Montreal Audio Show Starts Friday

The 23rd Salon Son & Image high-fidelity show, cosponsored by Stereophile, takes place in Montreal's Hilton Bonaventure March 26–28. (An additional day, March 25, is reserved for the trade and press.) With 10,000 to 12,000 attendees expected, including a sizable American contingent and several thousand Canadians from outside Quebec province, who will take advantage of bilingual presentations and literature and the anticipated absence of snow, SSI remains the largest North America audio show that is open to the public.

One feature of SSI sure to receive attention in Stereophile's daily blog—John Atkinson, Stephen Mejias, Robert Deutsch, and Art Dudley will all attend—is the shift of venue to the Hilton Bonaventure. According to Michel Plante, who assumed management of the show four years ago, exhibits at Salon Son & Image's last location were spread over 12 floors. "People wasted 20% of their time waiting for elevators," he says. "Nor could we create a good buzz and ambiance on the floor, because everyone was so spread out."

SSI will occupy just two top floors of the Hilton Bonaventure, a huge building the size of a city block, with travel between floors eased by a no-wait escalator. Surrounded by a garden, the well-known Bonaventure is centrally located in downtown Montreal—the train station is right across the street. Hotel rooms are plentiful in the area, and start at $90. (Note that the US and Canadian dollars are trading at about the same value at this time.)

Salon Son & Image's website currently lists 86 exhibitors, and far too many brands to count. (If you can name all 36 brands whose names begin with A, more power to you.) Suffice it to say that a huge number of name brands, as well as many deserving of such stature—from Canada, the US and UK, France, Germany, China, Japan, and other countries—will be exhibiting in all their glory. Several record labels (including Analekta); a number of audio publications, and hosts of retailers and distributors will also have displays, and many dealers will do business on site.

While 86 exhibitors may not sound like many in comparison to proclamations from other shows, the number actually reflects Plante's integrity. "We are very honest with the listings we print," he explained by phone. "If someone has a brand they carry but don't play, we don't say it's here. Nor is a small pair of bookshelf speakers in static display the same as exhibiting an entire speaker line. Printing the name of any brand possible to make it seem bigger does not help visitors, and doesn't fool the press. We may look smaller than some shows, but that is not the case. We have more exhibitors and attendees than everyone else."

Stereophile's presence will include: John Atkinson's appearance at two seminars, one a computer-audio setup clinic mounted with Ayre Acoustics; what may turn out to be a novel variation on our "Meet the Editors" panel; and our intrepid bloggers. For those wondering why Michael Fremer won't be present, it's a language thing; the person presenting a seminar in turntable setup will be a Francophone from Montreal.

Even Apple, which had initially intended to launch its iPad at SSI before delaying the on-sale date, will have a presence. Apple is expected to present a clinic on its audio softwares, such as Garage Band. If you're wondering if they'll say anything about rumored improvements to Apple's software, you're not alone.

In addition to a host of visitors who "know their gear and stuff," the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association (CEDIA) will offer a four-day university, in English and French, for designers, technicians, architects, builders, and interior designers. This will include opportunities for certification; courses in retrofitting, distributed audio, and green building; and general skill-strengthening.

The show, which Plante praises for its friendliness, scores points for starting at a reasonable 11am on Friday and 10am the other two days, and for staying open longer than most such events. And free live concerts will take place each night. In addition, Quebec's "favorite rock star," Marjo, will perform on March 25 at the Bell Center.

To introduce more young people to the High End, children under the age of 12 will be admitted without charge, and 2000 free tickets will be distributed at local colleges and universities. A special Salon Son & Image CD, Audiophylantrope, recently recorded in an audiophile studio by Montreal world-folk-music band Give, will be for sale, with all proceeds going to Fondation André Dédé Fortin, a Canadian music foundation.