Montreal Salon Audio, Day One, Part Two

The room sponsored by Montreal dealer Audiophonie was like a treasure trove of interesting things/pair—tubes! horns! turntables with tall platters!—and when I first arrived, it was filled with nearly a dozen men speaking French in such animated tones that I felt as though I had stumbled upon a meeting of an especially enthusiastic audio society. I did not feel left out for long: the room's host, audio designer Robert Gaboury, made me feel welcome, and explained that his very good sounding Arteluthe Cadenza loudspeakers ($CDN24,000/pair) were a two-way design with a specified sensitivity of 97dB. The Arteluthes were being driven by a Finale Audio EL84 amp ($CDN1700).

In the room co-sponsored by VPI Industries and Simaudio—which was also one of two rooms co-sponsored by Joseph Audio—a VPI Avenger turntable ($US9500) with VPI JMW 10-3D tonearm ($US1800) and SoundSmith custom Sussurro cartridge with ruby cantilever (price TDB) fronted a very well-balanced and musically involving system. Electronics were a Simaudio Moon 610 LP phono preamplifier ($US7500) and 600i integrated amplifier ($US9000), and the loudspeakers were Joseph Audio Pulsars, with all cabling by Cardas. In a separate conversation with Jeff Joseph, he described being less interested in listener comments regarding soundstaging and bass extension and other such audiophile concerns than in seeing showgoers respond to the music being played as they would to a real performance—in particular, laughing when a performer says or sings an amusing line. By that metric, the VPI-Simaudio-Joseph Audio system was thoroughly successful, as noted on the great Ray Charles-Betty Carter recording of "Baby It's Cold Outside."

Remarkably, the next system I heard, in one of the Audiopathways rooms, went even further in that direction —and in fact comprised the best and most entertaining, demonstration I’ve heard so far of the MQA music-encoding system from MQA Ltd. (the technological basis of which remains over my head, up there with quantum chromodynamics, heterodox economics, and women). Even more remarkably, apart from cabling (which was by Transparent Audio), the system had only three elements: Meridian Audio’s 818v3 Reference Audio Core digital preamp/DAC ($CDN16,000), and a pair of AvantGarde Acoustics Zero XD loudspeakers ($CDN30,400/pair).

The self-powered AvantGarde speakers, which in this system were driven the analog line-out signal from the Meridian unit, also contain their own DAC (or at least one of them does: the other goes along for the ride), and can thus be driven by just a streamer. As for their sound, seemed apparent that AvantGarde set out to make an all-arounder—something that has horn loudspeaker touch and impact and dynamic nuance, allied with traditional high-end openness and transparency and sophisticated imaging capabilities. They succeeded—and in doing so also created a very attractive product.

There was plenty to enjoy at the other Audiopathways room, as well, where a pair of Raidho X-1 loudspeakers ($CDN9000/pair) were preceded by a Jeff Rowland 625 amplifier ($CDN20,000), Jeff Rowland Corus preamp ($CDN16,500), Jeff Rowland Aeris DAC ($CDN10,500), and Aurender N-10 server ($CDN11,000), with Transparent signal cabling and Opus power cables. In this system, an Avett Brothers track I'd never before heard was utterly convincing, with the sort of spatial performance that enhanced rather than distracted from the musical whole.

Speaking of Finale Audio, that company's Vivace Mini loudspeakers ($CDN3000/pair) sounded awesome—tactile, dynamically nuanced, and crazily involving—in a room sponsored by Montreal's recently relocated Coup de Foudre. The Vivace Mini, which was being driven by a 6Wpc hybrid push-pull/single-ended EL84 integrated amplifier from Triode Lab, has a sensitivity of 92dB and a nominal impedance of 16 ohms, and uses a 3" full-range driver—a descriptive to which I would normally add quotation marks, had I not heard them for myself.

In my last stop of the day, at the very genially staffed Summit Hi-Fi room, I finally had a chance to hear the Elac B6 loudspeakers ($US280/pair) that Herb Reichert reviews in our April 2016 issue. Driven by Emotiva XPA-1 monoblock amplifiers ($CDN3200/pair), an Emotiva XSP-1 preamp ($CDN1499) and the same company's ERC-3 CD player/transport ($CDN749), these two-way stand-mounters sounded big, clear, and fun. If I owned a high-end audio salon, I'd stack a pile of these near the cash register and put up a sign advising customers: Take Your Change In Elac B6s!

soliver40's picture

Audiopathways rooms had great products (as always) but I must say that the people taking care of those rooms were chatting all over the place in the doorways and the hall stopping the circulation flow and making it hard to get into the rooms (that weren't even full). In the 4 hours I was at the show I went back 3 times to try and listen to the AvantGarde Zero but the guys working that room were chatting so loud EVERY TIME that it was impossible to listen and get a sense of the all-in-one Zero personality. Music is often way too loud in rooms but It sure wasn't the case in the AvantGarde room each time I was there... I should have say something but I was so annoyed the third time that I would have come off as an ass myself so I STFU instead... Rant over!

I went with a friend, a first timer at an audio show, and he kept asking me "Do audiophiles listen to real music sometimes?" I laugh forgetting that japanese percussions and world beat acoustic guitar solos is not common outside of audio shows... He was almost happy to hear Diana Krall...

soliver40's picture

Vivace Mini loudspeakers looked really amazing! Stylish and petite with a oddly slightly oblique shape and a crisp white lacquer, they are 100% WAF! They got my vote for best looking speakers!