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Salon Son & Image Report 2013 -- Montreal High-End Audio Show
Salon Son & Image 2013 Show Report
Part 3


Perhaps in anticipation of Art Dudley showing up with monaural LPs, Audio Note had one of their SPE-HE loudspeakers turned into the corner. Actually, as fate would have it, one of their amps went down from a power surge. For those who dared to relive their youth and listen to just one speaker, the sound was natural, warm and very inviting. It is easy to understand why Art uses these as his reference. In fact, when I happen upon a mono LP in my collection, I sometimes dump the volume on one speaker. And sometimes, when I put on a mono LP and I am not aware that it is, I con myself into believing it is stereo…until surprise, surprise, I read the album cover. Maybe stereo is just an expensive trick the industry is playing on us? The speakers were $9400/pair or only half that for just one if you only listen to mono records. Good sound here, nonetheless.



The doorway to the main Simplifi Audio room was jammed with people, so I went around the corner and found their second room. There, I was able to sit in the sweet spot and with remote in hand, switch the digital room correction from the DSPeaker in and out while listening to my own music. It became really easy to appreciate the difference their digital room correction makes in the bass region. In conversation, it also became clear that their processor digitizes the entire audio signal when used between the preamp and power amp, even though the room correction only takes place in the bass region. And then of course it is converted back to analog before entering the power amplifier. For most systems this product is likely to be used in, it will do more good than harm, but for those seeking maximum dynamic range and maximum digital resolution, you will have to deal with room correction in other ways, and with lots more money.

On Sunday I doubled back to the Simplifi room and heard the $15,000 Klangwerk powered speaker from Switzerland. This contemporary white design sounded excellent and while it seemed pricey for a speaker of this size, when you consider you don't need amplifiers and the floor space they take up, the value of the Klangwerk becomes evident. The host pointed out the unique plastic band across the tweeter which aids dispersion and contributes to the smoothness of the treble. Seen next to the Klangwerk was the familiar Gradient Revolution which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. I also noted the variety of sock cloth colors that are now available for this disguised open baffle speaker. Decorators will delight in the selection.


In the Audiophonie room I found an unusual collection of gear driving the stand mounted Spendor SP2 speakers ($4295). Up top was a Hanss turntable with an SME arm, but I was listening to a Parasound Cd1 player ($5095) above the Parasound JC3 phono stage ($2661), both from their premium Halo series. Below that was a Jadis JP15 preamp ($6500) that was driving Jadis JA 15 monoblocks ($6500) which seemed to contain twin 300B tubes under their cages. A Jadis Orchestra ($5000), their most popular integrated amplifier, was on silent display. It was nice to see this fine French line back at the show, although I sorely miss the days when Pierre Gabriel put on massive displays of their gear. Times have changed. I was expecting to hear a little warmer sound here, but it was on the cool side, perhaps due to the recording or the digital playback.


There was a familiar ring to the Brodmann loudspeakers from Austria, but most of which are made in Germany. They sounded a lot like the Bösendorfer speakers I heard at the New York show years ago. In the really old days, like when Ludwig van Beethoven was alive, Bösendorfer was a pupil of Brodmann, who made the world's greatest pianos at the time. And today, I believe the Bösendorfer loudspeakers have fallen back under the auspices of the Brodmann brand name, with no sacrifice in quality as far as I can see or hear. The little ones, Model F S, on stands are their entry level and go for $5000. I heard the middle ones, Model VC 7, seen next to them which go for $25,000. The line tops out at $85,000 and the finish of all models is superb with very transparent finishes revealing beautiful wood grain. The floorstander, here, had side facing mid/woofers, but the largest model had a large V-shaped sounding board on its back side designed to reproduce the bass. Using cabinets incorporating principles of horn resonator and acoustic sound boards, it is not surprising that I thought they had a tonal coloration not unlike a piano. It was a very rich sound coming from an exquisite cabinet. The solid state electronics were all from Electrocompaniet from Norway.

In the Detaillant Haute Fidelite room there was a modest $4000 system with a Creek Evolution 2 CD player feeding the new Creek Evolution 50A integrated amp, both set up on the marble top of a nightstand and petite floorstanding Totem Arro speakers dressed up in extra cost piano gloss black ($1800) looking and sounding very good. The Creek is a 50 wpc integrated, but the Arro is only 4 Ohms, so the Creek is effectively 80 wpc in this system. Very smart pairing along with a smart set-up on the diagonal in this room.


Audiophonie had another modest system that combined an Audiolab 8200cd player ($1199) as a transport for the Audiolab 8200 M-dac ($899) DAC with volume control that fed the Audiolab 8200p power amp ($899). These were driving Neat Motive2 speakers ($1599) on stands. This was a nice sounding system for not a huge amount of money


The larger system in the Audiophonie room featured the new Totem Forrest ES which has been upgraded and given a lustrous piano gloss finish, adjustable front foot and new crossover to go along with its new $6000 price tag. Both my friend Tom and I thought this was a significant upgrade and worth the price. The standard version is still available at about $4000. Unfortunately, I didn't take note of the electronics in this rig, but I suspect it was solid state. I had the pleasure of chatting with Nick Bruzzese, son of the Totem founder, who was on hand to help out their local retailer. Totem did not sponsor a room this year and Vince was probably home resting for the upcoming New York show.

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