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


In the Solen room, in addition to tables full of raw drivers, were a bunch of small and larger headphone amps, some with built-in DACs, each of them only a few hundred dollars. Linda ventured over to the table with the wood cone driver I featured in last year's report while I snapped a photo of the little amps.


In another coupdefoudre room there was a very mod-looking rig with Vivid B1speakers ($15,000) with supplemental rear-firing drivers from South Africa. It's nice to see this contemporary looking brand gaining traction, probably as a result of its hugely successful Giya flagship model. The rig was fronted with a Luxman PD-171 belt driven turntable running into a Luxman L-550AX integrated amplifier complete with bass, treble and balance knobs as well as power meters. Very classic! There was also a Luxman USB DAC in the rig. The piece that caught my attention here was the new Luxman integrated amplifier SQ-N10 with EL34 tubes (12 wpc @ 6 Ohms) and a headphone amplifier built in on silent display. Also available with this amp is a companion D-100r docking station with a high quality DAC for iPod and iPhone. It connects to the SQ-N10 with a dedicated cable and comes with a remote that overrides all functions of the iPod to give you easy track selection with on-screen navigation. With its RCA outputs, it can be used with other integrated amps or preamps.


In another coupdefoudre room just down the hall was the PMC twenty-23 floor standing monitors playing in a room full of people, most of them in conversation. With its transmission line of 7.8 feet, it is said to have a frequency response of 29 Hz to 25 kHz. PMC (Professional Monitor Company) is a British firm I remember from long ago that seems to be making greater inroads in the consumer arena. Last I knew they were partnered with Bryston for cross-pollination on both sides of the Atlantic, but with Bryston coming out with their own loudspeakers I'm not sure if this is still true. The PMC was being driven here by a Brinkmann integrated amp that also featured a headphone output. A Clearaudio Ovation turntable was one front end, but I was hearing music from a computer source. The bass here was pretty boomy but I stopped back on Sunday for a more enjoyable presentation. The twenty series include two stand mounted monitors and two floor standers in four finishes


An attractive small floorstanding speaker from ASW in Germany, the Cantius 404, was driven by a Unico Nuovo integrated amplifier with phono stage that was serving a Clearaudio turntable. Again, the room was noisy, but it was evident that this rig was doing a fine job with the LP. The magnetically shielded speaker is a 4 Ohm drive with a frequency range of 35 Hz to 25 kHz, which also speaks well for the Nuovo amplifier driving it.


Perhaps in honor of the French alliance with the break-away colonies, AudioShop of Quebec combined a pair of Cabasse Pacific floorstanders ($16,000) with McIntosh electronics including the MCD1100 SACD/CD player with the D100 Digital preamplifier and their MC601 Quad Balanced monoblocks. I noted the use of special footers under the speaker spikes, but failed to ask about the unusual 8" woofers that jumped out at me in the photo. The white eye, of course, is their trademark coaxial tweeter and midrange driver. Music here was clear and very dynamic, but a bit bright on the top end. Here again, it was the item that caught my eye on the way out the door that was most interesting. In this case it was the very first example of the new MAC6700 Receiver, complete with phono stage, tuner and tone controls just like the old days, but also including a built-in DAC, I was told. For someone who loves the MAC sound, but doesn't want to go all out with separates, at $6500 this could be just the ticket. With 200 wpc I'll bet this becomes a real winner for McIntosh.


I was looking forward to hearing the Danish Raidho D-1 stand mounted speakers with their quasi-ribbon tweeters and diamond/carbonite mid/bass driver. I also foolishly hoped that in spite of all the good press they've been given they would not be $28,000. They certainly look the price with their superb "Do not touch" finish and the unique stand which really makes the brand. The front end was an Esoteric P-05 CD player (used as a transport) followed by Jeff Rowland Aeris DAC, Corus preamp and a Rowland power amp too low on the stack to identify. Transparent Reference MM2 speaker cables led to the Raidho monitors. Unfortunately, this room generated a lot of conversation, and while it was probably one of the best rooms in the show, that's not what I heard. I believe I returned on Sunday for a more definitive listen. There is a less expensive C 1.1 version of the Raidho with a ceramic driver rather than the diamond dust for considerable savings.


Across the hall I came upon the $15,000 entry level Raidho S2 floor stander being driven by a VAC stereo amp and preamp. With a ribbon tweeter and larger ceramic mid-woofers they were certainly moving more air than the D-1. I asked about the backbone of the speaker, which seemed unusual in a tapered design, but could not get information. At 92dB/W/m sensitivity and 6 Ohm impedance, they recommend at least 50 wpc, but claim they have heard wonders from small tube amplifiers, too. The VAC used here was not a small tube amplifier, for sure. The speaker is a ported design with a downward facing port on the graceful arching base that adds stability to the tall, thin speaker. Transparent cabling was used and there was both a digital and analog front end. I heard the digital, but didn't catch the brand.


AudioClub put together a Linn rig with a computer front end that played over Linn Majik Isobarik speakers ($6200) with concealed twin bass drivers working in tandem. The music heard in this sparse room was of the techno variety and that is probably the Linn's forte. While I'm a big fan of their LP12, especially since completing my radical modification of the turntable with off-the-shelf components, it seems to be extremely rare to find a current production model in action.


Somewhere, lost in Vinyl Land, I came across the new and very impressive Hannl Mera ELB 24V record cleaning machine for $4990. At that price you get variable speed and vacuum control. I was so dumbstruck I forgot to ask for a demonstration using my Running on Empty LP.


Every few years you stumble on something that is completely different. This year it was the Leedh speaker that looked like it stepped out of a Star Wars movie. Leedh stands for a French laboratory of holographic studies. At this point I can either veer off into a recapitulation of their white paper, or simply tell you how it sounded. In the interest of getting some sleep, I'll simply say it sounded a whole lot better than I expected. It is available for $12,000 without the subwoofer, or as shown here, $15,000 with the sub. So where's the sub, you ask? It's those little nearly cylindrical things that look like they might polish your shoes if you stuck your feet under them, down near the floor. The sound was big and transparent and nearly full range. The music had no trouble getting out of the box because there was none. But I had a lot of trouble taking my eyes off the speakers. Looking like a cybernetic evolution of Giacometti's stick people, I didn't trust them. The new Lua Sinfonia GS-Autobias amplifier from France that was driving them was a different story. These beautiful tube amps I could relate to. The 65 wpc Sinfonia GS includes an adjustable phono stage for both MM and MC, phase control and a metal remote control in addition to the autobias function, all for $12,577. The amp by the speaker was probably the Lua No. 6, a 130 watt monoblock. On the rack in the center of the rig were probably a CD player and preamp from this German company who also make their own speakers. They have been getting good press in Europe where they are well established and are apparently looking to find a foothold in North America. As you might expect, this room was buzzing with conversation from people wanting to know more about this gear. From what I heard, both of these companies deserve a shot on this side of the ocean.

That's it for Part 1 and thanks for reading and here is much more to come!


Click here for part 2 of our Salon Son & Image Report 2013.













































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