Ooooh, Sunday. What is going on here? Where am I? What, what, what's that sound going round?
At the end of the day on Saturday, without Steve Rochlin knowing, we indulged ourselves at the
Justice Audio room and picked up some high quality vinyl reissues (Steve
sez: No fair dude!). A dinner at Au Petit Extra, a busy restaurant on Ontario Street East rounded out the day and then it was back to the room to finish the rest of the Saturday report.
A SimAudio Moon Eclipse CD player fed into the Chinese phenom, a Passion PAK-L11 pre-amp ($900) and a Passion PAK-A11K amplifier ($1125) made a pair of
Meadowlark Blue Heron speakers ($8,000) strut their stuff. While the room was somewhat small for such a large pair of speakers, the bass was surprisingly taut, visceral without any boominess, and the upper frequencies smooth and creamy like warm butter. The Blue Heron use the Audax plasma tweeter and it most certainly makes a difference.
While most Blue Heron users will most likely use something more expensive than the Passion PAK-A11K power amp, the fact still remains that this KT-88 based product drove these speakers with ease and would probably match even better with one of the smaller Meadowlark designs like the Shearwaters and Kestrels. For a very low price, the sound quality would be exquisite. The amp on display was using the JJ KT-88s which sound like a real winner to our ears.
Meadowlark Blue Heron
Anyone see where I left my slide-rule?
If Yves Lepage and Guy Desjardins have anything to say about it, music lovers in Montreal will be listening to two-channel audio for quite some time. We dropped in to chat with the
Association Montréalaise des Audiophiles and were quite impressed by their dedication to the cause and how well organized they are. The association meets monthly and has an active membership of 100. This DIY-oriented group had some very impressive amplifiers and pre-amps on display, all made by current members. These people care - a lot. At their May
9th meeting, they are looking forward to their visit to l'Oratoire de St. Joseph in Montréal. If you are not familiar with St. Joseph, it is one of Montreal's most impressive churches and landmarks. The audiophiles will receive a tour of the church's famous organ. It is a huge pipe organ
(any Doctor Phibes fans in the audience?) and following the tour, the group will be attending a concert. Every town, city and village should have one. If you are interested in the Montréal association, contact
Music From Around the Globe
Audio Aero's Capitole CD player ($6,200) was everywhere at the Show, on duty in no less than 5 rooms. The Capitole was one of the few really impressive CD players at the show, even more so than any of the SACD demonstrations, filling rooms with some of the most involving, detailed and high resolution sound this side of the Plains of Abraham.
Nirvana S-X interconnects ($1350), S-L and Royale speaker cables, and Nirvana power cords were used throughout the system. Globe Audio Marketing distributes Nirvana and Audio Aero in Canada and distributor Matt Brazeau seemed to be on to something as most of the listeners in the room were WOMEN! Nothing says "lovin" like some Elvis through the Audio Aero Prestige monoblock single ended amplifiers ($20,000) and a pair of
Wilson-Benesch Act 2 loudspeakers ($19,000 CDN). As much as we really loved this room, we were stunned to see that Matt Brazeau was not using a turntable. Brazeau was and still is one of the most outspoken proponents of analog in Canada and one of the best at setting up a table. We'll chock this one up to some clumsy porter who must have dropped one of Matt's numerous tables.
Globe Audio Marketing Room
Eli Gershman makes speakers which remind us of religious themes. A monk at prayer, the ark in a synagogue - that sort of thing. He also makes speakers which are very, very good. When we arrived, the
Avant Garde RX 20 speakers were playing grand orchestral music. The Meridian 588 CD player was the source supplying a
Kora pre-amplifier ($1,625) and Kora single-ended 100-watt monoblocks ($4,875).
I love to be amazed, and if I sound like a kid in toyland, that's because I am. These speakers are tiny floorstanders - tiny because they are tapered up from the woofer section through the midrange to the tweeter. The sound of this system was bright, airy, full of life, very fast - the transients were breathtaking. The deep male voices in the chorus had impressive body and detail. The strings were liquid, lifting the ears on a foundation of clearly articulated bass viols. One could hear the skins in the tympani as they rang after the impact of the drumstick. One could hear the metal in the cymbals. These speakers have presence. And, what is more, they do not hurt your ears. At the price, they amaze - the toyland factor went up quickly in this room.
It looks as if Tash Goka of Divergent Technologies is going for the "high end system at ludicrously low price" show award. This year, we were greeted by a pair of
Antique Sound Lab 10 watt monoblocks ($198 the pair) feeding very fine Reference 3A MM da Capo speakers ($2,500). I guess I exaggerated a little. The electronics in this system also consisted of the Alchemist A3403 DAC ($2,500 CAD) and the Alchemist A3303 CD transport ($2,500 CAD). The pre-amp for these monoblocks was an Antique Sound Lab passive pre-amplifier T1-DT ($399), using an autoformer volume control.
