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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 2

 

  In the Charisma Audio room I was treated to lovely sound from the JAS Odin floorstanding loudspeaker, a 2.5-way with a ribbon tweeter, two ceramic woofers and a downward firing port that covered a range of 29Hz to 60kHz. It was beautifully finished in an unusual light veneer and had very sturdy outriggers for the spikes to stabilize the 40" tall loudspeaker. The Odin retails for $7800 CN. It was powered by Audio Space Reverence-1 monoblocks that put out 75 watts (Class A, triode, push-pull) each with a pair of 300B tubes pushing a pair of 845s. The Reference-1 presents some refreshing new styling from China and retails for $24K CN for the pair, although this is the most expensive amplifier by far in their extensive selection. A nice looking integrated with headphone output starts at $1600 CN. And not to be forgotten in this room was the iTube, an iPod system in white plastic for $390 US. We saw several variations on this theme at the show, but this was the only one with a tube in the circuit.

 

In another VMax room I heard this Opera Callas Sp floorstanding loudspeaker sounding very fine. Note the horizontal veneering on the sides. The front of this 2.5-way loudspeaker with twin 4.5" mid-woofers is covered in black leather. A rear-firing tweeter contributes to the spaciousness of the soundstage. The spike extenders at the rear contribute to the stability of this 38-pound loudspeaker. This is a real Italian class act for $2995 US. My notes seem to indicate that a Graaf GM 50 integrated tube amplifier ($8500 CN) drove the SPs and an Audio Analogue Maestro 24/192 CD player ($3395 CN) was at the front end. On silent display in this room was an interesting Audio Analog Primo Tuner VT — hybrid AM/FM RDS for $995 CN.

 

Revelation loudspeakers driven by Exposure electronics produced a very accessible sound — warm, full and inviting. This was the Mistral S-5 monitor with Sub-5 woofer design for Revelation and I thought it was very handsome. Its uncluttered front view conceals the complexity of the design, however. The rear-ported top unit, which has an external crossover on the backside, is bi-wireable and also contains a rear-firing super tweeter. The sealed lower column contains an additional rear-firing woofer and is self powered with multiple adjustments and connections at the bottom. There is no pretense of a grill cloth — just good, solid design with a first class finish that would be at home in either traditional, country or contemporary décor. Note how the veneer carries through from the upper to the lower modules. Very well done. Also check out their little Venus S 3.5 loudspeaker for $700 CN.

 

 

In another room I experienced the Revelation Mistral S-6 that is a beefed up version of the S-5 above. With an even cleaner façade showing no woofers, the sub section houses four 6" woofers in isobaric fashion with two firing toward the rear. The midrange also jumps up from a 5" to a 6" in this model, and the bass extension drops below 30 Hz. With a Naim CD player, Exposure preamplifier and Odyssey monoblocks, this combination exhibited sharp, controlled S's — something a different combination of components might alleviate. Nice bass here, certainly. This speaker runs about $7K CN. For smaller rooms, Revelation makes numerous affordable and fine sounding loudspeakers that I've commented on in the past. Don't forget them.

 

Robert Lamarre presented his RL Acoustiques single driver horn loaded loudspeakers once again for purists who insist on point source imaging. His Tenor monoblocks, now out of production, drove them exceptionally well.

 

  

I immediately recognized the Sound Fusion loudspeakers from several years ago, in spite of the Emperor's new clothes — in this case, new burl veneers. The equipment rack shows an obsession with vibration dampening carried to the extreme. What was it Einstein said about simplicity and elegance? Maybe if they took a page from artist Roy Lichtenstein and painted the loudspeakers and rack in primary colors it would take on a kind of Tinker Toy look for adult children. The big problem here is the music sounded so damn good that someone might actually want a pair of these loudspeakers. A custom paint job by Adrian Butts' sister (of Tetra Loudspeakers) might turn these loudspeakers into a genuine work of art that could draw five times the $20K asking price. Just think about it. A limited Collector's Edition that would fly in the face of every loudspeaker painted piano gloss black! Whew! I need to calm down!

Derrick Moss of Aurum Acoustics in Newfoundland had his rig set up on a slight angle to optimize his system as he has in the past. The deep, full bass of this one-brand system over-loaded the room a bit, but the excellence I've heard from it in previous years shone through nonetheless. The $48K CN rig is sold as an entire system because of the particular functional combinations that were designed to optimize performance. The preamplifier and CD player are combined in the front end. The power amplifier with its 300B tubes and crossover are combined, and the loudspeakers feature self-powered woofers with solid state amplifiers while the tube amplifier takes care of the mids and highs. If you were able to listen through the strong bass in this room, you recognized this as one of the Best Rooms in the show. I present this low light photo because it reveals the simple elegance of the electronics, as you would experience it at home. The visual design of the system is outstanding, yet understated, and suitable for the finest homes.

Gershman Acoustics showed their flagship Black Swan loudspeaker again this year and it sounded better than last — perhaps more broken in. Magnan Audio Cables connected it to Linar solid-state electronics. The Black Swan is a two-piece loudspeaker with the mid and tweeter in an A-Frame design that straddles, but does not touch the bass unit. This allows for precision phase orientation at the listening position as well as providing an architecturally interesting design that plays very well in the light with its piano gloss black finish. Unfortunately, I missed the opportunity to hear these speakers driven by Manley tube electronics at CES earlier this year. Ernie Fisher of The Inner Ear has reviewed this loudspeaker since I saw him last year and he assured me that it does quite well with tube amplification.

 

  

I found Ernie Fisher again this year lurking over the very fine Chapter components that were driving an equally fine $22K pair of Eben loudspeakers with their ribbon tweeters. The source for this rig was a music server that could store 10K tracks of uncompressed music. I trust they meant pop tunes; a symphony would be a pretty heavy track. The Chapter preamplifier was about $5500 US and the power amplifier about $6500 US. Here again, I probably should have spent more time listening.   

A valve audio Predator hybrid integrated amplifier ($3700 CN) powered a pair of Mobile Fidelity OM2 floorstanding, front-ported loudspeakers ($3000 CN) to a very satisfying level with 200 wpc into 8 ohms. The valve audio amplifier comes from South Africa and is dual mono construction with tubes in the input section feeding six pairs of complementary mosfets. It is imported and sold only by Music Direct. The loudspeakers feature very nice woodwork, seen here in rosewood and can certainly be recommended for audition. Of course the Avid Accutus turntable at the front end must have had something to do with the fine sound, too. This is one of my personal favorite turntables on the planet—absolutely gorgeous, yet not over the top. A BAT phono stage also helped out. This was a very high quality room in which I probably should have spent more time. An Esoteric CD player was also in the system, so perhaps you might have heard that playing.

 

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