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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 3

 

  In a room sporting a Chinese logo, I found an entire system of unfamiliar components.

What was labeled as "Original HDCD Player" was a CD-A9.3 HDCD Player with 24 bit/192KHz sampling for $4200. Jungson Class A CA-MP100L monoblocks were labeled as "The King of Hi Fi amplifiers in China" with 100 watts Class A at 8 ohms, doubling down to 4 ohms, and doubling down again into 2 ohms! Weighing 94 lbs each, the pair is priced at $9500. With their polished chrome faceplates with blue-light power meters, Linda thought they looked a little like toasters, but they exuded an air of very high quality. The loudspeakers were labeled Compact Audio, model WZ5 Mk II, but were 3-way floorstanders with a vent for each driver — Vifa tweeter, Compact mid-woofer and Vifa 8" woofer. Rated at 90.5 dB sensitivity, 4 ohms, they stood a little over a meter high and come home for $7800/pr. Looking back at Chinese equipment I saw in New York ten years ago, I tried to imagine where they will be ten years hence. The photo here illustrates the original creative design work that is beginning to emerge from China.

In the above photo are two beautifully designed remote controls. With a lot of people milling around in this room, it was difficult to get a fix on sound quality, but it was certainly on the "very" side of "good."

Reference 3A's new Veena 2-way floorstanding loudspeaker for $3495 was delightful driven by a Copeland CTA 405 50-wpc tube integrated amplifier with an all tube phono stage for $4495. The Veenas were standing on spiked Sound Mechanics platforms about 2 ½" thick. On my sweep through the show on Sunday afternoon I had an opportunity to hear their more famous MM deCapo I monitor on beautiful stands that I expect would be about the same price. While the Veenas are nice, don't overlook the MM deCapo i.

 At Focus Audio I had my first opportunity to hear a loudspeaker from their Master Series. In the small room, they wisely chose the smallest of the three floorstanders from that series, the Master 2.5 ($17,300 US). Vitus Audio, an ultra high end manufacturer from Denmark,used their Andromeda cables to connect the Focus loudspeakers to Vitus Audio SM 101 balanced Class A monoblocks ($56K CN per pair). A Weiss Jason transport and Weiss Medea dac provided the front end for the Vitus Audio SL 100 balanced preamplifier ($32.5K CN). The fit and finish of everything in this room was outstanding, as was the sound, easily qualifying as one of the Best Rooms at the show. Although my personal preference may be for tubes, this top shelf solid state gear cannot be ignored and I expect you will be hearing a lot more about both Vitus Audio and the Focus Master Series in the future.

 

 

In the next room Focus Audio returned to the world most of us know with their smaller model FS78SE loudspeaker ($3450 US) that was shown in their gorgeous trademark Piano Burr Walnut veneer. The smaller Vitus Audio SS 010 stereo amplifier ($14K CN) with 2 inputs and internal volume control is rated at 50 wpc, Class AB, but sounded much stronger with the first ten watts being Class A. An Aurum CD player was in use, but on silent display was their red book only SCD 010 that will premier at the upcoming Los Angeles show. While less expensive than the big guns in the previous room, this system was still in the upper echelon in the grand scheme of things. Still, for a lot less money, this smaller system gave up precious little quality to their larger system, vividly illustrating the rule of diminishing returns. Keep an ear open for this gear at LA.

 

Air Tight and IsoClean appeared together in the same room, but I didn't catch the loudspeaker, or record a comment on the sound. Sorry, gentlemen. Their Power Cable Stabilizer is highly polished and gold plated of course.

Vivid Audio treated me to their ultra-contemporary B1 monitors with integral stands. The sound was unexpectedly outstanding. How could anything that looked this far out sound so good? Had they been around in 1970, Stanley Kubrick surely would have snapped up a pair for his film A Clockwork Orange. The hole below the three drivers is actually a front & rear port. The wires leading to the drivers from the speaker connectors at floor level travel up different sides of the stands to avoid signal interaction. A second mid-woofer fires to the rear.  A gorgeous Pathos Logos hybrid integrated amplifier certainly did the job acoustically, but it embodies a completely different design aesthetic. I was so disturbed by the visual conflict of the components that I had to close my eyes and listen. Good thing! With the world gravitating toward more contemporary design, the Vivid loudspeaker stands right in the path of success. The Kubala-Sosna cables certainly must have contributed to the sound, but they were as neutral as Switzerland in the conflict of design. By the way, I learned the Pathos Classic One hybrid integrated amplifier has been upgraded to MK III status with new CE binding posts, volume control and transformers for $2750 US.

Cabasse, from France, had a very nice sounding stand mounted monitor. The company's big loudspeakers were all standing out in the hall at the time, but hey, not everyone needs a big loudspeaker. The electronics seen here are the Mimetism 20.1 CD player and the Mimetism 15.2 integrated amplifier. These are high end Swiss/French components designed by William Andrea who was on hand to promote his products. While the products from this four-year-old company are infrequently reviewed, and more so in Europe than here, the early returns are that it is very high quality. The Mimetism components can be connected either single ended, or balanced. Pascal Rauach of Mutine is the importer and has an excellent website for further exploration.

In the Echobusters room another modest system presented Rogue Audio's Titan series with its affordable Atlas power amplifier and Metis preamplifier. There were definitely no echoes or ghosts in this room. While I applaud the busting of echoes in the listening room, those seeking more creative and visually interesting approaches are invited to view my "Decorating for Music" reviews.

 

Gamut's new CD player, integrated amplifier and loudspeakers not only sound great, but visually take the company into the next league. The natural light photo here reveals the tasteful treatment with blue LEDs complimenting the highly polished metal parts. More and more companies are finally recognizing the importance of visual design in liberating large amounts of money from the music lover, who is not necessarily an audiophile. My colleague, Phil Gold deemed this room the Best of Show. Check out his report for more details!

 

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