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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 4

The Cinderella story of the show this year was a million dollar prize offered to the audiophile with a head large enough to wear these headphones. While several people claimed the prize, they were ultimately disqualified when the judges determined that it was merely their egos that fit the headphones.

 

Wandering into the Coup de Foudre room (Longueuil) I fully expected to see Peter McGrath and the new Wilson Sabrina speaker, but was instead greeted with a smorgasbord of other high end brands that are sometimes seen in the smaller hotel rooms. For example, along the first wall was a pair of Devore Fidelity speakers with gorgeous figured wood baffles along with Leben integrated amp and Brinkman Bardo turntable that might well have been hosted by John Devore in one of the rooms on the hallways in an earlier year. On another wall was a pair of Shindo components in a very dark green finish with gold knobs. On the left was a D'Yguem, an 18 watt monoblock ($25,000 pr.) with volume control that uses parallel 300B in SET. It is said to have a 110dB S/N ratio which is pretty extraordinary for a tube amp. To the right was a Masseto stereo preamp with MM/MC phono stage ($13,500US). This was a rare opportunity to see this exclusive low-power, high quality gear. I was told never to expect to hear it at any show, as that would be against the agreement Shindo Laboratory has with its dealers. I guess that's the perfect excuse for me to pack up my hot-rodded Linn LP-12 and truck over to Art Dudley's house for a listen. Thanks to Danny Labrecque of Coupe de Foudre for walking me through some of this gear and chatting about vintage motorcycles. If Art doesn't come through for me I'll have to ride up to Montreal this summer to hear the Shindo at Coup de Foudre.

 

On the active system in this room I heard cuts from a Blue Note 1595 LP, Cannonball Adderley's Something Else, which features the same line-up as Miles Davis' Kind of Blue. The new Brinkman Spider turntable ($14,000 without arms) sporting an EMT TSD15 cartridge (~$2000) on a captivating Reed 1G 9" tonearm ($4200) from Lithuania with a wood arm tube was sounding very good with lots of tonal color. A 10" version is a couple hundred dollars more. Amplification was through the Luxman C-600f control amp and M600A monoblocks that operate in Class A for 17 watts and go up to 120 watts A/B ($9000 each) that were driving Vivid Audio's K1 speakers ($26,000US) in a very red red finish. Luxman's USB DAC DA-06 was also in the rig.

Off in the front corners of the room was a pair of modestly sized Rockport Technology speakers that I would have loved to have heard, a pair of PMC floorstanders, and Vivid's curly top Giya G3 speaker ($44,000US). A smaller G4 model, about one meter tall, is available for about $38,000 if your room is more modest. I've been applauding Vivid speakers for years and at first felt they were too far ahead of their time from a styling standpoint, but they are hanging in there (and doing well, I presume from the great reviews) and now seem practically, but not quite, normal. Around the room on tables were seen samples of the many lines they carry including a Line Magnetic amp, Opera speakers, Simply Italy amp, Clearaudio turntable, VTL amp, BAT amp, and a beautiful Triode Lab stereo 2A3 amp with a blue chassis. Not only was this room candy shop yummy, it was one of the Best Rooms at the show. And no, it wasn't just the playing of Lou Reed's "Take a Walk on the Wild Side" that won me over, but that was certainly one of those goose bump moments.

 

Next door, in the Pointe aux Trembles room was an equally tempting delicatessen, one of three spaces hosted by Plurison. Rather than compete with an active display, they designed the room as a maze with various marques represented in a well-lit vignette. It was almost like walking through a jewelry store or an art gallery. Naim gear was prominently featured and once again Emmanuel LeQuere clarified the mystery of their new products including their NAC N 272 ($8295CDN), a hub unit that combines digital formats and analog sources with preamplifier functions that you can supplement with CD player, phono stage, Bluetooth, iRadio, multi-room distribution and integrate with a power amp and speakers to achieve the power and quality of separate components. This is the first Naim component capable of dealing with DSD 64.

Naim also showed a new series of cables with extreme flexibility built into the connectors to eliminate physical cable strain and microphonic vibration and any noise that might be induced by that vibration.  The cables are available not only in the Naim DIN format, but also in RCA and balanced form as well as various combinations of these three types for intermixing Naim gear with other brands. The Super Lumina series of cables range from $3495 to 11,995CDN per pair. At the furthest end of the path was a huge Focal Grande Utopia speaker and the Naim NAC S1 Statement preamp ($100,000) and NAP S1 monoblocks ($150,000/pair) which I saw, heard, and described in my Brooklyn report last September. These are the amplifiers you want for your difficult 1 Ohm loudspeakers, as they will put out 9000 watts into that low resistance.

 

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