Salon Audio Montreal / Audio Fest 2019 Show Report
Drifting Downstairs, Late On Saturday
Stanton T.90 USB for disco to digital?
Sylvain Pichette is the designer of this unique Stable 33.33 turntable ($12k) that uses single motor belt drive with three points of contact to drive the platter smoothly. One of the new Jelco tonearms is included. The pod at the 10 o'clock position is not for your coffee cup, but a place to set your record clamp when changing the LP. But the big trick was the remote control lifting/lowering of the tonearm for people who might not want to jump out of their seat the moment the record ends…or at any point between when you might want to answer the phone or stop the music to talk to a friend. Or, return to your listening chair before you start a song in the middle of the record.
It is a commanding turntable with strong visual impact and a large footprint, yet organic in its use of wood that was very nicely finished. The other intriguing product on an adjacent table looked like an aftermarket inner platter and spindle for my Linn turntable. It's not quite an ingenious coaster either, unless you drink your scotch from a shot glass. Rather, it is a coaster for you LP when you are changing records on your turntable. You can set an LP on this coaster without fear of getting the B side dusty. Very cool! The version shown here is made from aluminum ($140) and a less expensive version is available in Delrin ($80)... also very cool. A felt bottom protects the top of your speaker or shelf. And did I say this little toy is very cool? Well, you get the idea. Think Christmas present for your favorite analog audiophile. Sylvain also makes a very substantial record clamp available in three finishes. stable3333.com
Here's a theme that gets revisited every few years. This kind of reminds me of the thrones in The Voice. The seat next to this one had a video game console and screen parked in front of it.
Cruising around the lower level to get the lay of the land for Sunday, I passed a big window revealing a conference room with…Hey! I know that guy! It was my buddy Tom Lathrop sitting there with Harry Weisfeld and his son Matt who is now running the show at VPI Industries. Tom had told me he wanted to attend a couple seminars at the show, so I stuck my head in the room and bellowed out "Hey, this isn't a seminar; it's a private tutorial," which brought a smile to Matt's face. Tom was getting the inside scoop on whether to upgrade his Scout further or upgrade to a used Classic model. After introducing myself to Harry, I listened in as he talked about the future of turntables being direct drive. They are currently investigating how to locally produce a more cost-effective version of a very high precision (and quiet) European motor for future VPI models, beyond the new HW-40 that has recently been announced.
As much an entrepreneur as he is a maker of great cables at a very fair price, Steven Huang of Audio Sensibility was featuring the benefit of sBooster aftermarket power supplies. I first reported on these a year or two ago and it is nice to see they are gaining traction in the High End. Manufacturers frequently use off-the-shelf wall wart power supplies to avoid the hassles and expense of having custom-built power supplies UL certified (or the Canadian equivalent). Steven constructed a mock-up of a switch-mode power supply found in a typical wall wart in the silver chassis shown here so he could use a quality power cord to directly compare it to the sBooster with equivalent voltage. The display was not active, but he explained how he demonstrates the results to customers back at his shop in Toronto:
I can switch between the original Meanwell switch mode power supply (SMPS) in the silver chassis and the sBooster (linear power supply) in less than a minute. I use the same Audio Sensibility power cable to feed each PSU. I had sBooster provide me the same output cable they use in the sBooster. So the only difference is the power supply technology.
The Lumin U1 Mini streamer ($2000 USD) uses trickle-down technology from the flagship U1 streamer ($5900 USD). The U1 streamer uses an external linear power supply instead of the internal SMPS used by the U1 Mini. Using the sBooster + Lumin conversion kit ($460 USD) increases U1 Mini performance by 25% and the cost from $2000 to $2460 USD (versus $5900 USD for the flagship Lumin U1 streamer.
The stock Lumin U1 Mini provides 60% of the performance of the U1 for 34% of the price. The upgraded U1 Mini provides 80% of the performance of the U1, for 42% of the price.
I've included this detailed account not so much to promote sBooster, but to illustrate the kind of knowledge and expertise a show-goer has available to them that they would not likely find in product reviews or promotional materials from manufacturers. These results are significant and Steve has done similar comparisons with his headphone cables and more in the past. As much an educator as he is a salesman, it is always worthwhile stopping by his table at shows. He tells me about 65% of his business is done in the US and his most popular cable there is his Statement USB cable that gets a lot of praise in online forums. I use both a power cord and a balanced interconnect from Audio Sensibility in my reference rig. Of course, you can access similar kinds of information by talking to people in any of the displays or rooms. All it takes is the courage to ask and the willingness to learn. That's the fun of attending shows.
Cocktail de L'Industrie
Unfortunately, I didn't think to inquire about the two Canadian recipients immediately after the presentations, and Michel and his wife, Sarah, apparently took off on vacation after the show. John Atkinson, I knew, being an American journalist. Please forgive me, my Canadian friends.
Art Dudley (in the middle) and Robert Deutsch are two writers from Stereophile who cover the Montreal show on a regular basis, though John Atkinson (on the right) is not a complete stranger to the scene. Keith Pray (on the left), publisher of Stereophile came up this year to present a Lifetime Achievement Award to John in recognition of his 33.3 years serving as editor. Whatever you might think of the magazine itself, it is clear that John Atkinson is the reason Stereophile has outlived so many publishers over the years. John is certainly deserving of the award and I applaud the Festival for reaching across the border to make this award. Very cool.
Tom and I adjourned to our room and unloaded cameras and literature. We had been given directions to a great wood-fired pizza place about a 15-minute walk from our hotel, but given the four hours sleep I had the previous night, plus nine hours on my feet that day, we opted for our usual St. Hubert chicken shack at the nearby train station. This time we opted for the Portuguese flavored Piri Piri and it was far better than our selections in previous years. Spicy is good!
Sunday's fun is yet to come!