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Le Festival Son et Image de Montréal 2004

Page 1
Report By Rick Becker
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The Good

The good news is the great experience I had at Montreal this year. Do I repeat myself?  Marie Christine Prin has put together a team that produces a terrific show that never fails to bring forth a handful of outstanding rooms, as well as a very good survey of the industry — even in times when the economy falters.  It brings the public and press together with retailers, distributors, and manufacturers in a city that is both friendly and picturesque. So picturesque, in fact, that I couldn’t park on my favorite street, because they were shooting a movie there on Sunday!  Fortunately, this year I was accompanied (for the second time) by my wife Linda. She has an educated ear and shares my passion for music plus understands the importance of proper placement of loudspeakers.

Starting at the ninth floor of the Delta Hotel, I experienced a breakdown in my very first room.  The LCD screen on my digital still camera wouldn’t come to life.  Fortunately, it was the room of Tetra loudspeakers, of which I have written very favorably in previous years.  Adrian Butts was quick to come to my aid, loaning me his Sony camera — a truly awesome gesture.  With a swap of Memory Sticks, I was back in business.

This favor aside, I was impressed with their new little two-way loudspeaker ($2K/pr.) that is small enough and shaped such that it can be oriented or hung in a variety of ways to fit each position in a 5.1 system — just add your favorite subwoofer.  Moreover, with its fine wood cabinet, it is one of the few loudspeakers designed for surround sound that fit comfortably in a traditional or country style décor, where silver egg shapes simply do not work.  I heard this loudspeaker as a stereo pair on stands, well out from the front wall where it produced a good soundstage and was very musical.  A Lexicon RT 10 served as the disc source, and a Rogue integrated tube amplifier powered the rig.

Tetra 2-Way


At the end of the show on Sunday I returned to the Tetra room to thank Adrian once again, and was treated to music from their Manhattan 305 model, formerly called "The Kid".  This two-way with a 4.5-inch mid-woofer ($3,500 US) is rear ported, bi-wireable, and incorporates what looks like a stand, as an additional chamber.  I've raved about this speaker in a previous report, and it still sounds great to my ears.

Tetra Manhattan 305 floorstander


Bluenote, from Italy, had a very good sounding room with some interesting components.

The CD player was quite intriguing, as was the turntable with the titanium arm.  The base model of this table goes for around $1,000 CN.  The beautiful lacquered Italian walnut finish was a bargain for this $2,500 CN bass reflex loudspeaker.  No grill is the standard construction on the A-6, and none is needed in my view. 


There were numerous rooms with Shanling electronics from China at the show.  Most of these sported new cosmetics that are a lot more cohesive than their earlier models, which seemed to pull together design elements from other successful manufacturers.  In one of these rooms I heard a Chinese manufactured ALI loudspeaker that featured a laminated wood cone that reportedly takes a week to produce.  Not only was the workmanship very good, but so was the music.  The Chinese are clearly making great headway in the loudspeaker department, often times copying European driver designs, and sometimes coming up with a glimmer of originality.



In the Charisma Audio room I was impressed with a floorstanding loudspeaker with a passive radiator out back and a flawless gloss finish. Unfortunately, my notes on this room are conspicuously missing.

A Thorens turntable, Unison Research integrated amplifier and Opera Platea 2-way loudspeakers worked beautifully together and the entire system was delightful to look at, as well as to hear. In every way, it was an all-around comfortable system, coming in it at about $10K, CN. A matching Unison Research CD player is seen in the rack above the amplifier.


Vincent Electronics was a new name to me.  These mostly hybrid (tube & solid state) components are designed in Germany and manufactured in China. I heard a CD player and integrated amp combo.

The Inner Ear is a print journal, familiar to many, that sponsors a room each year and puts forth a well-balanced system for people to listen to while they peruse the back issues for sale.  This year they had JM Labs Alto loudspeakers driven by an Audio Aero amplifier.  The source seemed to be a vertically positioned computer hard drive, which I should have been more interested in. But what really caught my eye was an unusual vibration absorbing Logosound footer from Sebert, in Germany, that was composed of solid top and bottom with a mesh wire wall that separated them. Available in several weight categories, these can be used under electronics as well as loudspeakers. A glass of scotch on top of an Alto showed no disturbance on the surface of the liquid, and the music was certainly very well focused.  The tranquility of the scotch belied its bite.


This is the first time I can remember Innersound displaying their loudspeaker at Montreal.  The large, $20K/pr CN, Kaya Reference loudspeaker includes 600 watt per channel amplifiers that drive the large woofer only.  You get to choose the amp for the mids and highs.  It seemed to need a much larger room, at least visually.  Linda was out the door before I could take this photo.


Eros Loudspeaker


Fidelio Recordings sponsors a room each year to display their audiophile recordings, many done in four-channel DSD.  This year, their surround system included four Verity Audio Parsifals driven by Nagra electronics with cabling by Silversmith Audio. The music here was very pure.

Nagra and Parsifals


StudioLab Reference showed a thin floorstander in light wood for $1950/pr CN.  The Protégé has a tweeter and 4.5-inch midrange at the upper front face, crossed over at 200Hz to a 4.5-inch woofer near the floor of the front face. Using a Korato tube amp from Serbia, they achieved a delightful sound with good bass response.  Hopefully, both of these products will find reviewers. The loudspeaker, I thought was exceptionally attractive, even with its drivers exposed. StudioLab has consistently produced impressive loudspeakers, in my view.


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Click here to see last year's show coverage.



































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