Goka is worried that the audiophile community is shrinking. "Young people do not, for the most part, even know about tubes as an excellent alternative to the edgy sound of most transistor audio gear. I am trying, with the support of Antique Sound
Lab, to win new members to the audiophile community. When the intelligent, cynical gen-Xer meets the 15 DT-S integrated amplifier, its basic honesty can overcome the suspicion bred by $10,000 units."
Hey, Isn't that Steve's Ongaku?
(Steve sez: Could be... Kondo a no go for me,
i found better!)
OK. At this point, let me apologize for suggesting that the AER driver reminded me of a magnet surmounted by a coffee filter. I apologize because I neglected to include the Reps drive unit, a similar product. We listened to the
Reps speakers ($14,500) receiving signals from (thank you, lord) a Grado Signature 8 cartridge mounted in a Rega RB300 tone arm mounted on an
Audiomeca Roma turntable. This signal was amplified by an Experience Sonore tube phono pre-amp ($2,900) and the Experience Sonore 211 22-watt, single-ended amplifier ($9,425). Claude Lemaire, vinyl DJ Supreme, brought 300 records with him, one of which was South Pacific. The voices of Kiri Te Kanawa and José Carreras were absolutely gorgeous played through this system. I even began to think best room thoughts. But then disappointment set in. The
YBA CD 2a CD player went on line with Kennedy playing "L'Estate" from Vivaldi's Four Seasons. The violin was harsh in the top end and the bass seemed almost non-existent. I am very sad to report this. These single driver paper cone speakers are so attractive in concept and so wonderful in presenting real music. Reps has put an enormous amount of time and work into the driver. We hope he addresses these shortcomings - those voices haunt us with their beauty.
ProAc 3.8s were holding down the fort at the Four Points in a system using a SimAudio Moon Eclipse CD player, SimAudio P5 pre-amp and a pair of SimAudio W10 monoblocks ($9,100). This beautifully presented system from Montréal dealer, SM Hi-Fi -- Sensation Musicale was a welcome relief to our ears and an attitude-free environment. No, they didn't make us wait outside like sheep, which is more than I can say for some other people at the same hotel.
The CD Ben Webster at the Renaissance gave the system a chance to show off, and it did. Webster's silken sax provided a left channel base for a shimmering cymbal on the right. As usual, the 3.8 were slightly forward, listenable and detailed, although lacking on the bottom end. The lack of "kick" could be attributed to the fact that the SM staff were forced to pull the 3.8 more than seven feet from the front wall to deal with some excel low level energy.
For years, I taught the little people of grade nine that a soliloquy was a speech given by an actor alone on the stage in which the actor gives his or her inner most thoughts. The purpose of this dramatic tool was to allow the playwright to reveal character, to advance the plot, to allow a character the opportunity to create suspense and dramatic irony by revealing what he or she was going to do. The
Soliloquy speakers do something similar. They increase tension as you hear the musical argument build and expand. They advance the plot (obviously) and create suspense as you wonder what more the music can give beyond what it already has. Above all, they reveal the composer and performer's inner most thoughts by revealing the inner detail of the music.
We listened to several of the Soliloquy speakers including, the 5.3 ($3,000 CAD), the 6.2 ($3,800 CAD) and the 6.5 ($9,500 CAD). The electronics with the 5.3 were the
Talk Electronics Cyclone 1 amp ($1,399 CAD) and Thunder 2 CD player ($1,799 CAD). A
Jeff Rowland amp and Metronome CD player powered the 6.5. Eraudio, a new Russian manufacturer was demonstrating a number of its single-ended integrated amplifiers with a pair of Soliloquay 6.2 and was the best system of the three. A Metronome CD player provided the source. An EnjoyTheMusic review of the 6.2 will be appearing in the very near future.
While not a lot is known about Eraudio, a brand new company from Russia, one of its principals was on hand to give us a look at some of their rather large single-ended integrated amplifiers. Of particular interest was a new output tube (which isn't really new, but was used by the Russian military for years and with reported great reliability…although I don't think we'll be seeing the U.S. Air Force implementing them into the cockpits of any F-15 or F-17 anytime soon) that reportedly puts out 50 watts in triode mode. The tube in question (model number escapes me) is almost four times as large as the venerable 6550 and rather on the heavy side.
If you had to ask, you couldn't afford the gear in the Wilson-Benesch/dCS/Jeff Rowland/Cardas room which when totalled, was close to $100,000 Canadian pesos. At $42,000 (CDN), the
Wilson Benesch Bishop represent the top of the innovative British manufacturer's product line and for a really large speaker, they sounded rather good in a medium sized room. A
CEC transport was used along with the state-of-the-art dCS Elgar and Purcell upsampling converter and DAC.
Cardas Golden Reference and Neutral Reference cables were used throughout. Jeff Rowland Model 12 monoblocks powered the system rather nicely. In our opinion, this stratospherically priced system was far more relaxing and musical than a certain $350,000 system across the street which made our noses bleed. The unusual look of the Bishop is somewhat disconcerting to some who wonder why the drivers on the bottom are facing the other way, but the system does reproduce low bass notes with authority and is without question one of the best pieces of eye candy around.
Click here to see
complete listing of show exhibitors.
Click here to see last
year's show coverage.