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Le Festival Son et Image de Montréal 2005

Phil Gold
Part 2

  The debate between the advocates of tube and transistor electronics will continue for many years, but in my view the differences between the sounds is narrowing. Tube designers work hard to extend the frequency bandwidth while transistor designers make efforts to avoid a cold hard sound and to tame the nasties sometimes associated with crossover distortion and other such silicon artifacts. Not only is the sound converging, but more attention is being paid to cosmetics so that sometimes it is hard to tell from a distance if an amp is tube or silicon based. Some designers even combine both technologies. Musical Fidelity have used a series of non traditional tubes in their products, such as the Nu-Vista and Tri-Vista series, while David Berning showed here a prototype preamplifier using a tube based switching power supply.

Perhaps the most extravagant attempt to narrow the gap between tubes and transistors is the Integris Active 300B from Aurum Acoustics of St John’s, Newfoundland. I have seen prototypes from Aurum at CES the last couple of years, but now we have two shipping products. The Integris Active 300B ($27,000 US or $30,000 Cdn) is an active speaker system with 3 drive units and a central stereo amplifier with active crossovers. This may be the first active tube based speaker system, and the designers, led by Derrick Moss, aim to get the very best performance out of the 300B tubes by eliminating the passive crossover between the output stage and the drivers, allowing higher output levels and a broader bandwidth than otherwise possible. The 300B tubes are not used beyond half their rated power so tube life should be extended. 


The second component is the Integris CDP ($10,000 US or $11,000 Cdn) which incorporates a high-end top loading CD player and an 11-input active preamp into one rather large box. The transport is the Philips CDPro2M and the digital processing comes courtesy of Anagram Technologies of Switzerland. Certainly the sound in this room was top notch with precise imaging with no sense of strain even at high volume. The bass response was extended yet relaxed, which contributed to a most musical performance.

Another new Canadian speaker to catch my eye comes from Fidelity Acoustics of Vancouver. Feeding the speakers was a Naim stack including the CDX2, NAC 282 Preamp, NAC 250 MkII Power amp and a HICAP power supply. Fidelity Acoustics has a long history assembling speakers for TDL and Lowther, and are now introducing their own design, the RFM2 ($4,400 Cdn). Philip Mayburgh explained that the secret in this slim design lies in the careful use of the Vifa Ring Radiator tweeter which handles all the frequencies from 2kHz to 40kHz. This makes life much easier for the 150mm ScanSpeak bass /midrange driver to operate cleanly. Fidelity uses a transmission line to improve the accuracy of the bass response. Does it work? I was very impressed with the quality of sound, which was maintained well as we turned the wick up. The stone / concrete pedestal is available in linen, shitake or cinder finish, while two wood finishes, maple and wenge are offered. This is an impressive debut and I am looking forward to hearing more from Fidelity Acoustics.


For some odd reason, when I ran into Vince Scalzitti of Tri-Cell Enterprises, I failed to recognize him and he thought I was my brother. We must both have been worn out by then! Vince demonstrated a Clearaudio turntable, Pathos tubed electronics, Acoustic Arts Drive 1, MSB Platinum DAC II and an Equi=Tech Balanced power supply, wired together with Cardas Cable and driving miniature Elac 310 Jet speakers. These speakers, perched on the matching LS 67 stands, are not new products but Tri-Cell has just picked up the Canadian distribution. A nice punchy sound, belying the size of the drive units. The speakers run $1650 Cdn for wood finish, or $2500 for the metal finish on display.

Angie Lisa of Canadian distributor Audiopathic had several rooms at the show. She is pictured here with the small Innersound Kachina speakers ($12,000 US) driven by the new Jeff Rowland Concerto Integrated amplifier, sounding much more dynamic than at CES. The Kachina features UltraStat electrostatic panels and a custom 8” woofer installed in a compact transmission line providing bass response down to 32Hz. Sitting front and centre is the Jeff Rowland 302 while sitting either side are the 500 wpc 501 monoblocks. Sitting in the rack below the Concerto is the Synergy 2 Preamp. Fine sound indeed, but you really need to sit in the sweet spot for maximum enjoyment. Jeff Rowland has been producing transistor amps that don’t sound like transistor amps for many years, and the new ICE based series does not disappoint -- very smooth.


Across the hall in another Audiopathic room sit the unusual looking Eventus Phobos speakers ($8,800) from Italy. I think they look rather sad with the grills in place -- much better without. DCS provide the digital source, and all amplification is by Manley -- the Shrimp preamplifier, Snapper monoblocks and Neo-Classic 250 monoblocks.


The third Audiopathic room brings the big Innersound Speakers, the Kaya hybrid electrostatics ($20,000 US including the crossover amp) bi-amplified by a pair of the gorgeous Innersound DPR 500 Reference Stereo amplifiers ($14,000 US each). The Kaya’s 10” woofer is coupled with a separate bass amplifier and electronic crossover amplifier. An Immersive Symmetry DVD Universal Player provides the digital source, feeding into an Innersound iControl preamp. Wes Bender, himself a fairly big guy, gives you a sense of the size of the Kaya speakers. The sound excels in this room, but again, for the best sound, sit in the hot spot.



Mark O’Brien of Rogue Audio, Adrian Butts of Tetra Speakers and Joe Kubala of Kubala-Sosna Cable pose by the Tetra Live 405 in gloss finish ($5250 US or $6900 Cdn), the US made Rogue Metis preamplifier ($995 US) and Atlas power amplifier, wired together with Kubala-Sosna Emotion cables. I absolutely could not resist the Tetra Manhattan speaker in the custom Juanita finish. Could you?


Click here for part 3










































































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