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Salon Son & Image Report 2013 -- Montreal High-End Audio Show
Salon Son & Image 2013 Show Report
Part 1

  The trip up from Rochester was like the Good Old Days, going back more than fifteen years, pre-9/11. Although the show dates have migrated to late March, it was still winter. And it was a dark and stormy night. I struck a Zen note behind the wheel and envisioned our Tracker gliding down the endless groove of a vintage LP. Gary Snyder and Lawrence Ferlinghetti would approve, if they'd given a damn at all. Choosing to avoid the lake-effect storm along Lake Ontario, the roads didn't clear until we were deep into the Adirondacks. The clouds broke and it was a moon-lit drive through the snow covered mountains to Plattsburg where we pulled in at midnight. Linda had recently given up car camping so we bedded down at the pre-arranged motel.

At Customs in the morning, the agent exited his booth, walked to the front of our car and kicked the caked up ice off the license plate so he could read it, then wished us a bon voyage. An hour later we removed our sunglasses and descended to the fourth level of the parking lot beneath the Hilton Bonaventure — not as deep as previous years. At the Festival desk, pre-registration was speeding the entry of visitors and before long the halls and rooms were filling up. It was Saturday and like the Good Old Days, it was packed.


John DeVore was riding herd on a tube rig featuring his new DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/93 speaker in one of the many coupdefoudre rooms. It is a scaled down less expensive version of the O/96 I heard last year. The model numbers indicate the sensitivity in dB/W/m, so it is still quite tube friendly. Likewise, the front baffle sports an exotic looking veneer on plywood with the exposed layers at the edges being an element of the design. At 35.5" high (same as the O/96) its presence contributes to the décor without dominating it. On my first visit I thought it was a little too soft at the low end, but in my return visit at the end of the show, listening to my own LP, I found it wonderfully acceptable without a hint of irritation. The top end was sweet and airy and the overall tonal balance was very good at moderate listening levels. That's what tubes can do for you and this year the rig featured a Leben RS 30EQ tube phono stage, a Line Magnetic LM-502 CA vacuum tube audio DAC Unit, a Line Magnetic LM-218 IA integrated amplifier ($3500) and a Brinkmann Bardo turntable with an EMT cartridge. This was a rig for people who care more about enjoying the music than the brand names on the components or playing the game of endless upgrades. If your listening sessions come at the end of a long hard day, this is a rig you would love. Highly recommended again this year.



Jeffrey Catalano of High Water Sound has become quite the road warrior, as his Triumph motorcycle t-shirt might suggest. His rooms always offer superior sound with an eclectic collection of premium components from esoteric brands. The speakers here were Horning Hybrid Eufrodites Zigma Ultimate Plus (100dB/W/m efficiency, $24,000) powered by Thoress 845 single ended monoblocks (22 wpc with an 845 tube) and a Thoress matching preamp, supplemented with a Tron GT7 phono stage. The front end was a TW Acoustic turntable from Germany with two TW 10.5 tonearms: one with a Miyajima Labs Shilabe cartridge ($2995) and the other with the Miyajima Zero Mono cartridge ($1995) in case Art Dudley showed up with a really vintage LP. The equipment stands were SRA, appearing functional and handsome. Cables were all Zensati with power cords running into a Silver Circle Type 6 power conditioner. For digital music there was an mbl Corona CD player, which I didn't hear. The speakers featured woofers on the back side in face-to-face pairs, in phase, meaning that they dance back and forth with a pistonic motion driving the sound wave through the horn in the cabinet as well as directly out the back side. This model begins at $18,000 while other models start at $12,000 and top out at about $40,000 for the dreamers among us. I go on with Jeffrey about his Triumph t-shirt and he shared that he lost his Triumph to Hurricane Sandy, but has replaced it with a Ducati. The bikes he rides say a lot about his passion for life and music, too. On my second visit on Sunday he sported a Ducati shirt and talked of how he spent 22 hours setting up and tweaking his room, yet there were no signs of room treatment other than a few tall plants. Being a tube guy myself I really loved this room on the first visit, but on the second Jeffrey spun a couple of cuts from my LPs and treated me to something from Lou Reed. Open, airy, dynamic, focused, it grabbed my emotions in a way that much more expensive rigs at this show could not. Count this as one of the Very Best Rooms at the show and seek them out at a show in your corner of the country.


Between rooms I ran into Taras Kowalczyszyn of TEO Audio who lifted the lid on a heavy duty plastic shipping container to show me his latest $2000 liquid cable interconnects. They have met with critical acclaim in Japan, he says, but the Japanese distributor is looking for something a little more expensive. Get Out! If I can line up a couple of Dobermans to guard the house this summer, I may take him up on his offer to review these as I have heard his liquid cables sound very good in the past.


My friend Bernard Li was hosting his Charisma Audio room that was buzzing with interest from the crowd. I had my first opportunity to hear the Well Tempered Lab Amadeus GTA turntable ($4235) with an EMT TSD 15 MC cartridge ($1999). Designed in the USA, manufactured in China, it seemed to live up to its excellent reputation for high value. The small Audio Exclusiv P 0.2 phono stage beside the table had an interesting doobie piggybacked on it. The SPG (Star Ground Pod) was part of the grounded shield technology on the top of the line Madison Audio Lab E3Extreme 1 interconnect ($1194, 1M). Also in use were their Extreme 1 speaker cables ($1668, 2.5M). Madison is the new company from Mathew Bond of Tara Labs fame. For CD, there was a Shanling CD-T2000 CD player ($2839) used as a transport to feed the Calyx Femto DAC ($7200). With a marble faceplate and copper knobs, the Audio Exklusiv P 7 tube preamp ($7999) was certainly eye-catching. It fed the new Calyx Femti power amp ($2099) that features the same form factor as the Calyx DAC I reviewed with a beautiful G-clef engraved on the top. It puts out 125 wpc in stereo, or can be bridged to put out 500 watts. Since it is a cool running Class D amp, you can leave it on the top shelf for visibility without fear of burning little hands. The speakers in piano gloss black on matching stands were the fine sounding Capriccio Continuo Admonitor 311 two-ways ($5999, plus $1699 for the stands).


On silent display was part of one of the $5000 and Under Systems that were promoted throughout the show as a way of attracting new-comers to the hobby. It was a great idea and signs outside the doors to rooms featuring $5000 entry level systems were a clue to show-goers. Shown here, the Audio Space AS-3i is an EL34 tube integrated amp ($1699) that was paired with Audio Space AS3/SA monitors and an Audio Space T-88A tube CD player, as well as stands to come in under $5000, but you will also need some cables. The amp runs 16 wpc in triode mode or 32 wpc in ultralinear mode.


And finally, almost as an afterthought, Bernard pointed out the new Audio Space V-12 MC phono cartridge expected to be about $1000. It was used on a $16,000 Audio Space table and arm that garnered an award and cover photo on the Japanese print journal, Analog. It was shown here on the Scheu Analog Cantus tonearm ($1560). This cartridge could be an excellent value.

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