Robert Schryer's First Day in Montreal

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau really is a swell guy, especially to audiophiles. Having heard that one of his country's own would be covering the Montreal Audio Fest this year on behalf of Stereophile, Trudeau called me personally to insist that he arrange my transport to the show's venue, the Bonaventure Hotel, by way of "Royal Escort,' an honorary custom normally reserved for dignitaries of ally countries.

Which is why, barely six hours of this writing, I was whisked by air for the show's Friday morning opening in a Ferrari-red Airbus AS365 N3+ helicopter, my backseat companion none other than the dapper Trudeau himself, and smoothly dropped off atop the Bonaventure Hotel's roof. Just before I exited the aircraft, Trudeau gave me a comforting hug, and, with his swell-guy smile, wished me luck.

Thrilling, for sure. But I was even more thrilled to be back to cover the Montreal Audio Fest for Stereophile with my partner in crime Art Dudley, who, if you're wondering, and despite sporting a dashing blue suit for the occasion, arrived at the show via public transit. That's Trump for you.

But never mind politics; eager to start roaming the hallowed halls of the Bonaventure Hotel, Art and I quickly drew up the lines of our respective coverage territories in the program's exhibitor floor plan and went our separate ways.

First room on my route belonged to Gershman Acoustics, who was showcasing their sizable new flagship speaker, the Posh (above left), which, as its name suggests, is poshly priced at (US)$129 000/pair. A descendent of Gershman Acoustics' Black Swan speaker, each Posh is composed of two separate enclosures, one used to house its two double-magnet woofers, and the other—a height-adjustable module—to house both its tweeter and midrange drivers. How did it sound? I don't know, since the Posh was on static display, but I plan to find out and report back before show's end.

However, what I did hear in the Gershman Acoustics room was their other, less conspicuous, and surely more mainstream-friendly speaker: the stand-mount Studio II (US$3600/pair), which, connected to a 300Wpc McIntosh MA9000 integrated amplifier (US$10 500) and a special edition Oracle Mk.Vl Gen.2 turntable ($TBD), produced sound that was big, bold, rich, and detailed, and overall seemed to me to exist at a level of musical accomplishment completely at odds with the speakers' price point. The Studio IIs strike me as excellent performers, regardless of cost.

Next, I visited the Audio by Mark Jones room, where affable host Mark Jones entertained guests with a system comprising a Kronos turntable arm/cartridge/ power supply setup costing a combined US$69,500, a preproduction CH Precision I1 integrated amp with phonostage (US$38,000), and a pair of Magico S3 Mk.2 speakers (US$28,000/pair), all of it strung together with Nordost cabling. The sound I heard was impactful, detailed, and dynamic, if a bit dry and glary at times in the top octaves. Early show kinks? Likely.

Good-sounding products aside, Jeff Joseph is consistently able to coax good sound in his showrooms for a reason: practice. The man is an inveterate, indefatigable audio show exhibitor and supporter, a commitment he extends to Montreal's audio show. No surprise then that Jeff conjured more savory sounds in his room this year, using a Technics 1500 Reel-to-Reel 2-track tape machine, an Accustic Arts power 1 Mk.4 Integrated amplifier (US$11,000), and his company's own Perspective speakers in white finish (US$15,825/pair). Channelled through Cardas cabling, the sound I heard was akin to a balm for the savage soul: sweet, articulate, warm, and full of those filigreed, tonal shadings that can reel a person in.

I've always had a thing for Jadis's amplifier designs, so I was happy when I ventured into retailer Audio d'Occasion's room and saw Spendor D7 speakers (CA$7695/pair) being driven by Jadis's 40Wpc Orchestra Reference integrated amp (CA$5795). A 16/44 file of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony, streamed from a USB key plugged into an Atoll ST100 SE streamer (CA$2500), sounded organic, un-digital, and seductively musical.

General impression of the show so far? Not enough exhibitors for the number of people who want to visit exhibitors. That means things might get rough on Saturday, when we're all fighting for the same seats. Good thing Justin Trudeau has my back.

À bientôt.

dalethorn's picture

I'm grateful to hear about Trudeau. Much angst has been expressed on various Stereophile threads about aging demographics, and Trudeau is a perfect example of people we need to reach out to. Not just because they're powerful and influential, but because (in his case) he's someone the younger set can look up to - a true progressive in things I think are important, like music and cultural quality.

SET Lover's picture

Yes indeed. Peoplekind will be eternally grateful to him.

ofra's picture

Robert, Thank you for visiting the Gershman's room and the extremely positive, detailed and honest reporting... we couldn't ask for a better report on our Studio ll modle.
This room is a new addition to the show this year, so we did not know what to expect. Our intention when booking the room, was to debut our New Flagship speaker -the POSH modle$129,000 as well as our entry level- Studio ll $3,600. We alternated between the two throughout the show.
Although it was a very challenging room as it was a very large room with only 8 foot ceilings, we manage to have a breathtaking sound...
We would also like to take this opportunity thank Mr.Trudeau for giving you the royal treatment, Sarah and Michel, the organizers of the show for working so hard, being so accommodating and making this show so much fun for all,the industry, exhibitors and consumers.

Looking forward to seeing you all at the next Audio Show Axpona 2018 in 2 weeks.