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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 4
Show Report By Rick Becker

Moving down the hallway to Fontaine H sponsored by Brosseau, a major dealer in Saint-Hubert, just across the river from Montreal, there were several rigs set up in this long, narrow room. Among the systems was a fine sounding rig featuring small stand mounted DALI Minuet monitors ($1795 in cherry, less in black or white) with an unusual chrome-like tweeter that reflected the lights in the ceiling, driven by Exposure electronics, a brand that we haven't heard much about in recent years, but certainly a very good sounding high-value line. On silent display was an unconventional shape DALI speaker in red with a short, dedicated monopod stand that appeared to be more of a lifestyle product, but knowing DALI (from Denmark), I expect it is a very serious endeavor. It was wired to a very uniquely styled YBA Genesis IA3, an integrated amplifier with a USB input, another brand (from France) that we haven't heard a lot about in recent years. Unfortunately there was only one person attending the room and I wasn't able to obtain a lot of information here.


This rig in the Import Hifi room in Fontaine F sported a $5k system logo and started off with a Rega P3 with an Ortofon Blue cartridge feeding a BC Acoustic integrated amp for the mid and tweeter of the BC speakers while the silver monoblocks drove the bass. Nordost cabling was used here. Note the excellent signage and the handsome wood sound diffusers present here. Since all the rigs in this room were on the long wall, side reflections were nowhere near as much of an issue as the random conversations. A step-up rig, also with a $5k logo, was to the left with better BC speakers, subwoofer and electronics. And near the entry to the room was yet another sub-$5k rig for smaller rooms—this one with stand mounted monitors and a subwoofer. There was even signage for a complete rig at $1247 + tax, well, probably not including decent cables, but a least an entry level price point to get started.


Lined up in the small hallway at the opposite end of the lower level from the escalators was a lot of interesting gear sitting on tables. A Rega $5k rig here included their Apollo CD player, Brio-R integrated amp with MM phono stage and floorstanding speaker. Also on display was the Music HallIkura turntable ($1495) shown here with the optional $85 Texas Longhorn Moo Mat. The plinth has a series of dots giving it the semblance of carbon graphite. Gotta love Roy Hall—ever the marketing maven. I thought his mmf 5.1se turntable for $1099 looked very handsome. The mmf 11.1 turntable, shown here with a Holstein Moo Mat, looked a bit complex with three pulleys, two speeds and a multi-layer plinth. A Rega RP6 ($1699) was disguised with a painted LP on its platter and the new Rega RP10 which I heard earlier upstairs, with ceramic platter ($6199, $7299 with their Apheta cartridge) was on display.


The Pathos display included the attractive Converto DAC (($1295) with coax, optical and USB digital inputs and RCA analog input. Shown on the bottom, here, it includes a headphone amp and on the rear are knobs for headphone gain and balance. The circuitry is entirely balanced. Above it is the Aurium headphone amp ($1495) with pure Class A tube input stage and MOS-FET power stage with 3.6W at 32 Ohm. Adjustable output impedance from 16 to 1000 Ohms will help you mate it to most any headphone and it features both balanced and RCA inputs and balanced and RCA outputs for Tape. (Does anybody still use tape?) This is a very nice looking desktop unit.

Also on display were the Pathos Classic One MKIII hybrid integrated amp, which at 70 wpc @ 8 Ohm, 130wpc @ 4 Ohm is like a beautiful woman who is also a master of martial arts. The sleeper here was the Ethos hybrid integrated amp/DAC (100 wpc @ 8 Ohms, 200wpc @ 4 Ohms) with digital and analog inputs, both balanced and unbalanced. It includes a preamp and subwoofer output for stereo home theater use. This is a svelte looking unit with their logo heat sinks on the side. There are also downloadable drivers for streaming music from MAC and Windows.

Tucked in the back in K8, one of several rooms sponsored by Plurison was a trio of Focal's new Aria 900 series with the new flax cone drivers that I raved about at the Toronto show. Here I saw the small Aria 906 two-way stand mounted monitor for about $1000-$1200 with vinyl wrap sides and glass top. From there the display jumped to the Aria 936 ($4399) three-way with three bass drivers and a separate midrange, and finally to the Aria 948 ($5400) three-way with a pair of larger woofers. Also in this room I had a chance to look at the very nice looking and very affordable Wharfedale Diamond 10.0 in a traditional block shape at $279 in a black wrapped chassis with gloss black front, and the larger 10.1 model in a curve-sided cabinet in wood vinyl wrap and gloss black front at $399/pr. Both of these speakers have received very favorable reviews over the years in their continually evolving iterations, but since they are marketed primarily in mid-fi venues I've never had a chance to listen to them. They looked more expensive than they really are.


To hear the new Focal Aria 926 I had to slide around the corner to the St. Leonard room that doubled as the display for Devialet, which now sports four different models. In the room they were using the $7000 entry level model 110 to drive the Aria 926 ($3200). As you can see, it makes for a pretty minimally invasive system, although other smaller speakers would make it virtually disappear. I really like the sound here from the 926 which seemed to go sufficiently low with a -6dB point of 37Hz. Like the Grimm system mentioned in Part 1, this is a system for music lovers, not for an equipment junkie who needs a dozen components connected with twice as many cables. It is pretty much a "one and done" rig—you write your check and then enjoy the music. Perhaps once in a while you hit the Devialet with a little polish, unless, like me, you appreciate the smudges as a living work of art. The models range from basic to complex, and lest you think this concept is some kind of toy, let me whisper...S/N 130dB.


Immediately across the hall from Devialet/Focal was this brigade of Rega turntables atop painted mannequins. Talk about a show stopper! What do you want to bet Devialet shows with one of these under their unit next time? Or perhaps a chrome mannequin with black fishnet stockings? Hell, the analog revolution would surge if they took this idea seriously and made the tops level for actual working turntables. What real man cave could be without one? I picked up a free Rega sticker, but I'm not sure whether I want to put it on my piano black Kharma speaker or the bumper of my rust-bucket Tracker. The bright green sticker kind of reminds me of The Incredible Hulk comics.


Off in the corner I caught a glimpse of the lovely Anne Bisson signing and selling CDs, LPs and USB cards of her music. A copy of her new "Tales from the Treetops" LP was visible under the raised top of the piano behind her. Did I miss an impromptu concert? Tom had picked up a copy so maybe I'll get to hear a few cuts next time he visits. Her music is available directly from her website and the usual audiophile LP outlets.


Swinging from Beauty to the Beast, I ducked into the Martin Logan home theater demonstration where the barbarians looked and sounded really fierce. When they started asking about my wallet I got up and ran. I prefer almost any kind of music to plundering barbarians, but the sound here was admittedly very good.


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