presentations was shared by loudspeaker manufacturer Tetra and amplifier/DAC manufacturer EMM Labs. Taking price of place at the front of the system was the DV2 D/A processor ($30,000) that had impressed Jason Victor Serinus in our March 2019 issue, which was connected to two 500W MTRX monoblocks ($85,000/pair). Loudspeakers were the new three-way Tetra 707s ($78,000/pair), which feature a ribbon tweeter, a horn-loaded dome midrange unit, and a 10" woofer. "Hear it the way the musicians intended" declares Tetra's publicity and while I have no idea how Chicago-based singer/songwriter Terry Callier intended his "Cotton Eyed Joe" to sound, both voice and softly strummed acoustic guitar, streamed from Tidal, were reproduced by this system with power, palpability, and presence.

When I went into the Son Ultime room, I had to wait for a seat. Showgoers seemed fascinated by the big blue meters on the McIntosh gear. The McIntosh 1.25kW monoblocks, C1100 Controller and the C1100 Vacuum Tube preamplifier, and 390 D/A preamp, all had the company's traditional meters, though the new 70th Anniversary McIntosh 2152 with its eight KT88 output tubes, on passive display in front of the system, didn't have meters. With a pair of Sonus Faber Amati Tradition loudspeakers, reinforced by unidentified subwoofers, with all-AudioQuest cabling, this rom was another of my best-sounding at the show. And great choice of music, Son Ultime, with enough Van Morrison to keep this old guy happy. The bass guitar on "Moondance" doesn't dig deep but was reproduced with a superbly even balance.

Down the hall from the Son Ultime room, the Audio d'Occasion/Atoll/HiFipro room featured speakers I knew nothing about, the three-way Renoirs from Davis Acoustics. These use a 20mm Kevlar-cone tweeter, a 170mm Kevlar-cone midrange unit, and a reflex-loaded 310mm paper-cone woofer. The system featured an Oracle turntable with an SME tonearm, Conrad-Johnson preamp and power amplifier, and Atohm and Nordost cables and produced a somewhat old-fashioned but always friendly sound.

I went into the Audiophile Expert room, which was featuring NAD and JBL components to take a listen to the new NAD M10 BlueOS streaming amplifier, which incorporates Dirac room correction and which I will be reviewing in a fall issue of Stereophile. However, that was on passive display and the system featured the NAD Masters Series M32 amplifier I reviewed in May 2018 and the M50.2 server that I reviewed in December 2017. Speakers were JBL's new version of the classic Century from the early 1970s, the L100 Classic ($4000/pair) and the system was powered from a PS Audio PowerPlant 20. Pink Floyd was playing when I went in—Atom Heart Mother this time— but as I sat in the hot seat, the presenter streamed Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile." Oh my, high-end audio as time machine—I was transported back to the late 1960s! The room's acoustics had been extensively treated but the speakers still had a somewhat forward balance. However, if you love classic rock and the way Hendrix made his Fender Stratocaster talk and sing, a system like this will be what you need.

Canadian speaker company was demming its SP1 electrostatic/dynamic model ($14,700/pair; left in the photo), which combines a curved Mylar-film panel with pairs of cone woofers above and below. Crossover is set at 750Hz, using air-core inductors and Mundorf capacitors. Amplification when I was in this room was a pair of Triangle Art TA200M class-A monoblocks (CDN$73,000/pair) and Reference Tube Preamplifier (CDN$18,995) and Phono Stage (CDN$14,995). Source was the Triangle Art Master Reference turntable (CDN$39,900) fitted with an Osiris Mk.2 tonearm (CN$6990) and Apollo MC cartridge (CDN$8000). (I love it when an exhibitor has a list prepared of all the components being shown, with prices.) I listened to an LP of Carmina Burana on this system and was blown away by the superbly stable soundstaging—"Space!" I wrote in my notebook—and a big sweep of sound.

Montreal-based Moon by Simaudio was showing their electronics with Dynaudio's brand-new Confidence 20 stand-mounted speakers ($11,999/pair), which were making their North American debut at the show. Amplification was courtesy of two Moon 400M monoblocks (CDN$9000/pair), coupled with a Moon 390 D/A preamplifier (CDN$6900), which was fitted with Moon MiND streaming module. The room's sidewalls had had a lot of treatment and a thick rug had been laid down in front of the speakers. The result was excellent—one of my best-sounding rooms at the show.

My final room at the Montreal show was that shared by Yamaha and Luna cables. Yamaha's relatively new NS-5000 three-way speakers (CDN$18,000/pair) use the synthetic polymer Zylon for all three driver diaphragms. Driven by a Yamaha CDS3000 SACD/CD player (CDN$7500), Yamaha's new C-500 preamplifier and M-5000 power amplifier (each CDN$11,000), and wired with Luna Cables, the sound of Tom Waits' "California Here I Come" was a good way to end my time listening at the show, even if I was heading back not to California but to New York on Amtrak's Adirondack train.

One of the Montreal Audio Fest's primary themes was the Fab Four and most of the rooms I visited were playing Beatles songs at one time or another. Beatles fan Gerry Dubé was showing his collection of Beatles memorabilia, including posters, gold discs, and signed cartoons by John Lennon, musical instruments on loan from Montreal music stores, and framing it all and next to the list of donors, this giant poster.

Au revoir, Montreal. This was a great show, crowded with visitors. According to organizers Michel Plante and Sarah Tremblay, 20% of showgoers were women, 10% were under 25 and 60% were aged 25–55. That means alte kockers like me were just 30% of the attendees. At least in Montreal, high-end audio is nowhere close to dying of old age!

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Can we expect a review of Yamaha NS-5000 by Stereophile? :-) .........

Mark Eisen's picture

The NS-5000 has been well reviewed in many publications all over the world. It is supposed to be available in the USA later this year, so a USA review will probably take a while longer.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Yes, I know the NS-5000 has been very favorably reviewed by many publications/websites ........ Many of those reviews are available on line ......... I like to see Stereophile review them along with measurements :-) .......

mmole's picture

"Taking price of place...was the DV2 D/A processor ($30,000)...which was connected to two 500W MTRX monoblocks ($85,000/pair). Loudspeakers were the new three-way Tetra 707s ($78,000/pair),"

Kalius666's picture

Hi, i just want to let you know that the streamer and dac from the Son Ultime room was an Auralic Aries G2 paired with an Auralic Vega G2 in L-Link configuration. The subwoofers was a pair of REL Acoustics model 212 S/E. Thanks you!