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Montréal Salon Audio / Montreal Audio Fest 2019 Show Report

Salon Audio Montreal / Audio Fest 2019 Show Report
Part 3
Salon Audio Montreal / Audio Fest 2019 Show Report By Rick Becker



  The elongated shape of the Montreal 8 room was emphasized by the vast distance of the sofas from the speakers. The minimal lighting made the room seem cavernous but the large floorstanding speakers had no trouble filling the space, being bi-amp'ed by Bryston 28B cube monoblocks ($24,000 per pair) putting out 1000 Watts each and 7B cube monoblocks ($13,390/pr) putting out 600 Watts each. The spokes on the woofer seemed like they were pulled from a Mini Cooper wheel. The room was billed as "The Ultimate Experience" powered by Solen, best known for electrical parts so I suspect the Bryston electronics in the rig had a fair amount of their parts in them.




Having large, ported cabinets and sounding dynamic, the Ultimate Experience IV v4 speakers ($60k/pr) were very efficient at 97dB. In fact, I was told they had been powered earlier by the prototype tube amp pictured above, an in-house project by Etienne Jarry. The monoblocks put out 22 Watts in SET form using a Tung Sol KT 150 tube and Hammond transformers. Price of this prototype was projected as $6/pr. I wish I could have heard that setup. A lot of people seemed to hang out here once they had entered, enjoying this $115k rig. I had the feeling they could have rocked then entire hotel if they had cranked it up to concert level. Next year I bring my SPL meter and have some fun.




Across the hall in a much smaller room and looking a lot more formal, was a Monitor Audio Gold 300 ($9000/pr) speaker in a gorgeous veneer. It was driven by a Roksan BLAK integrated amp putting out 150 Wpc, equipped with Bluetooth with aptX, a MM phono stage and a 24/196 DAC for $5699. This seemed to be a step up from the Roksan products I've seen in the past.



Nordost was doing not only themselves, but the entire industry a favor by running cable comparisons in their room. I've heard these before and anyone who is not a believer that cables make a difference on the way in, comes out a believer. Moreover, this is a gateway demonstration for the mantra that everything makes a difference.




Jeff Joseph, one of the most highly regarded speaker builders in the US, has been a frequent flyer at the Montreal show and this year he had something very special. It looked pretty much like his Pulsar monitor that has been a hit since it was introduced a decade ago. It has now become the Pulsar 2 Graphene. The cast magnesium cone with a tapered profile is now coated with graphene to make it even stiffer. Modifications to the crossover have subsequently been made. The woofer has a new suspension system, the new voice coil and former now use different metallurgy and the entire motor system has been re-engineered using finite element analysis. All this work to push the limits of what a small speaker can do have bumped the price up to $9k US and $12k CDN. As usual, Jeff achieved outstanding result with the rig set up on the diagonal and using reel-to-reel tape with special Doshi Audio tube amplification coming right from the tape heads as a source helped, too. He also had an Innuos server feeding a Brinkman Nyquist DAC. The turntable was the new VPI HW-40 direct drive turntable with a Fatboy arm and Audio Technica Art 1000 cartridge on top of the HRS stand Jeff was using. An Aesthtix Mimas integrated amp drove the Pulsars and Cardas Clear Beyond cables connected the boxes. Unquestionably, this was one of the Best Rooms at the show. Look for his room at AXPONA 2019 show where he will introduce the new Perspective 2 Graphene floorstanders.




In the large Montreal 7 room Paradigm had their next to top of the Persona line of floorstanding speaker being driven by Anthem pre and power amps, amounting to about a $40k rig. I have to say this was the best I've heard anything in the Persona line to date. Perhaps it was the larger room or the higher line Anthem amps but the speakers were finally sounding like they could be worth their cost. On the way out of the room I noticed the leaning tower of Paradigm subwoofers with a precautionary sign reading "Do Not Touch". Given that even the smallest 10" sub on top could severely rearrange your cerebral cortex if it fell, the sign should have read: If You Can Read This Sign, You're Already Standing Too Close. But the Tower of Subs really hammered home the fact that Paradigm is seriously into the subwoofer business. I've admired them at previous shows.




In the farthest room down the side hallway, Montreal 6, Martin Logan had their flagship speaker ($105k in red) sounding very good, as always, driven here by Moon solid state electronics. When these speakers premiered, they were shown with the electronics concealed behind curtains which was an interesting experience. Doing so put the focus clearly on the speaker and the music. And the music, as always with these speakers, is clear. In fact, the speaker itself is practically transparent. Large rooms, large amps and large wallets need only apply. And for sure, you want to sit on the sweet line between the speakers. Excellent sound here.






Westmount 6 was kind of by itself in the corner of the main hallway. I'm glad I didn't miss it and I'm glad I connected with Stephane Hautcoeur, founder and president of Eon Art, a very high-tech and relatively new audio company in Quebec. Their credo is Scientiae in Servitium Artis—Science in the service of art. They began in France in 2008 and moved to Quebec in 2012 and have a large scientific computer for electronic simulation and circuit optimization.  Jacques Riendeau of Oracle Audio was also present with his fine analog ($22k, turntable) and digital front ends (CD drive $18k, DAC $25k). The first exceptional new product here was the Eon Art Quark integrated amplifier ($35k) with a roll-out shelf revealing the tube front end to facilitate tube rolling and replacement. Very trick. It locks into the chassis from the back. Only the very last stage of amplification is Class D providing 208 Watts of power with a custom oem output stage made by Hypex, and they have other models with even more power. In the photo of Stephane, he is holding two of their 8-layer high density double copper printed circuit boards.  The smaller of the board is for the chemical capacitors and relays that the reseller can change easily as these parts degrade over time--they recommend every 5 years to maintain optimum performance. Oracle Audio will be manufacturing the chassis for their new DAC and amplifiers to the same high standards of their own turntables.




The tall Venus Acoustic Cybela speakers ($72k/pr) were the second exceptional product in Westmount 6. Eon Art bought this French speaker company two years ago and brought it to Canada. The cabinet is complex with the lower front ported bass module being the most straightforward. A complex D'appolito configuration of two midrange drivers, each in their own chassis, and front firing tweeter, again in its own chassis, adds complexity. But an examination of the rear reveals another tweeter in a separate rotating chassis as well as a separate volume control for the rear-firing tweeter. With the speakers angled in toward the listening area in the room, a static rear-firing tweeter would be aimed somewhat toward the front corners of the room, creating dispersion problems. By creating a rotating rear-firing tweeter, with the use of a supplied laser alignment kit, the rear-firing tweeter can be aimed squarely at the front wall behind the speakers. The adjustable volume of that driver allows you to tune in the desired spaciousness of the soundscape. Quite the trick! I grooved to Credence Clearwater's "Heard It Through the Grapevine" from Cosmo's Factory, a tune I'm very familiar with. This was certainly one of the most interesting rooms at the show and it sounded very, very good. I'm looking forward to their presentation in the fall in Toronto. This is definitely a company to watch. 



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