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Salon Son & Image 2014 Report Montreal High-End Audio Show
Salon Son & Image Report 2014 -- Montreal High-End Audio Show
Part 2
Show Report By Rick Becker

The Lawrence Audio room featuring a cello-shaped speaker, aptly named Cello, with dual ribbon drivers on front and a rear-firing ribbon tweeter on the back, attracted a lot of visitors. The Cello is a beautifully made speaker and has lots of technology spelled out on the flyer. The room was very carefully arranged, but I didn't feel the music was really getting outside of the box with this design. The electronics were all from Bryston, but I heard them sound a lot better with Bryston's own speakers for a lot less money than the $18,000 asking price for this design from Taiwan. I know the airiness and soundstaging that rear-firing tweeters can bring to a speaker from my exposure to Vandersteen and Von Schweikert models, but I didn't hear it here. I was perplexed, to say the least.

 

The ultra-modern Cabasse monitors, complemented with their TSA-500 subwoofer were a visual contradiction to the classic McIntosh stack with which it was mated. That stack included the MT5 turntable, MCD 1100 SACD/CD player and C2500 tube preamp. Indications were that the music was sourced at 44.1 and 96 kHz from a music server elsewhere in the room. If you want to do tube gear with Cabasse, might I suggest some Zesto for visual continuity? Nonetheless, the sound was certainly respectable from the coaxial drivers in the Cabasse and the green lights on the 275 power amp tubes were very trick, indeed.

 

It has been, I think, a year since I first heard the Leedh speaker and the novelty of the design has been integrated with my long exposure to contemporary 20th century art. It answers the question "Why be norml?" and moves on to deliver outstanding sound quality. If you don't already know, the little black cylinder down by the floor is the subwoofer (and not included in the $28,000CDN price of the speaker). That is a Trans Rotor turntable (~$5700?) with a handsome LP weight on top with a special modified cartridge from O2A, who also makes the cables in this rig. A Lua Reference No. 7 tube preamp from Germany was next to it. Below the preamp was a Lua Appassionato Mk III CD player with tube output and Lua tube monoblocks on the floor, but I think the AVM solid state SA8.2 stereo amp (250 wpc/8 Ohms) was driving the Leedh at the time. On silent display was a $5k system with an AVM all-in-one unit combined with an Aurelia Aniara two-way monitor from Finland.

 

The Magico line of speakers is certainly a hot ticket in the upper echelon and I was very interested to hear the S3 model which is in the sweet spot of their lineup. It was driven by Ayre electronics from the new twenty series including the preamp and monoblocks. This series is all new inside, though it looks very similar to previous models. Digital files came from a laptop into dCS Puccini digital gear. A Shunyata Talos conditioner filtered the electricity and their Anaconda cable was used in the rig. The fast jazz I heard was precise but overall I felt it was kind of dry. Being a tube guy and analog lover, that's probably a predictable conclusion, but there were other solid state rigs at the show that moved me more... some more expensive, for sure, and some less. I was also kind of cool toward the brown metallic finish of the S3, but I could probably learn to love it over time.

 

Retailer Son Ideal put on quite a display of British goods in a two room suite. In the silent room they showcased their $5000 rig composed of Rega Apollo CD player, Rega Brio R integrated amp, a Rega RP1 turntable with Ortofon Red mm cartridge, and Harbeth P3ESR monitors with a very nice wood veneer. I wish I could have heard this one sing. On a shelf at the side of the room was a lineup of all but the RP10 turntables. Not to worry, though, as the RP10 was playing in the big rig in the other room. I listened in on the pitch the host was giving to a visitor and he said the RP6 is the real value in the line. Sure, the RP8 is better, but if you want "better" you should save up for the RP10 to make it a really significant upgrade. So he said.

 

I slid into the adjacent room where we were treated to very enjoyable music coming from the large Harbeth 40.1 stand mounted monitors ($12,500). I love this speaker, except for the kit-like appearance of the front baffle with a couple dozen screws visible when listening without the grill cloth. For me, this mandates listening in the dark. The front ends included the Rega RP10 turntable shown in skeletal form with its separate power supply on the shelf below, along with the Rega Aria phono stage. A Rega Saturn R CD/DAC provided the digital front end. It includes not only USB, but two coax and two optical digital inputs as well as a direct digital output if you wish to use a different DAC elsewhere in your rig. The amplifier was the Pathos TT Mk III hybrid (~$8500) with tube input and solid state power stages that put out 35 wpc in Class A. The music was tonally rich and emotionally inviting but on the warm side the kind of rig you could listen to all night long without strain whether from the digital or analog front end. I've consistently loved these three brands over the years and although I've never owned anything from any of them, I think they've subliminally modified my DNA.

 

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