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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Small System With Gryphon
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