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Salon Son & Image Report 2011
Montreal High-End Audio Show

Montreal High-End Audio Show Salon Son & Image Report 2011
Part 2 -- Report By Rick Becker


  Transparent Audio cabling was used in the rig with the Wilson Alexandria and VTL monoblocks. The power cords involved were the new PowerLink MM2 CX which was developed in an effort to make a less expensive PowerLink MM2. The problem was that while they were less expensive, they sounded better than the original MM2... so I was told by Bradley O'Toole of Transparent. However, “less expensive” is nowhere near cheap — about $2000 going into the VTLs and $1000 going into the source components.



A Proac floor standing speaker was sounding very good with Moon amplifiers and a Wadia digital front end. An UltraLink PGX-500 power conditioner with auto shutdown for over and under voltage protection seemed to be doing its job. Everything was connected with XLO cabling in their attractive signature purple color. The wood veneer on the ProAcs was exquisite ( I hope not an endangered species) and the sound was noticeably more refined and up to date than the traditional ProAc sound I had come to know over the years.


At the opposite extreme from the Wilson Alexandria was the cute U Cube speaker designed to be powered with a USB cable from your laptop. One of the pair has a built in amplifier and a quality cable connects one speaker to the other. With a single driver it was not only just as time and phase coherent as the Wilson, but a mere 0.0009375 of the cost at $150 per pair. With a single driver of decent quality, it has 170 degree dispersion and concentrates on the all-important midrange. Just lock them in your desk when you leave work.



YG Acoustics Anat III Studio loudspeakers ($70,000) are comprised of the top two sections of the full bore Anat III and they sounded superb in this modest (but not small) sized room. They were driven by Jones Audio monoblocks ($24,000) and a Jones preamp ($12,000) with a Marantz CD/SACD player. A Silver Circle Pure Power One 5.0 power conditioner cleansed the system. While I've heard the larger Anat before, this was my first exposure to Jones Audio from the Seattle, WA area and the combination was among the very Best Rooms at the show. The sound was extremely clean and detailed, even at the loud level I heard Eric Clapton performing. I would not recommend buying these speakers on anyone's recommendation, however. You need to hear them with ancillary equipment similar to your own, and with your own favorite music. They are extremely transparent, dynamic and precise. Word is that they require really good amplification and the Jones amps acquitted themselves very well here. I thought they were quite handsome and loved the random drilling on the top plate. I'm sure you're going to hear a lot more about Jones Audio in the future. It was pleasure to touch base with Dick Diamond of YG once again.


In one of those “Fooled You” exhibitions the Evolution S45 integrated tube amp was not really playing the adjacent Audes floorstanding speakers from Estonia, but rather their wall mounted counterparts utilizing the same drivers. While the architecture of the S45 was intriguing the thought of having to change tube was a daunting prospect. This $16,000 amp comes from Florence, Italy and is conservatively rated at 55 watts per channel. A CD player from Roksan contributed to the overall fine sound of this rig that was placed at the entrance to a large ballroom. A little further into the ballroom a modest rig connected with GutWire cabling produced a decent sound from a pair of LSA stand mounted monitors. Long rows of tables filled with LPs and an expansive display of GutWire cables were prominent in this room.



In this photo you see me giving my blessing to Sonus Faber's new Futura loudspeaker ($35,000). In past years, as much as I've always wanted to love the beautifully crafted speakers from Sonus Faber, I've often been disappointed. What I heard here was a major leap forward for Sonus Faber. Credit is also due to the Boulder stereo amplifier, the dCs digital front end and the Nordost cabling. Also present was an SME turntable that some visitors might have heard.

The Futura is a breakthrough design for Sonus Faber where the metal top and bottom are clamped together by a large metal backbone. The backbone, top and bottom plates were given a gorgeous chrome finish and the Sonus Faber name was engraved on the top. The high quality chrome finish is a rich counterpoint to the high gloss wood veneer on the sides with horizontal ribs, a carry over from their other high end models. Black cording anchored at the top and bottom plates forms a string-like grille cloth, another stylistic carry over. The port material is rather soft which makes it extremely quiet. Inside, a rod with three different diameters of mass attached to it to absorb vibrations. I was told this is a technology used in Formula One race cars to keep them from vibrating. I could use some of those in my old Tracker. They are looking at adapting this technology to some of their other models where it is feasible. Quite seriously, this was the finest Sonus Faber I've ever heard and another of the very Best Rooms at the show this year. A gracious tip of the hat to the retailer Son-Or-Filtronique for bringing us this presentation.


Louis Desjardins was the exposant who brought his Kronos turntable to the show. And no, that was not a machinist's error that engraved double “O's” in his logo. That's a visual cue to the fact that this table has double platters spinning in opposite directions to counteract the rotational forces of the platter. Who would have thought? Of course, as you can see in the photo there is a lot of other high engineering involved with sandwiched plinths incorporating a phenolic material kind of like carbon fiber, but using different materials and different glue. And even inside the platters the same phenolic is used to dampen vibration. The top two plinths are suspended, kind of like on an SME turntable. An SME 312 arm was used and I didn't catch the cartridge. Sorry. Whatever it was, this was the finest sounding room with an analog source that I heard at the show. The supporting cast for the turntable included Audio Research monoblocks and preamp. The phonostage was a Nagra. The $30,000 cost of the table includes the arm. And did I say this sounded really, really good? This room was presented by distributor Fidelio Audio who brings us those wonderful audiophile grade CDs and LPs and it easily ranks as one the Best Rooms at the show.


Steven Leung hosted his Raysonic room as usual and featured the Reference 2 Tube Preamplifier which showed little visual evidence of being a tube unit. A separate power supply with dual mono construction is nearly identical to the control center and sat directly under it. All circuitry is hard wired, helping them achieve a 95dB signal to noise ratio, but also pushing the price up to $11,500. The Reference 26 fully balanced tube monoblocks ($16,500) with 180 wpc were intriguing with their polished circles above each tube and large ovals cut out of the side panels. Here again is an impressive S/N ratio at 103dB for this Class AB1 push pull design. These amps, as well as their CD player all have a tasteful intuitive design and can run either single ended or balanced. With music emanating from Revolver speakers, this was another of the Best Rooms at the show.

If it seems like there were a lot of Best Rooms that is because the level of presentation at the show this year was very high. Also, because of the economy, a lot of lesser performing products failed to show up. A third reason may well be that the rooms were quite un-populated on Press Day... but I frequently encountered loud conversations much to my dismay.



The good news at the Bluebird Music room is that Jay Rein has downsized himself in the process of setting a good example for his son, a Triple-A baseball player. Jay looks like he has been running marathons on a regular basis. Also downsized in this room was the Peak Consult Princess XE loudspeaker ($24,000). It was so small, and the fine wood work was so well disguised in the black finish that I didn't even recognize it as a Peak Consult. It sure sounded like one, though. Powered by Chord electronics, including their Red Standard CD player ($14,900) and stung together with Van den Hul cables, this too checks in as a Best Room at the show. Toping out at $100K, that's the kind of performance you can expect to achieve. But for high Fun Factor at 8% of that cost you can have a purple Short Stack of Chordette components connected to your iPad with Bluetooth. That would include the Gem USB/Bluetooth DAC ($800), Scamp amplifier ($1795) and 2-High stand ($1300), Van den Hul cables and Spendor A6 loudspeaker ($3695).


Click here for part 3 of Rick Becker's report.













































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