Montreal Audio Fest 2023: Final observations

Finally, it snowed during the weekend of the show, on Saturday, which was disappointing. It meant I wasn’t in an alternate 'verse of the multiverse after all and, consequently, I wasn’t Alternate Rob with a half-million-dollar hi-fi waiting at home.

On the good side, in my 'verse, the Montreal Audiofest 2023 was a bonafide hit, in two ways in particular. First, there's attendance, which was larger and more varied—many women and youngsters—than I remember ever seeing at the Montreal show. Organizer Sarah Tremblay remarked with incredulity that it was the first time the show has ever run out of admission bracelets.

Second, on average, the sound of the demoes was better than usual. I have no double-blind statistical evidence to support this claim, but I speculate that this was due to a combination of exhibitors paying more attention to room setup and audio gear sounding universally better.

Tidal-streaming was by far the method of choice for music playback. (Qobuz isn't here yet, in Canada, though it's launching in May.) I saw practically no CDs, very few LPs, not very many files stored locally, and forget about reel-to-reel; the only reel-to-reel I saw (but didn't hear) was in the Nagra room. When it comes to music sources, streaming rules.

Another trend? Class-D is getting more popular—and better. It’s funny to think how just a few years ago class-D wasn’t even worth talking about. Now it seems poised to become ubiquitous. I asked one veteran tube-amp designer if he would ever consider building a transistor amp: “No, because solid-state amps can’t capture the soul of the music like a tube amp can,” he said. “But maybe one day class-D amps will be able to.”

So there you have it. Another show wrapped. Time for me to unwind, and I know exactly how I’m going to do it.

Rob and calamari

Anton's picture

Your efforts are greatly appreciated.

rschryer's picture

You're welcome, brother!

John Atkinson's picture
You made me feel like I was there with you, listening over your shoulder.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

rschryer's picture

I'm happy to have you live vicariously through me.

Francisv's picture

Did you have the chance to write a small report on the Moon setup? I haven't found it if you have..
Thank you

rschryer's picture

...but I couldn't fit it in this time.

I did do a piece on a Simaudio product — one that was demoed at the show — that will be appearing very soon in Stereophile.

Scintilla's picture

well done. But I have to say: those fried bits and not poutine? Quelle horeurr!

rschryer's picture

...healthier route. :-)

Thanks, Scintilla.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Despite what's on your plate, Rob, you're looking as healthy as your writing is sharp. I'm happy for you. And for us.

Thank you for the great reports.


rschryer's picture

Like the carrot at the end of the stick, the calamari (and beer) awaiting me at the end of the show keeps me moving forward.

Take care my friend.

Oldgoalie's picture

Always a good finish if you can end it with a Hop City beer. Poutine for desert obviously.

rschryer's picture


Glotz's picture

Thanks Robert, you ROCK.

All of your knowledge and advice is wonderful.

rschryer's picture

Thanks, man.

buybye88's picture

Hi Rob, Thanks for writing this wonderful and detailed show report. I could not make the show but reading your words was like being there. I noticed that you caught the act put on by the Graham Audio LS8/1s. I have a review of the Hearken system coming up for publication in 'Wall of Sound'. Great speakers and the capstone of Derek Hughes career. He has now eclipsed the legacy of his father. Hope to meet you at the Toronto show this fall.
David Neice

rschryer's picture

Thanks for the kind words and the heads up on your piece. I look forward to reading it.


volvic's picture

Good coverage Rob, but a bit disappointed reading your final observations, namely that CD players and turntables were fewer than other years. One of the great things I always enjoyed when I lived in Montreal was bringing my CDs to the show to be played on equipment willingly by demonstrators. That seems over now that streaming has taken over. One gets the impression that the interactive aspect of selecting music has now become more static and more of a one-way demonstration. That is a pity.

rschryer's picture

You're right that streaming has shifted the interactive landscape, but I also witnessed quite a few exhibitors soliciting music requests or even offering their tablets to visitors so they could choose the music they wanted to listen to.

Also, I didn't take note of the number of digital front-ends that could play a CD. Maybe there were a few, and maybe bringing CDs might still be worth it. It's something I'll keep an eye out for from here on out.

Take care.

volvic's picture

I am well, thanks for responding. Yes, some do offer their tablets so people can select, but sometimes they don't have the music that I would bring and the search itself can be quite tedious. CDs are easier. It is what it is I suppose.

rschryer's picture

...a Greek girl for 5 years. I picked up a few Greek words along the way, most not as friendly as "ti kanis". :-)

And you're right, searching for one's music on an exhibitor's tablet can be tedious, for everyone.

oracleaudio's picture

Hi Rob, thank you for your great coverage of the Gershman, Eon Art, Oracle Audio suite ! I don't know if we shook hands ... but consider it done now :). The show was absolutely positive and the attendance was great from the start to the end. We were so busy in our room that I did not have time to see other rooms myself but I also got the impression from the visitors that they were having a good time and that they were very satisfied with the overall sound quality at the show !
Thank you again, and all the best !
See you in Chicago in the Acora Acoustics suite.
Jacques Riendeau

rschryer's picture

But I won't be covering AXPONA. I'm sure we'll be seeing each other at the Toronto Audiofest should you decide to exhibit there.

Take care and good luck in Chicago!