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Salon Son & Image 2010
Montreal High-End Audio Show

Montreal High-End Audio Show Salon Son & Image 2010
Part 2 -- Report By Rick Becker

  Well, I'm in trouble now. I hear they're having an audiophile tea party in Wales throwing all kinds of American audio gear, CDs and even LPs into the sea. My friend Tom informs me that I erroneously stated Wales was in England. It seems that Wales is to the west of England on the isle of Great Britain. I guess I'll never get a piece of Leema gear for review, now. I've emailed Hillary Clinton to make a formal apology on my behalf. Sorry, dudes.


Jay Rein of Bluebird Music was on hand with a tidy rig comprised of Exposure CD player, preamp and 100 watt monoblocks in a Quadraspire rack driving pair of Spendor's new A9 speakers ($7295 US) featuring trickle-down technology from their flagship model. With 90dB sensitivity and a load that never falls below 6.2 Ohms, it is an easy load to drive. The Chord DAC was their new QBD76 with a new proprietary chipset that replaces the 8-year old technology in their top rated DAC64 yet retains the same $5k price tag. Inputs include Bluetooth and USB as well as a pair each of coax, AES and optical. Signal to noise ratio is 120dB. It has been a while since Exposure electronics have made a noise so at first I thought the mediocre sound here was as good as it gets. But Jay persisted in inviting me to play some other music. Thankfully, with a fresh cut, the system popped to life with improved clarity, dynamics and air all courtesy of a fresh CD. The old Chord DAC64 was a $5K unit, so that tells you what league the new QBD76 is in. However, if you check out the Bluebird website you will find an introductory special for a very limited time. This is certainly one of the most visually unique and intriguing pieces in all of high end audio... and this one does come from England. Cables in this room were from Van den Hul, by the way. The entire rig, minus the optional Chord DAC went for $14,409 US.


Gershman Acoustics announced new cables made in the USA, but the real surprise was the beauty of the music coming from their flagship Black Swan loudspeakers ($40K) by Roksan Caspian monoblocks (100 wpc). Roksan CD player and preamp completed the rig. I've heard the Black Swans with a number of other amplifiers, both tube and solid state and this was the most satisfying ever, drawing a big crowd. They also had on hand their Sonogram speaker, now up to $4500 with a wood veneer finish in place of the utilitarian stage black finish it had when first introduced as a very high value model. On my second visit they were playing their new Sonogram Reference model with an additional blob of wood added to each side for rigidity as well as other refinements, no doubt. At $6500 the Reference was doing an excellent job also. While the Sonograms look like a conventional block-shape speaker, internally they are divided up so there are no parallel surfaces.


Last year Fidelio Music, the audiophile recording company, was featuring their new recording of Anne Bisson, Blue Mind. This album has been a big success for them and Anne Bisson returned again this year for another concert which, in the course of my work, I regrettably forgot to attend. In the Fidelity room this year they had traded their VPA tube Nagra monoblocks for a cool running new solid state stereo amplifier, the MSA, which uses MOSFETs and puts out 60 wpc, or twice the power and twice the current if used in the bridged mode. Fidelio used two of these amps, running at 60 watts per channel, unbridged, to drive their Verity Audio loudspeakers. The attention in this room is always on their music, and they showcase it very well with their outstanding reference rig.


A dps turntable sported their new carbon fiber arm with a Lyra Argo cartridge that sounded very good. Ayre is manufacturing the power supply for the North American market to use with this German built turntable. Ayre monoblocks were driving the Sonus Faber Cremona speaker ($12,500) in another very good sounding room much better than in previous years when Ayre and Sonus Faber have had a larger but duller, over damped room.


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