Montreal Salon Audio, Day One, Part One

Friday dawned snowy and bright, and by the time I got around to exploring the corridors of the Bonaventure Hotel, music was already coming from a few scattered rooms. Overnight, more signage and posters had appeared, and an admissions station had been set up in a portion of the hotel's entryway that was relatively clear of construction work: admission is free, of course, but volunteers were busy greeting arrivals and handing out a two-sided map giving the exhibitors' locations. (Since Michel Plante and Sarah Tremblay took over the show, there simply wasn't enough time to create a full-blown show guide.)

My first stop at the new show was, appropriately, the room of a two new companies, both founded by former associates of Montreal's well-known A/V store Coup de Foudre. Danny Labrecque's new company, Luna Cables, designs and manufactures interconnects, speaker cables, AC cables, and USB cables that eschew plastics in favor of cotton and other natural materials. Luna's products, the designs of which are influenced by vintage Western Electric cables, are offered in four levels, beginning with Luna Orange, their most affordable line ($CDN600/1m pair for interconnects, $CDN900/2.5m pair for speaker cables.) As Luna Cables are suggested to be an excellent match with Shindo gear, you can bet I'll be writing about these in the very near future.

Also new from Danny Labrecque is a Quebec City-based company called Phonographe, a partnership with his colleague Erik Fortier (seen on the left in the heading photo). Phonographe serves as a distributor, consultant, and reseller for various lines, and at the show they demonstrated a system using a Funk Firm LSD turntable-tonearm combo ($CDN2800 with wood trim), Benz Ace S MC cartridge ($CDN1200), Leben CS300XS integrated amp ($DCN3795) and RS30EQ phono preamp ($2695), and Neat Acoustics Motive SX1 loudspeakers ($DCN3600/pair). The system sounded amazing on a recording by Jacques Brel: subtly, organically dynamic and detailed, with a very present-sounding voice—and zero surface noise.

Another brand-new Quebec company debuted at Montreal Salon Audio: DR Acoustics, a cable design and manufacturing firm founded by telecommunications engineer Daniel Robidoux, seen here with his entry-level Cassandra AC cable ($CDN595/6'). Robidoux observed that mechanical damping is essential to all of his cables—quartz granules are his material of choice—and added that his USB Clean Pro digital cable ($CDN975/1M) is, as far as he knows, the first product of his kind to contain an inline circuit intended to clean up the USB bus's 5VDC.

DR Acoustics exhibited alongside the Quebec dealer Audition Veritable, which demonstrated a nearly all-Bryston system, built around the Bryston Model T loudspeaker ($CDN8000/pair). I had heard that speaker once before, at SSI, and thought it a little too bright for my tastes—but here, it sounded very well balanced.

The room sponsored by distribution company Audio Group also served as way station for Plante, Tremblay, and members of their team, and was equipped with a selection of Grado headphones—which Audio Group distributes—for casual demonstrations. Note stress-relieving lava lamp!

The Audio Group room was also well-equipped with musical instruments and pro-sound gear intended for use for live performances, later in the show. Many of said products are distributed in Canada by Plurison, who supplied this fine-looking Lauten LT-386 tube microphone ($CDN4000). Self-powered loudspeakers from Focal Audio's pro-audio line—I didn't know that such a thing existed!—were also on hand. An even bigger thrill came when Audio Group's Stephan Ritch, a superb guitarist who has performed with various groups at SSIs past, let me try his recently acquired 1969 Gibson ES-335. I was in heaven (which was more than can be said for the poor souls who had to listen to my halting efforts—so I kept it brief).

I remember enjoying time spent in front of various PMC loudspeakers during my visit to Munich and the city's High End 2014 show. At Montreal Salon Audio, the brand was similarly impressive, especially the PMC 23 ($CDN6175), whose transmission line-loaded 5.25" low-frequency driver produced prodigious—and very fast—bass, thanks also to electronics from Audio Alchemy and cables from XLO Electric. (XLO is, in fact, the Canadian distributor for PMC and Audio Alchemy.)

The room sponsored by Joliette, Quebec dealer Villeneuve Audio Video was too popular—and a bit too crowded—for any serious listening, so I can't comment on the sound. Their demo system featured a Thorens turntable (with Grado cartridge), Simaudio Moon electronics, Bis Audio cables, and a selection of three models from Totem Acoustics' Element series, seen here left to right: Ember ($CDN4500/pair), Fire ($CDN7000/pair), and Metal ($CDN15,000/pair). Also on display were the beautifully machined frame-and-magnet assemblies from some of the drivers used in the Element series, which are manufactured in Quebec.

As they've done at a number of shows in recent years, Audio Note sent more than just the peripatetic Dave Cope and a fine-sounding all-Audio Note system—the latter including their AZ Two D floor-standing, rear-loaded horn loudspeakers ($CDN3800/pair), P2SE Signature 20Wpc amp ($CDN7850), CDT Three/II and DAC 0.1x ($CDN15,400 and $CDN2350, respectively), and the two-motor TT Two Deluxe turntable ($CDN4600) with Arm Three ($CDN2600) . . .

Audio Note also sponsored regular in-room performances by the well-known Montreal cellist Vincent Belanger (for whom the UK firm recently underwrote a new bow—and a forthcoming new album). While I was there, Belanger performed in a one-third-live, two-thirds-recorded cello trio, playing selections that included Piovani's "Buongiorno Principessa." The music was exquisite, M. Belanger's tone having become event more colorful since the last time I heard him; the AN system's tone was no slouch, either.

Upon leaving the Audio note room, I ran into Walter Swanbon, proprietor of the New Hampshire dealer-distributor Fidelis AV. Swanbon was there as an attendee, not an exhibitor—but from the perspective of both roles he had nothing but praise for Plante and Tremblay: "The tone of a show is set by the people who run it," he said, "and with someone like Sarah and Michel, the soul of the show remains intact."

misterc59's picture

That Dr Acoustics cable is quite impressive looking. Sorry, but no matter how effective they may be, if all of their interconnects (assuming more than just this one cable are available) are of similar sizes, one would need plenty of additional space to accomodate them. I for one, have, as organized as I try to be, still have a "cable nest" associated with my system. Perhaps the size of the cable in the photo is an optical illusion...

jporter's picture

I thought Art threw in a still shot from some German porn movie just for the fun of it.

Anton's picture

That pic was taken just before he tied that cable into the shape of a dog.

danhebert64's picture

Stopped by the new Phonographe company and the setup in that room was really good! I have to say that Luna cables are very impressive paired with those Neat speakers giving a really nice clean image to the sound! Even Joe Dassin sounded great! I actually left with a power cable... it improved my setup when i have put it in my system. Will get more!

Alain61's picture

One of my favorite room of the show. Not the most expensive setup but very musical. A very good combination of components. Their new cables are great. It is good to hear amazing cables that are easy to fit in a system. As MisterC mentioned enormous cables can look spectacular but are not room (or wife) friendly.