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Salon Son & Image 2010
Montreal High-End Audio Show

Montreal High-End Audio Show Salon Son & Image 2010
Part 1 -- Report By Rick Becker

I spoke with Frank Fazzalari of Coherent Speakers in Hamilton, Ontario. His coincident design Model 15 ($10K CDN) uses a 3" dome midrange crossed over to a 15" woofer at 600Hz and was easily driven by a 22 wpc McAlister single ended amplifier that was more than enough for this 97dB efficient speaker. The speakers were isolated with his Oreo sandwich footers of wood and sorbothane. Very nice smooth sound here that was easy to listen to.


I exchanged my annual nod with Raysonic and listened to some very transparent and crisp music. The new Raysonic CD168 vacuum tube CD player ($2800) converts 24-bit/192kHz with Burr-Brown chips but was on silent display, deferring to their CD228 ($4600) in the active system. Like most of their CD players, it features both single ended and balanced outputs. Their large Tube Monoblock Reference 23 with eight KT88 tubes each (100 wpc, triode push-pull) were driving B&W 802 with diamond tweeters to very good effect. The Raysonic room is consistently so good year after year that I sometimes forget to mention that it is among the Best Rooms at the show.


Cyrus electronics, XLO cables and Klipsch loudspeakers teamed up in one room, but it was the Thorens TD 309 turntable on silent display that stole the show for me. This interesting table with its unique plinth reminded me of vintage watch from the '60s. The table represents the first new era design from Thorens with a number of unique features. The plinth is suspended in the vertical direction, and the motor itself is suspended in the vertical direction by what looks like a speaker cone. In the photo it is off center because the platter is removed. The aluminum cylinder on the left corner is a counter-balance weight used to level the table. It is a belt drive, obviously, and costs $2000 including the TP 92 arm. The host mentioned that Thorens has been in business for 127 years, but I wouldn’t let him pull the wool over my eyes. 1883? That pre-dates recorded music on records! He finally confided in me that they began making music boxes — a few years before my antique high wheel bicycle was built.


The music in this room was coming through a $20K pair of Klipsch speakers (99dB efficient) driven by a 75 wpc Cyrus integrated amplifier with a built-in DAC that was fed by a Cyrus transport. These were definitely not your father’s Klipsch speakers, though a browse through their website tells that the Klipschorn, LaScala and Cornwall survive in updated versions. The subwoofer shown in the photo was not hooked up in this hotel room. A Linn Magic DS 1 all-in-one box was playing FLAC files through a pair of stand mounted monitors. "Keep it Simple" was the motto, here.

Polk Audio had a couple of rooms that were interesting. The first ran A/B comparisons of built-in speakers on a flat screen TV with their Soundbar 3000 IHT ($500) that included wireless transmission to a small subwoofer that could be placed anywhere in the room. It was obviously superior and something to consider for your mother-in-law, or even yourself if you don’t watch much more than the news, the Super Bowl and the Final Four on TV. It was a huge improvement and excellent execution.


In their other room they shot themselves in the foot with a modest, minimalist attempt at a stereo rig. Paired with the high-end Yamaha integrated amplifier ($2000) and CD player ($2000) was a stand mounted pair of RTI series monitors ($400). Unfortunately, there was no component rack, isolation devices or AC filtering. A handful of tweaks might have transformed the system and given show goers something to think about.


I stepped willingly into a Focal room with a home theater rig with a set of red, round-ish monitors attached high on poles near the corners of the room. I grasped the concept and moved over to their other room where they had their 30th Anniversary floorstanders ($3800) driven by a Moon 13.3 Integrated amplifier and CD 3.3 CD player. The 30th Anniversary model uses the same midrange cone driver as their larger models. With a V-shaped grille that exposed the tweeter at the top of the column the styling reminded me of the Pathos integrated amp. This is certainly a very smart looking contemporary design.


Cranking it up a couple of notches in the next room was a high-end Focal stand mounted monitor driven by Simaudio Moon CD player and integrated amplifier decked out in glossy red paint and black chrome fascia (or was that just gloss black paint?) Definitely high end bling, here. I know bling when I see it, but hey — if it raises the SOAF (significant other acceptance factor), perhaps it will stand a better chance of being allowed in the house. The music sounded a little dead here, but it might well have been the particular music at the time.


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