March 24-26, 2000 • Montreal • Canada
Show Report By
This year we were taken by surprise with the $30,000 Gaya speaker from
Belgium. It had some clichéd features like piano gloss black finish, and the
pyramidal top section, looking something like a mutant Watt/Puppy, but there were some
significant design innovations that merit serious investigation and critical listening. In the top part is located the
midrange. And in the larger part of the cabinet below the mid-range were two forward facing woofers. The
tweeters were mounted on an arm that cantilevered out directly in front of each woofer. In a separate gloss
black box on the floor was a passive crossover with five hoses connecting with a massive connector that
looked about the size of a hospital grade male plug. The geometry of the speaker head was quite complex, with the midrange angled toward the prime listening
position. As I recall the dispersion was excellent--the music sounding very rich and balanced
even as I videotaped the speakers from the side. Good as the Gaya may be, most people should concentrate on the rest of the e line, which was much more
While the architectural beauty of the Gaya attracted me to the speaker, The Tetra
speakers with their 3-sided pyramid atop the main column attracted me with
the beauty of their wood finish in as well as their unusual shape. A couple of copies from The Inner Ear
gave the Model Space and the Model Live very good reviews. I especially liked the colored stain used on
one of the models--Canadians are much more open to this sort of artistic treatment, it seems. Also
noteworthy in this room was the Rogue electronics. Helped out by an EAD CD player, this is the finest
sound I've heard by Rogues.
Swiss company Ensemble was present with their electronics powering their Minimata speaker. The
sound was excellent, but there was no bass. I hear they don't allow speakers with bass into Switzerland
out of fear of avalanches. 8-)
Summum Acoustique was playing a $35,000 pair of speakers specially built for a customer. It includes
custom wiring to suit the customer's amplifier. The tweeter and mids were mounted in a
separate piece of teak (because it's oily and absorbs sound better) that is suspended on the front in neoprene to isolate it
from the cabinet. Likewise, the crossover is mounted on the rear in a 1" thick board, wired for tri-wiring.
The French firm Cairn looked and sounded very good. They had an interesting tuna-can shaped remote control
that was optional. Meanwhile the Primare line of electronics was very handsome.
Reference 3A monitors on stands (pictured right) were powered by a nice 18 wpc tube amp, but the room was too noisy to comment
Tenore, the Italian OTL amp manufacturer is moving away from their wood frame amps to the aluminum (?)
bodied ones where the tubes erupt from conical volcanoes on the chassis. Verity Audio speakers sounded
very good with Sony SACD source material, but the kinky percussion music made it difficult for me to get
a grip on the system. There is a lot to be said for playing familiar music when auditioning.
A massive Clearaudio turntable was the source in the Nagra room with Verity Audio speakers, again. The
sound was clear and polite, but like the Tenore metal housed amps, I didn't really warm up to the Jules
Verne styling of the Nagra equipment. They must be using the same designers as made the audio recorders I
used back in the Sixties.
In the Cary room I had my first exposure to Soliloquy speakers. I also heard them
driven by Talk Electronics. They sound very nice, even at low volume, which is a trick not mastered by many speaker
manufacturers. Cary also had some new electronics on silent display--hybrid amps?
Ultra-precise was the word of the day in a room that started out with an Oracle black & gold transport (buy
it in silver) and moved on to dCS Elgar @ 192kHz to Jeff Rowland Model 12 amps to Eggleston speakers. This was the best I think I have ever heard drums, but
the ultra-sharp focus started to tire me pretty quickly. Could this be too much of a good thing?
More livable sound came from the much less expensive Opera speakers driven by an Audio Analogue CD player
and integrated amplifier. Dare I leave out the $50,000+ stacking AU 24 Modular Line Array with 16 drivers per side? Well, they were
active, so you don't need amps. Also, no crossovers, either. The soundstage stayed largely consistent as I
walked about the room, but then, if I'm walking about the room, it is probably party time, and I'm not
paying the music $50,000 worth of attention. Individual modules are $6500 powered, $3500 passive,
Triangle Ventis XS speakers at $6,295 a pair, driven by the French Cairn electronics, deserve a very favorable
mention while the Avantgarde Duo 2.0 horn speakers (pictured left) driven by KR tube amps sounded better than I recall from past years. The cabling, as the host explained, runs through the
supports in a more permanent installation, and is not visible. Man, wouldn't it be cool to try these with
the new Art Audio PX-25 amp I mentioned earlier?
The Cabasse Adriatis 600 Evolution at $35,000 is both a visual and aural statement. Very fine on both
counts. The big surprise was the McIntosh electronics driving them. You don't hear much about McIntosh. My
local McIntosh dealer displays them with Paradigm Reference speakers in a room with a lot of mid-fi equipment. My experience in Montreal suggests perhaps
their image needs a little dusting off. It was nice to see them out dating the Big Boys.
Cliffhanger Audio Systems new Bulldog stand mounted speaker with a d'apolito configuration gave the best
sound I've heard yet from this Canadian firm. In the other Cliffhanger room was a floor standing speaker powered by Blue Circle electronics. The
source was the AWESOME prototype turntable by Andre Theriault that I wanted to learn more about last year.
With its carbon fiber arm, this table is an integral design with the stand. It incorporates both air
bladders and a system similar to the Symposium Rollerblocks in the massive pillars that support the
turntable. While the prototype cost in the neighborhood of $30,000, Andre suggested there might
be a small production run (say 10) of a simplified version for about $15,000 each.
Manger had a pair of speakers rigged for audio shows that allowed them to connect and disconnect a side
firing driver, depending on what sounded better in a given hotel room. Actual production models had a much
simpler crossover. And I believe both the Manger driver and the woofers in the base module were powered
by built-in amps. These drivers are also available for people who want to build their own speakers. It
is a sound of a different flavor that one does not learn to appreciate in a limited visit. Hopefully
someone will review these soon.
Speaking of reviews, keep your eye open for the Oskar Kithara speaker to be tested in UHF magazine No. 59.
It has a very unusual heil-type(?) driver. I should also mention one of my positive encounters with the
JMLabs Mezzo Utopia speakers was in a room
powered by VTL electronics and a Meridian 508 CD player.
JoLida JD1000 integrated amps were used as monoblocks in a fine-sounding room. Next door, a single JD1000
powered a pair of Virtuel speakers very nicely! This is a very handsome amp with silver face and gold
Somewhere I also heard a Bryston amp (pictured left) actually playing music! They've been here in previous years, but
usually on silent display. I believe they were driving Tannoy speakers to good effect. On display
were the new 14B ST stereo amp (500w @ 8 ohms, 800 watts @ 4 ohms), and their new SP1 surround processor
with 24 bit decoding. But the BIG news from Bryston is the silver faceplates they showed this year. The
silver fronts take them out of the black cliché and raise them to a higher, more desirable standard.
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