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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 3
Show Report By Rick Becker

  In addition to the rooms with the Raidho speakers covered in Part 1, Audio Pathways also had some other notable gear on silent display. At an earlier show I missed the photo op to capture the re-introduction of the iconic Aragon power amps, shown here at Montreal in both the stereo (8008 model, 200 wpc, dual mono, $4400) and monoblock (Iridium, 400 wpc, $4500 each) form. These are now manufactured in the USA by Indy Audio Labs. Also shown were the younger brothers (notice I didn't say "baby") in the Acurus line including the Aries integrated amp which is a hybrid analog/Class D design with subwoofer output. The stereo power channels put out 200/400 wpc into 8/4 Ohms with a signal/noise ratio of 118dB at a price of $2800 US. A2002 stereo power amp (200 wpc, 8 Ohms, $2500) and A2005 five channel amp (200 wpc, 8 Ohms, $3800) were also on display. The Acurus evoked a fond memory as this is where I started out in the high end a couple of decades ago. Hopefully we will have a chance to hear this revived series in the future as they claim to have improved the sound to keep up with today's standards, still at relatively high value prices.


Another blast from the more recent past was the Herron VTSP-3A(r02) Vacuum Tube Stereo Preamplifier, Revision r02($6550) along with its matching VTPH-2 Vacuum Tube Phono Preamplifier ($3650) on silent display from Audio Pathways. This is another highly regarded preamp that I haven't seen or heard much about in recent years. It comes with a rather complete remote control with polarity, display brightness, mono/stereo selection, as well as the more common input, volume and mute. I had a chance to hear an earlier version of the preamp at CES back in 2009. Their solid state M1A monoblocks (150 wpc) look identical to the phono stage shown here and go for $6850 per pair.


With news of a new record cleaning vacuum machine flying about the web, someone mentioned their love of their Okki Nokki—hey, I saw one at the show! While it was on silent display, I learned that it has a quiet vacuum motor, scrubs in both directions and comes complete with goat hair brush! The price is somewhere in the $600 to $700 from what I could find out, but don't quote me.



Sony has been making an effort to re-enter the high end in the past couple years, first with loudspeakers, then the HAP-S1, a 500GB HDD hi-rez music server with built-in 40 wpc class AB amplifier that will not only enhance MP3 quality, but play back DSD and transfer files from your PC to the internal HDD player for $999. Now they have the MAP-S1 with 50 wpc that converts all signals to DSD and has built in Wi-Fi, NFC (?) and Bluetooth for $799. I saw a couple of interesting small monitors with both forward and upward facing tweeters for reasonable prices. The SS-HA1 is a hi-rez model designed to mate with the HAP-S1 with a wide dispersion 1" soft-dome tweeter and a rigid, shaped aluminum body for $699/pr. The SS-HW1 monitor was a more conventional model with block-shape and gloss wood finish priced at only $499. Either way, the HAP-S1 and a pair of Sony monitors comes in way below the $5k system class in which it competes. Nora Jones sounded very good, though there was a lot of conversation among eager show-goers and the one woman who was present to answer questions. I can envision a lot of young people entering the high-end through this pathway.


LineAV Design had beautiful component racks on active display (well, as active as a rack is supposed to be) and also in the Canadian manufacturer exhibit. The solid birch slats are pre-finished with varnish on all six sides and finely sanded before being bolted together, ensuring premium quality. The finish is UV resistant to retain the original color and the slats are glued as well as bolted together for maximum strength and consistency over time. Optional thick glass shelves featured beveled edges or you can leave out the glass for optimum ventilation. The three shelf design shown here was $3699 with a show special price of $2499. A two-shelf design is available either as a wall mount or floor standing version. Very contemporary, obviously.



Sometimes image is really important and in the Audio Note (UK) room David Cope explained that the model J speaker in black ash that I was listening to is actually a better sounding speaker than the gorgeous model K speaker with the fine veneer and gloss finish. Both speakers were priced about the same. The TT Two Deluxe turntable, Arm Three V2 tonearm and IQ3 cartridge were priced at $7300, which is indicative of the price range of this fine classic gear from the United Kingdom. And yes, the corners are the proper place for this particular brand of speaker.


While the presentation was all pristine from the front, a peek out back revealed lots of cables and battery power units for the Tri-Art rig which seemed to be a comprised mostly from their mid-level Bam-Bam series. (The Pebbles series is the entry level and their reference level Block series [think concrete & bamboo] is being re-designed). In the close-up photo of the turntable note the layering of bamboo and the attention to isolation that is played. I heard an LP of a young Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong as well as Sonny Rollins that both sounded excellent. Tri-Art is really into materials science and the result is obvious—both visually and acoustically. Digital gear from AMR provided an alternative front end. I've been watching these folks progress steadily over the years and the music just keeps getting better and better to the point where this is one of the best rooms at the show.


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