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Le Festival Son et Image de Montréal 2004

Page 3
Report By Rick Becker
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  An all Chord system powered Neat Acoustics Ultimatum MF7 loudspeakers that sported a pair of upward firing super tweeters.  he rack of Chord equipment in their silver anodized aluminum is a stunning contemporary visual statement, and an expensive one, at that.  New at the show were the Blu CD transport, CPA 4000 preamplifier and SPM 1400E monoblocks, which put out 480 watts into 8 ohms, 1,000 watts into 2 ohms.  No clipping here. Note the beautiful natural tiger maple finish on the Neat loudspeaker and the awesome architecture of the Chord electronics.

Chord And Neat

Upward Firing Super Tweeters On Neat


Gradient Revolution loudspeakers from Finland were making a big splash back in the 1990s and the basic model has undergone some refinement over the years, particularly a revised coaxial mid/tweeter. This $7K CN loudspeaker sounded very refined driven by Gamut electronics.  Standing well out into the room, these loudspeakers do an especially good job with orchestral music. Their triangular column styling is interesting enough to justify the forward placement, and tasteful enough to fit into both contemporary and traditional décor. Acoustically, it is accurate and easy to listen to for say, the rest of your life.

Gradient Loudspeaker


Focus Audio is a Canadian loudspeaker manufacturer whose room also usually impresses me. The FS888 ($10K CN) was their featured loudspeaker. This year they did it with a bevy of PS Audio equipment: power regenerator, power cables, preamplifier, and model 250 power amplifier.  The source was digital — an Ayre CD player and the Everest speaker cables were from the new Audioquest series that uses a battery to condition the dielectric of the cable.  The interconnects were Audioquest Sky.  This was my first exposure to the new Audioquest cable and most of the PS Audio equipment, so it is difficult for me to lay the blame on why this room sounded so excellent. My expectation for the 250 power amplifier was not the highest, since it appeared much smaller than a "proper" muscle amp should be.  But it really had a tight, fast grip on the Focus loudspeakers.  There was a lot of synergy going on here in this system, and it didn't bother me one bit that there was not a tube in sight.  The signature of the Focus loudspeakers, of course, is not only their fine sound, but their beautiful gloss burl finishes, which even extend down to their much more affordable Classic Series loudspeakers.

Focus Loudspeaker


Gershman Acoustics has retained the signature shape of their GAP loudspeaker, which I fell in love with back in the '90s, but upgraded it with a new bass driver, a newly designed transmission line, a new crossover, and new binding posts to become the 828 model.  The sound here was well balanced with a Rega Jupiter CD player feeding Linar Audio pre- and power amplifiers.  The classically styled Linar amplifiers boast exceedingly good specifications reaching very high wattage into low resistance and 110dB S/N ratio.

Gershman 828 Loudspeaker


Tondino Acoustics is another regular exhibitor at Montreal and they were playing a two-way, front ported, floor stander powered by Linn electronics — CD player, pre-amplifier, 2250 power amplifier, and Bis cables connecting it all. The accuracy and focus of this system impressed me and the music was much more accessible and engaging than what I heard in an all-Linn system in another room.  I didn't catch any prices here, but the Tondino loudspeakers are fairly moderately priced, if I'm not mistaken.

The Quad room was remarkably under-populated when I arrived so I was able to sit front and center with the 989s and recalibrate my ears on this loudspeaker that pretty much sets an industry standard for midrange clarity and neutrality. The rest of the system was first rate, too.  An Arcam FMJ CD player upsampled data to 24/192. A conrad johnson 17LS pre-amplifier fed one (or two?) MV-60 (SE version?) tube amplifiers.  Sometimes the music is just so compelling that I overlook some of the details, which is to say that this was a very good room.

Naim had a couple of rooms, one of which featured the $5,550 CN Allae loudspeaker making good music with a reasonable soundstage while being placed up against the front wall.  In another room, they showed the same trick with an entry level Naim system costing about $7,000 CN. And when we say "Naim system" we of course mean everything in the room except the carpets and the chairs. For someone who must keep their loudspeakers up against the wall, this is a definite contender among few.

Naim Loudspeaker


Antique Sound Labs had their $4K/pr Explorer monoblocks in combination with Reference 3A's new Dulcette two-way stand mounted monitor that put out very good bass for such a small loudspeaker. Coming in at $2,100 CN, $1,695 US, this crossover-less design was tube friendly, as most Reference 3A loudspeakers are, in spite of its moderate  87dB efficiency. I thought they sounded quite good.

Reference 3A Dulcette And ASL Amplifier


Dynaudio had their tall Confidence C2 Limited Edition being played by Simaudio Moon electronics. Because of the narrow sweet spot with the C2, I actually preferred the less expensive Dynaudio S5.4 loudspeaker in the rig mentioned earlier in this report.

Ginko sent me an invitation, but every time I went by their room and was confronted by a line and a wait to get into their controlled demonstration — something to do with vibration isolation platforms, if I recall correctly.  I'm sure the people who gained entry must have learned something here. Have been very impressed by, and currently use, a variety of such devices in my own system. Maybe I will see them in New York.

RL Acoustiques presented a new moderately priced (for them) loudspeaker that was more of a bass reflex design than the typical horn loaded design of their other models.  The Lam MK-1, at $6,500 CN uses the AER MK-1 driver. The front end was an Audio Aero Capitole CD player directly feeding the 150-wpc Tenor 150Hps stereo hybrid amplifier that was announced last year, and is finally in production.  While this system had great resolution, I felt it presented an upward-tilt in the tonal balance department, possibly because of the limited extension of the bass.  But if the frequency response of the loudspeaker fits your favorite flavor of music, it was a great combination. It certainly didn't want for power.

Arcam presented their new surround sound receiver, the AVR 300, capable of 7.1 playback, for about $2K US.  In another rig, Acoustic Energy AE 3 loudspeakers ($12.5K CN) sounded a little edgy powered by Arcam FMJ monoblocks.  This room had multiple systems set up and ready to play at the slightest hint of interest from a visitor. Unfortunately, with so much going on in the room, I suspect it was difficult to optimize any given system. They seem to do this every year, so it must meet their objectives.

I heard the smaller introduction first, being powered by a Gryphon Callisto 2200 integrated amp with 200 wpc ($12K CN). The Gryphon Mikado CD player ($15K CN) features asynchronous upsampling and takes the Rega Jupiter styling concept beyond even the next level.

Gryphon Electronics

Small System With Gryphon


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