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AXPONA 2020 Show Report

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Le Festival Son et Image
de Montréal 2001

Le Festival Son et Image de Montréal 2001

Friday

  Audiophiles have a bad reputation for being a tad odd and somewhat weird with the ladies, but this one takes the cake. This top secret picture was smuggled off of the Death Star by one of our intrepid reporters. While we have no official confirmation, we have reason to believe that Ian White uses this odd and somewhat suggestive combination of Scary Spice, Kenny McCormack, and a Shakti Stone to achieve maximum schwing from his beloved Rega Planet. Hard to believe he is engaged to be married in the Fall

 


Naim NAP500

 


Naim Series 5

So what is green and lower case? How about the Naim logo. We, Ian White and Neil Walker, listened to a system worth about $42,000 offering a highly detailed listen. Of all the rooms today, this one sparked the most disagreement. Ian White, while agreeing that the active-version of the NBL ($17,500 CDN) speaker could have been a lot smoother, felt that the electronics were all state-of-the-art and worthy of a ritual killing. The CDS II CD player ($11,300 CDN), along with the Super-Cap external power supply was everything that SACD still isn't... ah, incredible with non-SACD recordings. Naim also used the Montreal Show to preview the NAP500 power amp ($29,500 CDN) that represents the top of the Naim amplifier line. A NAC 52 preamp ($5,580) and XPS power supply rounded out this system that was proudly displayed on a new Naim equipment rack that had attendees drooling. In the same room, Naim also demonstrated the new CD5 CD player (3,000 CDN), Nait 5 integrated amplifier, NAT 05 FM tuner, and two Flat-Cap 2 external power supplies. EnjoyTheMusic hopes to have both a CD5 and Nait 5 in for review in the near future.

 

Going to the Vivaldi room (seen above) brought us into another system that had the Totem. The Wind sells for $5,000 and had lots of accuracy but not necessarily the easiest sound to listen to. Certainly, the supporting cast offered unquestioned excellence. Heart of it was the CEC TL1 CD transport ($5,000), a legend among many audiophiles. It fed a Conrad Johnson D-A 26 DAC ($3,000) that then supplied a Conrad Johnson Art pre-amp ($20,000) with their music. Finally, the signal got its boost from a pair of Conrad Johnson Premier 12 monoblocks ($$8700).

 


Anthem ABM2

 


Paradigm Loudspeakers

For Friday, the Paradigm room for money sweeps took the value. Their speakers actually made home theater sound good and they did it for a price of $7,000. For the first $1,200, you get two PDR-8 subwoofers, 2 Cinema front speakers, a Cinema CC center channel speaker, and a pair of ADP dipole rear channel speakers. Your next $3,499 brings home an Anthem ABM2 pre-amp processor - a beautiful performer. Then, to put some muscle between the source and the panoply of speakers, the Anthem MCA5 amplifier takes an additional $1,600. Sound? U-571 blew us away.

 

On silent display, the imposing Martin Logan Prodigy loudspeaker stands in mute appeal for $15,000 to take it home (seen above).

 

One of the best rooms so far was entirely French - For approximately $50,000, the JMLab Utopia loudspeakers with a YBA system of CD player, pre-amp and amplifier, had the magic of real music. This room, largely because of the speakers, was breathtaking in its richness and detail of sound. One wonders what these speakers could do with better electronics.

 


Perreux CD Player

 


Vaessen Box Loudspeaker

The coolest style of the first evening went to New Zealand's Perreaux CD player and pre-amp (approximately $3,300) and the dual monoblocks, (approximately $5,000 each). Their curvaceous polished aluminum front plates set off these competent electronics which fed a pair of Belgium's Vaessen Box studio monitors (approximately $7,100).

 

 

 


Simaudio

Another room which took seriously the essentials of making music, not sound effects, was Simaudio's assemblage of Simaudio electronics supplying the power to a pair of Dynaudio Confidence 3 speakers ($8,000). Simaudio's CD player, the Moon Eclipse ($5,295) was feeding their P5 pre-amp ($4,000) and the W5 amplifier ($4,995). Spending over $22,000 for a cd player may seem a little steep, but this system delivers, even if some listeners find it a little too aggressive.

 

On silent display, a gorgeous TMS Signature turntable from Roksan. A major disappointment of this show is the number of high quality turntables sitting idle. We have little patience for importers who seem only to show turntables as found art. Vinyl is still better sounding than just about anything other than studio analogue tape. We think it is time for the people who want our dollars to take an interest in our analogue longings. Juts who is doing a favor for whom? Are you selling turntables or just doing us a big favor by allowing us to stand close to them?

 

Nearby, we caught a roomful of stereotypically passionate Italian gear. The Audio Analogue Maestro integrated amp (about $4,750) took the millivolts from its brother, the Maestro CD player and pumped them into the Opera Super Pavarotti 2 speakers ($2,300). Bearing the Pavarotti name is no stretch for the Operas. They did full justice to the Maestro electronics and offered us a real break in a wearying succession of home theater boom rooms.

 


Triangle

 


Cairn

From Italy to one of the stars of the show, the French naturally enough. Triangle manufactures a sensitive (92 dB) speaker, the Zays, for $2195. Hewing to a theme that seems more appropriate to Mountain Equipment Coop, the Cairn North Face amplifies ($2,500) and the Cairn Fog takes the bits and reassembles for $2,000. This combination stood out for its fullness and easy listening qualities as it enchanted with a clear and musical bass and an articulate midrange.

 


Lambhorn

 


AER Mark I

A real oddity to the surround sound crowd, the Lamhorn 1.8 loudspeakers ($6,500) use a single German AER Mark 1 driver which is mounted halfway up a 50" tall cabinet, the bottom third of which is a full width horn port. These drivers, with huge magnets and cones which look a lot like heavy duty coffee filters, produce a sound which some purists insist is the best in hi-fi. The Tenor OTL monoblocks at $14,600 were connected to an Audio Aero Capitole 24/196 CD player. Ian White felt that the 1.8 sounded much more refined than an earlier version of the speaker that was demonstrated at the show in 1999. He noted a lack of upper midrange glare that he felt was present when the older model was used with a Lowther driver. We were both surprised by how loud this speaker could play without the sound coming apart and making music listening painful. This system is most certainly worth a serious second listen.

 

Some manufacturers use the show to teach. Gilbert Yeung, owner, engineer and plant hand of Blue Circle set up his new BC8 ($6,850 per pair) solid-state monoblocks with a pair of small, unidentifiable speakers. They sounded great. So great, that in a moment of unrestrained glee, Yeung and Enjoy the Music.com™ writer Ian White, broke out into a dance. It was, we learned later, the Blue Circle Polka. As the dancers realized that their terpsichorean enthusiasm was about to crush the BC8s they shuddered to a halt, looked into each other's eyes and fled. Not like there is anything wrong with that.

 

Blue Circle has gear in three rooms this year and one of the best included the new BC26 200 watt stereo solid-state power amp ($4,600), BC3 linestage ($3,300), and Harbeth 40 loudspeakers. Looking a lot like a pair of Spendor SP100s, the Harbeth are '70s disco-style Godzilla-sized monitors that made people shut up and listen. The system did a superb job on vocals and made us want a further listen. A Naim CD5 and Muse DVD player rounded out this very musical sounding system.

 

Click here to see a
complete listing of show exhibitors.

Click here to see last year's show coverage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

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