While this report marks my 11th
consecutive show coverage of the Festival Son et Image, it is probably the
first time that weather has not played a significant factor in my
coming or going. No blinding snowstorms, no sub-zero nights camping out in the
Hotel Tracker, no black ice, no roll-overs. Just further proof of global
warming. With a new venue at the Sheraton, I was forced to park near the top
of the big hill about 8 blocks away. The show began unexpectedly with my first
encounter with what many of you will recognize as the Smart Car, manufactured
in Europe and marketed by Mercedes Benz in Canada.
reality, it is an EAR, Environmental Audio Resource that will allow you
to continue pursuing High End audio when gasoline hits $8/gallon in the near
future. Optional features will include roof mounted solar panels and a
21-speed supplemental pedal drive. Arriving on Saturday morning a few minutes
after the show opened, it was immediately clear that Marie-Christin Prin had
worked out a better system for registration. The lines were much shorter than
at the Delta in previous years and the upper exhibition floors filled up
quickly with audio enthusiasts. It was also immediately clear that the hotel
rooms were considerably smaller than most of the rooms at the Delta, and
uniformly rectangular, which was not always the case at previous shows.
Again this year I have nominated a bunch of Best Rooms at the show.
Why so many? I'll editorialize at the end of the report. Several home theater
presentations are also clustered near the end.
Starting At The Top
of us come to the Festival to hear and see what is new. So what room do I walk
into first? The Edgarhorn room, of course! This venerable loudspeaker
was a new iteration of the design, with different drivers than the past. It
was finished in fiddle back maple with purple heartwood and I suspect Mitch
Despaw, an expert woodworker whom I've written about before, had something
to do with the cabinets. It sounded absolutely glorious supplemented with a
huge subwoofer that blocked out much of the window light from the room. The
18" JBL driver in the subwoofer fired downward from the dark cover on top of
the 8' long folded horn that was encased in the light maple box. The sound
wave emerges through the three rectangular ports at the bottom of the front
panel. No fancy flared ports for Dr. Edgar! With an analog front end, and a
$2500 US ModWright tube phono stage, the horns were driven by a 15 wpc Cy
Brenneman integrated amplifier.
haven't a clue who Cy Brenneman is, but he obviously knows how to build
first class tube amplifiers. The music was open, dynamic, liquid, airy and
totally uncompressed. Surprisingly, the bass blended in naturally and did not
overload the room, nor did the speakers visually fill it up with their
gorgeous clear natural finish. They do, however, require a certain amount of
visual adjustment to get used to them.
Form definitely follows function here. For all the effort other
manufacturers have put into designing special cones for their loudspeakers, it
was amusing to see the Edgarhorns and subwoofer mounted on casters for
easy positioning. It was an honor to meet Dr. Edgar for the first time after
hearing so much about his classic design over the years. I was very highly
impressed and now understand why he has such a cult following. That's
him on the left with Luca Lusardi and Mitch Despaw on the far right.
Loudspeakers driven by Vincent electronics produced a satisfying
experience in another room, but I would gain better insight into the new
Triangles later on in the show. Heard here was the Antal 3-way with dual bass
drivers ($2499 CN). Of particular interest were two Vincent amplifiers on
silent display. One appears to be the SP-T100 hybrid monoblock ($1495 CN) with
a tube input stage, 100 wpc, doubling down to 200 wpc at 4 ohms, and with the
first 10 watts in Class A. The other was a vertically oriented (desktop)
hybrid preamplifier, KHV-1($895 CN) with headphone jack for the system in your
executive suite. I also like the looks of the little Triangle Stella, which
for $699 CN sports the same tweeter as the entire Esprit series. The Celius
model, which broke the ground for Triangle's success in North America, now
lists for $3299 CN in its upgraded form.
Acoustics is a loudspeaker company from, well…Vienna that is imported to
the US by Sumiko on the West Coast. In the past I haven't seemed to hear
much about Vienna Acoustics, but I've always liked their sound on those rare
occasions I've heard them. Their cabinets are made in Vienna and finished in
Northern Italy, which may account for their very high quality. The line was
updated almost a year ago, and this was the first I've heard or seen the new
series. The Beethoven Baby Grand ($3500 US in clear maple, country cherry or
black piano lacquer; $3895 US in rosewood) was presented at Montreal driven by
Primare electronics from Sweden and supplemented with a REL
R-505 subwoofer from Great Britain ($2495). This was one of REL's new
line-up, too. It blended so seamlessly that I'm not sure it was even on. I
was told it rolls off above 25Hz.
The Baby Grand goes down into the low-30Hz range all by itself. Not only
did I love the rosewood finish on the Baby Grand, but I admired the metal
outriggers for the spikes. By creating a larger footprint they add stability
to the 40" high loudspeaker. The entire rig priced out in the low $20K CN
range, excluding cables, and the sound was very good. Visually, it also was
well unified with its clean European styling. This is a very competitive
loudspeaker in the hotly contested $3K-$4K US range. Also of interest was the
small Vienna Acoustics Waltz Grand that comes with angle adjustable wall mount
brackets and can be positioned horizontally or vertically with its
asymmetrical cabinet. It is available in cherry, maple or piano black for $695
US, each, or $795 in rosewood, just like its larger siblings. It is difficult
to find wall hanging loudspeakers for a surround set-up with such finely
finished wood cabinets. With a frequency response down to 70Hz and 91dB/W/m sensitivity, a quintet of these with a REL subwoofer could be quite the ticket!
It is nice to see Sumiko making an effort to demonstrate the Vienna Acoustics
in addition to advertising it. If you get a chance, check them out in LA.