Montreal Salon Audio, Day One, Part One Point Five

It will come as no surprise that audio journalists find their greatest professional pleasure in writing about things—playback gear, recordings, what-have-you—with which they are wildly impressed, and that their second-favorite topics are things that are genuinely and comically awful. But the fact of the matter is, at audio shows, most systems don't fall into either of those categories: most systems at shows range between "listenable" and "pretty darn good"—and there's nothing wrong with that. So here's one of the pretty darn good systems: a combination, found in the room of Quebec dealer Audio D'occasion, of the Atoll CD200 CD player ($CDN2200), Atoll IN200 integrated amplifier ($CDN2200), and Dali Opticon 8 loudspeakers ($CDN5000/pair), all cabled-up with products from Nordost. The system was pleasantly detailed, not at all edgy, offered good spatial performance, and was commendably wide of bandwidth. You know: pretty darn good!

Next door to the Audio D'occasion room was Atoll Electronics' own room, in which I spotted what appeared to be a distinctly high-value music player: the CeolBOX ($CDN1700 with onboard 2TB disk, $CDN1500 without). It's a newish product, and full details are available on

The system in the Atoll room made use of that company's IN400 integrated amp ($CDN7000) and CD400 CD player ($CDN7800), plus a loudspeaker from a company that's new to me: the MV One ($CDN8300/pair), from Davis Acoustics of Troyes, France. This single-driver, rear-wave-horn-loaded loudspeaker had far greater treble extension than I would have expected, and its bass performance, though temporally slightly languid (coulda been the room) was impressively meaty.

Are you sick yet of show reports that say "I was shocked (alternate wording: my jaw literally hit the floor) when I heard the amount of bass coming from the teensy mini-monitors from (fill in brand name)"? Then get ready to puke all over the place, because I really was at least mildly surprised (see? I know enough to tone this stuff down) by the amount of bass coming from the combination on Amphion Argon 3S loudspeakers (starting at $CDN3700/pair, depending on finish), Hegel 360 integrated amplifier ($CDN6500), and Hegel's nice AirPlay-compatible HD30 DAC ($CDN5500). Really!

Artist Cloner is a new audio manufacturer whose slogan is: If you can't bring the artist home, clone the performance. They demonstrated a system using their Ascent preamplifier ($US3990) and Ascent monoblock amplifiers ($US9999/pair) to drive a pair of prototype two-way loudspeakers (projected price: $CDN3000/pair). Designer Sylvio Comtois described his electronics as being free of capacitors in the signal path—transformers are used to block DC, he said—and demonstrated the system with a computer running Linux and equipped with what he described as a nothing-special sound card. The bass was boomy and undefined—coulda been the room—but in all other regards the system sounded quite good.

God bless the exhibitor who does my work for me: While I enjoyed an all-Bryston system in what was surely the nicest suite of rooms in this part of the temporarily troubled Bonaventure Hotel, the company's Gary Dayton wrote down all of the gear being used: Bryston's Mini T stand-mounted loudspeakers ($CDN3370), 4B3 amplifier ($CDN5695), BP-26 preamplifier ($CDN3295), BDA-3 DAC ($CDN3495), BDP2 music player ($CDN3295), and BIT20 power conditioner ($CDN3295). (At next year's show I will ask him to crop and edit my photographs for me.) The system was a shade bright for my tastes, but at the same time it was explicit in a musically informative way, and it made a recently made guitar-rock recording (I'm ashamed to say I neglected to write down the name of the artist, thinking I would not forget it—yet I did) sound incandescently exciting.

Anon2's picture

Thanks for the coverage of the new Amphion Argon 3s. It has a new passive radiator. And, from my investigation, the product has actually come down in price in the US, and is less than the CD to USD exchange rate would imply.

The Amphion Argon has never been tested in Stereophile, to my knowledge. I recall a test of the older Helium, but that's it. (Along with the B&W 685, it's another strange omission among popular and/or high quality standmounts).

When is a test coming? There are US dealers for this product. A Stereophile endorsement, through a successful test, might spark increased interest in these unique speakers.

Is there any information on the long-term durability of the tweeters of these speakers? They are crossed over at a very low frequency--with the key result of neutrality for which these speakers have a reputation. It would be interesting to know how, if at all, such a crossover affects long-range performance, particularly since the tweeter seems to be inaccessible for any type of replacement.

Maybe you can get us some information before the show closes out. I am glad that the show was resurrected at the last minute.

Anssi's picture

While I naturally cannot comment on the possible future test in Stereophile, which we would be naturally happy to see, I can comment on a few other things. The biggest challenge of speaker building is driver integration. Tweeters and woofers generally are very different in terms of material, moving mass and dispersion. Why would you take up on this task inside the hearing range, where humans hear the best i.e. between 2-5K Hz. You do not see chair manufacturers putting seam in the middle of the cushion, where everybody can see it. Yet for some funny reason this seems to be fine in audio. Just as the chair makers always hide their seam to the side, we are using a waveguide to lower the crossover to 1600 Hz, which makes the crossover "invisible". With the correct execution of the waveguide lot of the problems of conventional speaker building are solved: Drivers get aligned for time coherence, driver combination turns into a seamless point-source and the dispersion gets uniform throughout a wide frequency band. Whatever we achieve acoustically, we do not have to try to fix electrically. With advanced acoustic engineering the products can be kept electrically very simple, which increases resolution. The same way as waveguide addresses the problems of conventional speaker design, the passive radiator addresses the well known and I dare say insolvable problems of vented speaker design, where the original signal is always followed by an energy tail, which messes things up in the bass and veils the midrange.

When it comes to tweeter reliability I would say, that if it works for the professional studios why would it not work for home users? We have been building speakers with similar concept since 1998 and I strongly believe that pretty much everything we have made is still in daily use. In case of an accident the tweeter is actually easy to change. Just remove the woofer / passive radiator and loosen the wing nuts and the steel band that keep the tweeter in place and replace it.

140 pages of user feedback on what the existing users think of the speakers equipped with waveguides and passive radiators can be accessed at

Needless to say I am very much affiliated with Amphion, so please take everything I say with a grain of salt and do your own research and conduct your own listening to form your opinion on the subject.