SSI, Saturday Morning

As mentioned in my earlier report, Sony came to town with more than just a system's worth of ES-series components. As I discovered on Saturday morning, they also brought the new NW-ZX2 ($CAD1199), which is the new big brother—forgive the fraternal illogic of the metaphor—to last year's well-received ZX1. The new Sony, which will be reviewed by Michael Lavorgna in the May issue of Stereophile, offers the same Dynamic Sound Enhancing System as the company's HAP-Z1ES file player, and its amplifier is more powerful than that of the ZX1; perhaps best of all, the ZX2 provides 128GB of built-in storage, and the user can add another 128GB with a microSD card. Auditioned with Sony's MDR-Z7 headphones ($CAD699), the ZX2 sounded fine playing Sam Smith's "Stay With Me," with great thumping bass and fine detail and spaciousness.

The first thing I noticed about the April Music room was that it smelled nicer than the other rooms, which I attributed to a pair of vases filled with fresh-cut flowers (and perhaps some incense, unseen). The second and third things I noticed were the lack of clutter—owing in part to the playback gear's trim design and modest size—and the colorful, well-balanced, and altogether inviting sound, with excellent pacing and a notably high "boogie factor."

Turns out I was hearing a pair of DALI Rubicon 6 loudspeakers ($CAD7000/pair) being driven, via Verastarr cabling, by April Music's new Aura Note Version 2 ($CAD3000), a 125Wpc integrated amplifier (above) with a USB input, Bluetooth connectivity, 9 line-level inputs, and a built-in top-loading CD player. (I asked if it has a phono input, and feigned disappointment when the rep told me "no": In truth, I was already impressed by the apparently high value of this nicely styled amp.) As my listening notes say, "This wasn't just good—it was fun!"

Montreal dealer Audiophonie brought to the show a pleasantly open-sounding system using Dared electronics from the Hong-Kong-based Luen Hing Electrical (whose North American rep, Charles Kirmuss, had an extensive knowledge of all the gear in the system—not just his own—and was fluent in French and English). The single-ended, 25Wpc Dared Saturn integrated amplifier/USB DAC ($US2900), preceded by the Dared LP1 phono preamp ($US1900 US) drove a brand-new pair of Rogers LS5/9 loudspeakers ($US3800/pair), with a Hanns Acoustic record player as the source. (Rogers, which has continued to produce loudspeakers since their 1992 sale to a Chinese firm, reintroduced the '5/9 at the 2015 CES.) As Charles Kirmuss observed, "Some manufacturers come out with a new model every few months. Rogers isn't one of them."

Also seen in the Audiophonie room: the very cool-looking Dared RD-1 table radio ($CAD1050). Sadly, it was on static display only.

A dark room. Hypnotic music. A stylized painting of a girl with antlers. These are the things of Skogrand Cables, a Norwegian company that constructs all of their speaker cables, interconnects, and AC cords by hand, using not only solid-core copper, PTFE, and rhodium, but also balsa wood, cotton, and silk. The room was way too dark to tell much about the system—I spied VAC electronics and a Bergmann record player—but the music, which proved to be Mike Oldfield's Amarok, was well-detailed and had a good sense of drive.

I spoke with founder Knut Skogrand, a young telecommunications engineer who does indeed resemble an especially large but companionable Viking, and was very impressed with his passion for music, and the singularity of his vision as a cable maker. (It was also impressive that Knut was unhappy at having to be away from home on that Saturday, which was his daughter's fourth birthday.)

A familiar face at every Salon Son et Image since time immemorial, distributor Reinhardt Goerner is known for bringing to Canada some of the most exotic of European audio gear, with a particular emphasis on analog components. His main system for SSI 2015, which had greater than average dynamic and temporal nuance, had as its source the German Acoustic Signature Storm turntable ($CAD9000) and the same company's TA-1000 12" tonearm ($CAD2300); the primary loudspeaker was AudioPhysic's recent Avantera, and all cabling was from Nordost's Valhalla series. Also worth noting: Goerner Audio is now the Canadian distributor for London Decca phono cartridges, an example of which—the evergreen London Super Gold ($CAD1875)—seemed to perform well in that brand-new Acoustic Signature arm. (In the USA, the London Decca distributor is Brian Tucker of Pro Audio.)

Audio by Mark Jones's picture

Hi Art, an absolute pleasure to meet you in the Kronos/ Tenor/ Muraudio room. I know you have heard him before, but wasn't Vincent Belanger a treat for the ears. Hoping very much you make to Toronto for the TAVES show.

Art Dudley's picture

Thanks for the message, Mark -- the pleasure was mine. Yes, I never cease to be amazed by the beautiful tone Vincent Belanger pulls from that cello, or by his good-naturedness in performing for roomful after roomful of show-goers.