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Salon Son & Image 2015 Report Montreal High-End Audio Show
Salon Son & Image Report 2015 -- Montreal High-End Audio Show
Report By Rick Becker -- Part 2

In the StereoPlus & Design room a rack full of McIntosh gear, topped off with a Marantz TT15S1 turntable ($1800CDN) was driving one of two sets of Totem Acoustics Element Fire loudspeakers. With music playing at a reasonable volume the stand mounted monitors (88dB sensitivity, 40Hz-22kHz) were drawing only a few amps as seen on the McIntosh MCP 1500 power amp meter. Graphics on the walls were even more spectacular than the music, which was certainly very good, as it always is with Totem speakers. Totem seems to have pulled out of the Montreal show as neither Vince Bruzzese nor his son was anywhere in sight, preferring to let a local dealer present their line. With so many large audio shows all over the world today, it is probably more cost effective for a manufacturer to support local dealers’ participation in the show than to ship their own gear all over the planet themselves. This would certainly be a plus for the brick and mortar dealers, too. The Totem-designed 7" Torrent driver used in the Fire is run without a crossover, yielding remarkable transparency. A new, slightly smaller stand mounted monitor, the Ember, with a new 6" Torrent driver and a different tweeter has recently been introduced. And for those who need to maximize their floor space, there is the wall mountable Tribe series with a 4" Torrent driver in the top two models of the series. My personal favorite is the Tribe III, which exhibits a holographic soundstage even when only one speaker is driven with a monaural source. On a minor note, I noticed an unusual record clamp made of clear plastic on the Marantz turntable. It certainly looked affordable, but I have no idea how effective it might be.

I think it was at this point I had a panic attack when I realized I did not have my small briefcase in my hand, not that there was much more than a couple of garage sale LPs, a compilation CD and a Clif bar in it, but that realization triggered a sprint down the hall and a room-by-room check until, thankfully, I found it. Phew! Sentimental value, of course, but also lunch.

 

  

The Grant Fidelity room had been anticipated with unusually high enthusiasm this year because I had just completed a review of the PureAudioProject Trio 15TB open baffle speakers and I was hoping the April edition would be on line in time for the show. (Click here for review.) Well, that didn’t happen, but the room was exciting anyway, with the speakers being shown with brilliant blue plastic baffles (in honor of this show in Quebec?) They were stunning with the window light shining in from behind. Any fear of how they might sound with plastic baffles (instead of the German Oak on my review sample) was quickly dismissed with music coming from a Consonance Droplet top loading CD player (a unique combination of aluminum and plywood chassis in an organic kidney-shaped design). In place of the Psvane 845 monoblocks shown in Toronto last fall, the new Psvane Audio Reference TS845 integrated SET amp putting out 25 wpc in Class A with the Psvane 845 tube ($3550US) made the Trio sound remarkably similar to what I experienced at home with my Coincident integrated amp running the same 845 tube. The review was pretty much a rave, given the extraordinary transparency, focus and dynamics of the speaker, but Ze'ev Schlik (designer of the speaker) told me they are working on extenders for the feet to increase stability as I suggested. Also on the floor of the room were alternate full-range drivers for the Trio, a Heil AMT (in front) and BeymaTPL/150H (behind), which come with their own crossovers and will obviously change the sound of the speaker. The underlying concept of the speaker design is DIY, which allows you to modify and create a sound to your own liking. Just as at the TAVES, this room ranked as one of the Best Rooms at the show, and here again, both the amps and the speakers were "sold to a very nice person." Three other items deserved attention in this room—first, the Psvane Audio CT5 integrated KT120 amp ($1399US) on silent display (shown here with KT150 tubes, an upcharge), looked to be very well made and certainly an affordable way to get involved with tube gear. Rachel Zhang says the KT150 gives a warmer sound and the shape of the tube will promote longer tube life and quieter operation. Second, on silent display was the smaller PureAudioProject Trio10 Timeless Morel ($3750US) using 10" Morel woofers specially designed for this open baffle speaker and probably more appropriate for small to medium size rooms.

The third "item" was the presence of Norbert Mundorf of Mundorf capacitor fame, seen above with Rachel. Norbert has been living in China for the past five years and now speaks Chinese as well as English... and of course, German. Although it was not on display here, I was given a brochure of the new MA30 monitor kits designed in collaboration with Accuton, celebrating the 30th anniversary of both Mundorf and Accuton who have been mutually collaborating over all these years. It combines the least expensive Mundorf AMT air-motion tweeter with the least expensive Accuton ceramic mid-woofer along with a crossover laden with Mundorf parts. WBT binding posts are a suggested upgrade to this kit speaker which is offered in Standard Edition and Special Edition. The kit is designed to offer maximum performance at a modest cost in an easily built configuration. I learned that as a young man Norbert raced touring cars in Europe. Perhaps an Alfa GTA or Porsche 911? It was certainly a pleasure to chat with him, if only briefly.

 

Across the hall in the Son Ideal suite one room featured a lineup of Harbeth monitors along one wall and Rega turntables on another. The music came from the larger room where a Rega rig combined with small Harbeth P3ESR stand mounted monitors that were undersized for the room, but at least gave visitors a chance to hear this well regarded speaker. I don’t know if other Harbeth models rotated through this rig during the weekend, but that would have been a cool game plan for anyone considering this famous brand. More work for the presenters, perhaps, but hey, they looked like healthy young dudes. The Rega RP8 turntable with separate power supply was playing very nicely with a cartridge I didn’t recognize. Taking turns with vinyl was the high-value Rega Saturn R top loading CD player with optical, coaxial and USB digital inputs. It looked like the Rega Elicit R integrated amplifier with 105 wpc and a mm phono stage powering the system, assisted by an Aria outboard phono stage with completely separate phono stages for moving magnet and moving coil cartridges. Good sound in this room, but I recall being more in love with the Rega gear when it was driving a larger Harbeth in this room here last year... or was it TAVES?

 

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