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Le Festival Son et Image de Montréal 2004

Day 2
Report By Ian White and Neil Walker
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  For the meek shall inherit nothing." -- The Temptations do Frank Zappa

 

Well, not exactly. Temptation number one is to declare the AMA (Association Montréalaise des Audiophiles) listening room best room at show.  Simple answer to the question forming in the noise-numbed mind of your audio reviewers: because it was all about music.  DIY speakers with an old Arcam 9 CD player, a 10-year old Audiolab integrated amplifier, pre-amp section only, driving another 10-year old piece, a Counterpoint amplifier with upgraded parts – better capacitors, Telefunken tubes, upgraded wiring. Then the DIY speaker: Vifa woofer, Scanspeak tweeter and genuinely musical sound.  Accurate sounding, great mids, bass and highs, easy to listen to and above all else, a big $400 for all the parts (almost half of which was the crossover).

 

But it was not the best room of the show or the day – just the most inherently honest, even lovable.

Our first stop was the Onkyo room, where some very impressive looking gear that is not outrageously priced and promises great things for the digital audio and video buyer was on display. Onkyo's new DV-SP1000 DVD Audio/SACD player is THX Ultra certified, and comes with an HDMI audio/Video output, O-Plus Flex Scale Video scaling, IEEE 1394 output (Firewire) and an Analogue Devices 216 MHz/14 bit video DAC.  Based on past performance, this player seems likely to deliver on its implicit promises.

 

Its partner is the 75-pound TX-NR1000 receiver.  THX Ultra 2 certified, NET Tune Network Audio, HDMI A/V inputs and outputs, IEEE 1394 input, 3-zone capability, Wolfson VQA 192 MHz/216 bit DACs, this also holds out great promise, but that is strictly a judgment that is based on past performance of the brand.

 

At $2,000 USD for the player and $4,500 USD for the receiver, you have a lot of promise; we would love to hear it in real life, just to discover if all the processing power also makes music.

So, with this outfit doing its modern sculpture thing, what was playing?  The best bargain of the show.  Onkyo has just introduced the LSV-955 system.  For $995 USD, you get a five channels of 40 watt, DVD/CD player-receiver with five extruded aluminum loudspeakers and a 120 watt powered subwoofer. Not perfect sound, but the music DVD we heard was lively – we are trying to get a music CD into this system to find out if it really is dual-purpose for the bedroom or audio beginner whose personal situation also necessitates a DVD player.

 

Toronto-based distributor Tri-Cell Enterprises brought almost its entire product line to Montreal, and a number of pieces were of great interest. Clearaudio's turntables have always made a positive impression on us, but we were drooling with envy over the brand new Anniversary turntable ($8,455 CAD).  The Anniversary allows users the opportunity to run three separate tonearms on the table, and looked quite sharp with its wood accents. Clearaudio also displayed the new 14-inch ($2,200) Unify tonearm, which handled rather well for a uni-pivot.

 

Those with large record collections might want to consider the $3,200 record cleaning machine from Clearaudio, as it was perfectly easy to use, and very effective.  We cleaned a rather dirty copy of SuperFly with it and could immediately hear the effects of a proper scrubbing.  Is it cost-effective in comparison with one of the cleaning machines from V.P.I.?  No, not really, but it did convince us that it can perform as advertised and looked exceptionally well made and thought out.

 

Making music in the Tri-Cell room was the Clearaudio Emotion turntable ($784 CAD) with the Satisfy tone arm ($999 CAD), and the Aurum Classic wood cartridge ($1,259 CAD). The Micro Basic phono stage ($500 CAD) fed an Accustic Arts integrated power set-up that excited the drivers of a pair of Acapella LaCampanella hyper spherical horns coupled to four 6.5-inch bass drivers ($24,000 CAD).

 

Tri-Cell's room also featured Harmonic Resolutions System's anti-vibration gear.  Beautiful, expensive and based on polymer technology, their blocks, equipment pads and rack (with a gorgeous wood finish) worked exceptionally well.  The rack stands on four stain! less steel cones, not carpet piercing but with a slight radius to its point, about .035 inch. Rack and plates? Pricing is from $5,000 to $9,000 USD.

 

Who said that manufacturers do not have a sense of humor about trade shows?  Terry Cain of Cain & Cain was very explicit in his instructions to his Canadian representation, and they certainly obliged.

 

Naim Audio was all over this year's show and there was certainly a lot to like. While we were not overly impressed by the sound with Naim's loudspeakers, there were two systems using loudspeakers from P.E. Leon, and Spendor that we really liked.

System one utilized a Horizon/RB-300 turntable/arm combination from Nottingham Audio, and Naim's entry level NAP 150 power amplifier, CD5 CD player, Stageline phono pre-amplifier, and NAC 112 pre-amplifier.  The little green men from Salisbury did a wonderful job driving a pair of Spendor 3/1s from its "Classic" range and it was one of our favorite rooms of the entire show. The 3/1s are probably the least popular of the series, but they certainly deliver the goods with the Naim gear.

 

Globe Audio Marketing represents a number of very fine equipment lines in Canada, including Nirvana Audio cables, Audio Aero, Foundation Research, and Wilson-Benesch. There were a number of rooms at the Festival with their wares but we were most impressed by the Full-Circle analog set-up ($4,800 CAD), which includes the Circle table, ACT .5 tonearm, and the Ply MC cartridge. The Full-Circle was used with the Foundation Research V6 and V5 phono pre-amplifier and line-stage, along with amplification from Audio Aero.

 

Globe also demonstrated the rather svelte looking Wilson-Benesch A.C.T. loudspeakers ($21,500 CAD), along with the Audio Aero Prestige SACD player ($18,5! 00 CAD), and Audio Aero 50 watts per channel Capitole power amplifier ($13,000 CAD).  The Benesch loudspeakers are getting better with each show, but it seems as if the improvement in price is being met with equivalent increases in price.

 

For the rest of us on a more limited and real-world budget, turntable-manufacturer Pro-Ject, distributed by Essential Audio Corporation, had a magnificent display of affordable turntables, arms, and phono pre-amplifiers.  At $1,990.00, the Pro-Ject RPM 9 is a very serious performer and one great bargain. We were very impressed by the scale, tonality, and full-ness of the sound through a pair of Magnepan planar loudspeakers. The carbon fiber arm looks very well made, and it seemed to handle its Grado cartridge quite well.

 

Day 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

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