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Salon Audio Montréal / Audiofest 2023 Show Report

Salon Audio Montréal Audiofest Show Report Part 5
The Lower Level continued, plus Best Rooms and a post-show adventure!
Report By Rick Becker



Best Rooms @ The Salon Audio Montréal Audiofest Show 2023
This finally brings me around to my selection of the Best Rooms at the show this year. Since all rooms are not created equal at the Hotel Bonaventure, I am compelled to list a number of rooms that were standouts either for sound quality or some other obscure reason that impressed me and sticks in my mind weeks after the show is over. My list included five rooms that were really top-tier for any show, anywhere. And a second list of ten came in just a step behind them, some of whom have been among the Best Rooms in the past. I decided to keep the bar high this year while acknowledging that there was a lot of great gear in many rooms beyond the five mentioned here. The top five were all expensive systems. When money becomes a factor, you need to cherry pick among the highest value products available and tweak your system and your room to the max. But it can be done.

In the order in which I covered the rooms, my congratulations go out to these five Best Rooms:


1216  Lemay Audio
While this room wasn't quite as good as their presentation last year with the larger version of this speaker, the small room held them back. Nonetheless, it was still outstanding.



2346  Artist Cloner
I don't know why Sylvio Comtois isn't more famous in the high end. Perhaps it is his reputation as a boutique manufacturer, but his gear can sing with the best of them.



Montreal 6  Acora Acoustics
Val Cora's speakers have impressed me since he first entered the high end. His rooms are consistently among the very best at every show and this show was the best of the best. I eagerly await the chance to hear his new flagship speaker at AXPONA 2023.



Westmount 4 Audio By Mark Jones
Mark Jones consistently curates one of the Best Rooms at shows using a variety of top manufacturers. While he doesn't manufacture anything he sells, he has an ear for outstanding products and the knowledge to combine brands to perfection.



St Laurent 8  Oracle Audio, Gershman Acoustics, Eon Art, And Cardas Audio
These four brands constitute an A-Team in any league. While Eon Art may be a relative newcomer, it has consistently shown that it belongs with the veterans here. 




As I left the Bonaventure I took note of the PMA poster. This magazine (the Power of Music and Audio) publishes original material in both English and French and was a major supporter of the Montreal Audiofest. Thank you, Michel.



And of course, who among us old-timers can forget Les BlueGirls? Long live the Blue Girls!



A Side Adventure
Particularly in the first couple of decades of my trips to the Montreal show, I encountered annual adventures either coming or going. Sleeping in the car at near zero degrees Fahrenheit, spinning out on snow-covered roads in the Adirondacks, totaling my Tracker on black ice on the 401 along the St. Lawrence Seaway. Things like that.

Retirement from my day job and global warming have collaborated to make life less treacherous, forcing me to seek out more intentional adventures. I've wanted to visit the home of Leonard Cohen in Montreal for several years. Reading an old New York Times article about his world in the Portuguese neighborhood there was the stimulus I needed to make it happen this year.

The Google Maps route seemed circuitous to me. Much easier to simply head east from the Bonaventure and take St. Laurent Blvd straight up to the Park of Portugal where he had lived. What Google Maps failed to tell me was that several blocks of St. Laurent Blvd were completely blocked by construction. I ended up down by the harbor with huge warehouses and grain storage towers. It was one of Leonard's favorite places, I'm told.

Intuition misled me and I ended up in a tunnel, heading west, finally emerging on the west side of Montreal. I found Blvd Rene Levesque and slowly made my way east through the heart of Montreal. This being Sunday, the traffic was civilized but the historical beauty of downtown Montreal was enthralling.

Finally coming to St. Laurent Blvd again, I went past it a block (or two?) and cut north on a one-way street parallel to it. Instinct told me to cut over to St. Laurent again, which I followed north a few blocks until I recognized the Park of Portugal. Leonard's house wasn't there — until I realized it was on the opposite side of the park from where I had imagined it would be, facing northwest, rather than southeast.

One-way streets abound in Montreal so I had to circle several blocks until I came upon Leonard's side of the park. A car following close behind forced me to drive past his house until I could pull over and park in the remnants of the most recent snowfall. Grabbing my camera I crossed the street into the park. A tiled gazebo was the only prominent structure.



A family, some couples, and a woman walking her dog passed by. She smiled and we said hello to each other, reminding me that even at my age, I can reach out and connect with people. Years of photojournalism have honed that skill. Maybe the camera on my chest helped a little, too. A plaque, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the first "d'immigration portugaise au Canada" (1953-2003) stood out on a large rock.



Leonard's house, a stone-faced triplex looks out at the gazebo. It was the most substantial and stately building facing the park. Curtains were drawn and a truck was backed into the driveway beside it. It looked like people probably lived there. Perhaps his son.



Across the park from his home were boarded-up commercial buildings that had taken on the guise of local graffiti novices.



A more reverent artist had sketched a portrait of Leonard on one of several civic trashcans in the park to remind visitors that this space is still sacred to his many followers. I would be just one of many, having used several of his songs from "Love and Hate" in what would now be called music videos. But that was in the days long before MTV or even video as art.



Off to the west was St. Laurent Blvd where Bagel, etc. where Leonard went for morning coffee still carries on. And where more skilled artists have decorated more prominent facades. Such graffiti was not unique to this neighborhood.



I met another man in the park. The European slant to his English caused us to further engage. He was a retired Polish immigrant who worked as a furniture upholsterer at a store not far from here. We had the furniture industry as well as bicycling in common and spent many minutes sharing stories. We've since connected via email and may someday meet again. It would be a different experience in the summer to walk in the footsteps of one of the greatest singer / songwriters of our time.

Using my mental GPS I wandered my way back toward the Bonaventure and found the bridge across the St. Lawrence River to their Interprovince 15, leading to our Interstate 87 and eventually cutting through the Adirondacks.



Tupper Arts in Tupper Lake, remodeled last summer, was a comfortable rest stop that evening. It is a major gallery for Adirondack artists that I visit yearly. In Blue Mountain Lake I picked up Hearts of Space on North Country Public Radio and listened all the way to Old Forge, switching stations in the network as I went from one town to the next. By 2am I was home and by 3am I was in bed.

The Montreal Audiofest was a great show this year. A large, vibrant crowd, and very good music at the least, with a handful of truly great rooms. I hope I conveyed as much fun as I had in these chronicles.


Maybe see you at AXPONA 2023? Or Toronto 2023 in the fall? 




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