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Salon Son & Image 2010
Montreal High-End Audio Show

Montreal High-End Audio Show Salon Son & Image 2010
Part 3 -- Report By Rick Becker


I was glad to see Grant Fidelity again this year and fortunately the door was open after hours. Plus, there was a case of Belle Gueule Originale beer from a Montreal microbrewery on the floor a gift from one of their customers. Two dudes were engaged in serious auditioning of the 120 lb. 60 wpc Grant Fidelity integrated tube amplifier shown here. The highly polished chrome faceplate is accurately reflecting the pattern in the carpet. And the amp was making sweet music through a pair of Grant Fidelity LS3/5A stand mounted monitors (MSRP $980, Factory Direct $800). Later they switched to their RBS-1 Morel bookshelf speaker shown here (MSRP $2200, Factory Direct $1600) which, being larger, sounded even better in this hotel room that was larger than most. All told you could put together a very sweet system in this room for little money, as evidenced by the Grant Tube DAC-09 (MSRP $390, Factory Direct $250). These folks sure know how to pull strings in China. My only regret here was that I forgot to pick up a case of Belle Gueule on my way out of town.


I hooked up with Tom again and on our way out of the show we passed Anne Bisson shown here chatting with fans. Next year maybe I'll get lucky and get a hug. Tom bought her CD earlier in the day, so perhaps I'll get to hear it sometime.


Before I knew it, Tom had wandered off and I found him in the Emperor chair just about to blast off for the Great Listening Room in the sky. Fortunately it was unplugged and we marched off to dinner through the cool, windy streets of Montreal. Afterward, back at the hotel I kicked myself for forgetting my bathing suit as we watched swimmers in the outdoor heated pool under a waxing moon on the vernal equinox.


Sunday Morning

Listening to the Efficon F300 speakers ($20K) driven by Belles electronics was a good way to get started after another fine breakfast at the hotel. This 4-way speaker had a rear-firing ribbon super tweeter and an air motion tweeter. The bass was handled in a separate cabinet below the midrange and tweeters. Stillpoints were used between the modules with pieces of plastic used as a precautionary measure against scratching the cabinets. The Stillpoints Component Stand was used under the bass module for additional isolation and vibration absorption. Stillpoints are among the very best of the vibration absorbing footers I've reviewed. The Belles electronics are actually made in my home town. The Statement MB-01 monoblocks ($16,500/pr) put out 85 wpc and are capable of delivering 80 amps of current. Yes, you read that correctly. They also feature Stillpoints feet as part of their design. Also on display in a Stillpoints equipment rack was their Reference Ph-01 Phono Preamp ($3K) and Statement VT-01 Preamp ($5300), a vacuum tube design. On the floor, with their built-in Stillpoints feet were their Statement MB-200 monoblocks ($7900/pr) putting out 200 watts and using Van den Hul wiring. The faceplates of these amps bear a resemblance to those of Pass, but less expensive looking. Music here was warm and easy to listen to.


Advance Acoustic is a new brand to me. It is a French design manufactured in China, although the styling didn't look the least bit French to me. They were driving a floorstanding speaker in the Aurum series ($10,900) from Quadral, (second from the left in the photo) a German company that was also new to me. The speaker on the far left, the Titan model goes for $27K to $30K. With all the gear between the speakers, the music didn't achieve its full potential in this room, I fear.


The French speaker manufacturer Cabasse took the largest room at the show and filled it with glorious music with their statement speaker La Sphere, a four-way coaxial speaker with a special electronic crossover and individual amplifiers for each speaker four per side. This is the second time I've heard these speakers. The first was in a much smaller room where I was forced to sit about 12' from them. Their presence in such a small room, while acoustically excellent, was visually dominating. Here, their size was more appropriate to the venue, and the music was just as intoxicating, though with a different signature imparted by the volume of the room. When the orchestral music played it sounded like you were in a large music hall in part because you actually were in a large hall. And hearing music in a large room has always had a powerful effect on me. It dramatically reduces the leap between recorded music and the live event. Unfortunately, a large room is a component most of us cannot afford, but for those who can afford La Sphere, that possibility probably exists.

I didn't think about it at the time, but their website points out that La Sphere is the smallest loudspeaker capable of creating such a grand sound in such a large room. Sure, you could rock out with a couple of pillars of pro sound speakers for a lot less money, but I guarantee it will not sound as refined as La Sphere. The source here was a McIntosh MCD500 SACD/CD player and the preamp was their C2300 Tube Preamplifier. Power amplification comes from Bel Canto with Cabasse faceplates, four times 1000 watts, per channel. I was told the people at Bel Canto use a smaller Cabasse speaker to voice their amplifiers. (This was one of the very few rooms that had Bel Canto gear, unlike the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest where it was everywhere, according to Tom. Here in Montreal , Simaudio Moon seems to own the show). It should be obvious that this was not only one of the Best Rooms at the show, but also one that takes the visitors to the outer limits of what is possible in High End audio. A profound Thank You to the people who sponsored this experience for Salon Son & Image.


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