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FSI Expo 2008
Le Festival Son et Image de Montreal 2008 Show Report
FSI 2008 Le Festival Son et Image de Montreal Show Report
Report By Rick Becker -- Page 2

  Next up was Audio Orelle electronics driving BC Acoustics loudspeakers with their signature aluminum surrounds on all their drivers, including the side-firing woofer.

TubeMagic Canada put their M23SE monoblocks ($6000/pr) in action with parallel 300B tubes putting out 20 wpc in pure Class A. Four of them bi-amplified a pair of Martin Logan electrostatic hybrid loudspeakers producing the finest music I've ever heard coming from Martin Logan. Of particular interest to me was their vibration dampening clear acrylic platform with three passive hydraulic shock absorbers. They call it the A.O.S. System CD One (for sealed Air, thick silicon Oil and Spring in each cylinder). This is one of the most sophisticated suspension systems I've seen short of the active Vibraplane or VYGER turntable stand. At $599 for a set of three, it seems to be a good value. Discounts are available for multiple sets. I learned quite a lot about this design in my conversation with Eddie Wong of TubeMagic Canada, but that level of detail is more appropriate for a formal review.

Audio Excellence Inc. presented an entire system made by Lyngdorf Audio including the loudspeakers at $9999, Millenium Mk IV amplifier at $19,950 CD-1 player (24 bit/192kHz) for $3050 and a preamp (?) at $7575. The components had that Scandinavian look about them with the loudspeakers being especially thin dipolar design that extended down to only 300Hz. The Bass Direct subwoofer the company makes is designed to be placed against the front wall for greater efficiency, hence saving on amplification cost. Apparently it was so inconspicuous that it escaped my eagle eye. Unfortunately, there was a lot of talking and no music playing for several minutes, so I moved on. Hopefully someone else caught some action here.

The McIntosh room, also presented by Audio Excellence, had their very unique looking turntable capturing analog music. The thick acrylic platter, which is suspended by magnets, glowed in their signature green light. At $8000 the table comes complete with tonearm and cartridge. The C-500 preamplifier, a two-box design ($11,000), allows you to switch between solid-state and tubes if you're having one of those AC/DC evening listening sessions.

On silent display was the Caliber Mk 101 two-speed belt driven turntable with a 1.5" acrylic platter and adjustable AC motor for $2000. This was a handsome unit with a glossy black base and chrome trim with little to suggest it was imported from China, but it was. A polished marble base is optional. Once again, this was presented by Audio Excellence. 

The RL Acoustiques room featured Robert LaMarre's horn loaded loudspeakers, as usual, this time powered by the Consonance tube monoblocks that Enjoy the Music.com has reviewed. Digital front end was also by Consonance and there was also a new Benchmark Pre DAC/preamplifier on display. Music, however, was coming from a Merrill Scillia turntable when I was in the room. The little black boxes on the floor between the loudspeakers were actually small TBI powered subwoofers that fleshed out the lower end very convincingly. 

Coup de foudre Audio Video is probably the most esteemed high-end store in Canada. Graeme Humphrey told me he had a competition and challenged each of his audio consultants to put together a room from their inventory. Each room was a stand-out. I especially enjoyed my first-ever opportunity to hear one of Andy Payor's Rockport Technologies Ankaa loudspeakers ($26,500). A few years ago while vacationing in Maine, I had the privilege to visit with Andy and tour his expanding operation. Unfortunately, at that time he had no loudspeakers in house. The ones I heard here, driven by Pathos In-Power monoblock amplifiers and a Clearaudio Anniversary turntable ($10,000) certainly upheld his reputation for excellence. 

The Leben CS600 integrated tube amplifier ($5000) with point-to-point wiring, hand made in Japan puts out 28 wpc with EL34 tubes and 34 wpc with 6L6 tubes. This was a beautiful amplifier with a vintage look about it with 24K gold plated knobs and real wood side panels. The sound was very palpable through the new Response D-Two stand mounted monitor from ProAc that was introduced a month earlier. The front ported design seems slimmer than previous models, but exudes the same high quality construction and offers a variety of real wood veneers. I especially admired the wood and carbon fiber rack on which the Leben and Clearaudio turntable were sitting.

 

In the Cute & Affordable category, I found a most interesting room. An Oppo DVD player was used as a transport for an AudioMagus DAC with a separate battery power supply. This fed a cute Glow Audio yellow tube amplifier with a USB port so you can feed it from your computer if you choose. With a pair of EL34 tubes and a volume control, it puts out 5 wpc and goes for $499. The loudspeakers were a small floorstanding high efficiency model with a single full-range driver that is offered in kit form. Perfect for dorm or apartment dwellers. But the loudspeaker that caught my attention was from Lotus Acoustics made of 0.75" bamboo plywood, again with a single full-range driver covering 50Hz to 18kHz and offering 96dB/W/m efficiency ($1450/pr). Also of interest was a corner horn design that would have piqued the interest of the late Paul Klipsch with its compact and ingenious design. This was a really fun room with affordable gear for those who choose not to spend large.

Polk Audio had a very nice presentation with a CD player and integrated amplifier driving a pair of thin floor standing loudspeakers made from extruded aluminum. I thought these were very nice looking. They were supplemented with a classy looking small, powered subwoofer. A smaller stand mounted version was on silent display, and a third version, even smaller, could be wall mounted in home theater applications if you wish.

 

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