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Le Festival Son et Image de Montréal 2006 Show Report
The Home Entertainment and Electronics Show
Le Festival Son et Image de Montréal 2006 Show Report The Home Entertainment and Electronics Show
Report By Rick Becker
Page 1

 

  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.

In 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

Most 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.

I 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.

 

 

Triangle 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.

 

 

Vienna 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.

 

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