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Montreal '99
Page 2

  A couple of different German Physics speakers were on display--very architectural looking floor-standers with polished aluminum (?) cones providing 360 degree dispersion of high frequencies. I walked over to a corner of the room near one of the speakers to see if the sound really does carry in all directions. It does! And it is good sound, at that! Knowing these speakers start in the high four figure range and go up, I didn't bother with prices. First and foremost, you have to like the look. Their skyscraper styling would definitely clash with the art on my walls.

MGD electronics sported a swoopy line across the black anodized fascia that certainly makes their new Alpha Class power amp (80 watts @ 8 ohms, high current) stand out in the crowded modest price range of the high-end spectrum. Pretty reasonable quality as I've reported in previous years. Allegrio is the brand name for MDG. Two pair of similarly sized floor standing speakers were set up for side by side comparison in this room. Using the same electronics, I believe. The Jamo's sounded smoother and more distant than the Triangles, but I'm sure both speakers will have their own proponents.

I got to look at the interior packaging of a YBA 1 power amp and a SimAudio I-5 integrated amp.

Very good sound was coming from a pair of Proac 1sc stand mounted speakers that required a second pair of speaker stands to hold the black boxes of the heavy speaker cables directly behind them (to keep the cables from pulling the 1sc off the stand). The Oracle CD player fed a two-chassis Pathos pre-amp that fed 80 wpc InPower Pathos power amps with Inpol circuitry. The rep suggested I check out the sidebar of the Pathos Twin Towers Integrated review in The Absolute Sound (Issue 116, Feb. 1999, page 69) for Dan Sweeney's excellent description of the Inpol circuitry. Everything was working to perfection here.

The Pathos Twin Towers hybrid integrated amp was on static display, but the real center of curiosity and awe for me was the Classic One, a 50wpc, remote controlled hybrid integrated amp with class A/AB power for somewhere in the neighborhood of $2000 US. This is a gorgeous amp at a reasonable price. Please send me one to review!!!

And to think back to last year...I was only able to LOOK at the InPowers! This is why I come back, year after year--you simply have to be in the right place at the right time!

And again, this year, I heard the little Polti mini-monitors on stands sounding remarkably good powered by a Sansui integrated and Sansui CD player. If you haven't heard it elsewhere, let me tell you now: Mid-fi is putting the squeeze on the high end. Someone in Mediocreland has a subscription to Stereophile.

Yet another fine sounding room: Arcam Alpha 9 CD player, Van Evers power conditioner, the Jadis integrated amp that Sam Tellig raved about in Stereophile, powering the mid and tweeter of an Innovative Speaker Design 2-way speaker with an internally powered subwoofer below it. ISD is a British Columbia speaker manufacturer that made the Big Trip East for the show. The woofer is an active isobaric vented design with variable phase and crossover adjustment. Did they say AMC did the electronics for the 100 watt high current amp in the subwoofer? Wish I could have stayed longer here.

I got to see the new MK II version of the Monarchy 100 SE 100 watt class A monoblocks. Very nice handles, guys! And very nice sound coming through some tall Dahlquist prototype speakers with oval gold plated dome tweeters from Audax. A multiple enclosure speaker, three drivers in the top compartment, one in the midrange compartment, and two 10" drivers in the base. In a phone conversation with people at Monarchy, several weeks before the show, they indicated their energy (read: production effort?) is focused on this new monoblock. This could be a real sleeper. It would be interesting to put it up against say, the Clayton monos?

On static display were a pair of Cary 50M Signature, Mk II monoblocks that were begging to be hooked up.

And again this year, as two years prior, I heard the Verity Audio Parsifals driven by Cary 805C monoblocks. Talk about a sound that melts you...the floor was covered with a puddle of audiophiles. What looked like CAD 300SE Signatures were parked next to each 805C monoblock. No, they wouldn't...would they?

Nanda(?) was the name on some cool looking electronics. Contemporary metal boxes for CD, pre and power amps blended in very nicely with the Final floorstanding electrostatics, Model 0.3, about $2800US, which looks like a Martin Logan with a makeover headed for the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. These were the speakers that I almost heard at the very end of last year's visit. Final is from the Netherlands, I believe. And the Nanda electronics? Both marques are worthy of further investigation if you have the opportunity.

Possibly these were the Cairn line from France? My video notes are not clear here. The Cairn line has very nice integrated amps from $800 to $1500US. WBT connectors, 100 wpc, pre-out, headphone jacks on the model I saw with its lid off. Looks and sounds like it could blow away a Bryston.

The Atlantic Technology 4.5 home theater speaker system was so casually sitting on a table top, I thought they were toys! The business cards on the table give a point of reference on my video. Actually, they felt more like bricks in their high-gloss laminate enclosures. I immediately thought of the softball size Gallo speaker, and realized that THIS IS THE FUTURE OF HOME THEATER. High quality, mini size speakers with a high decorator appeal that can be wall/ceiling/beam/stand mounted in a room that is already filled to capacity with furniture and stacks of back issues of Stereophile, Motor Trend, and Architectural Digest. Here is a speaker system that can be installed without first having to clean up the room. Just plug it right into your existing decor and lifestyle. End of Rant.

KR Enterprise had an integrated amp on display, and I was able to hear their monoblocks power some Silverline speakers. The KRs have a simplified high-tech design that visually brings the aesthetic of tube amplification into the next millennium. Cary is old school. BAT is new school. KR is next school. The diminutive gloss black KR Model One pre-amp was tastefully understated.

Platinum Audio Duo Series II stand mounted speakers were more inviting, both visually and audibly, than other, less expensive models I have auditioned. The two five-inch drivers and centrally located tweeter were mounted on an aluminum plate on the front. The sides were clad, ala Sonus Faber, with wood panels. Out back, there was a ribbed metal plate that cooled the internal crossover network. Twin ports were also on the rear. The cabinet, otherwise, was gloss black.

Wide Nordost speaker cables connected the Platinums to a BAT solid state amp. (Remember, wider is better).

What I thought must surely be a French Cabasse speaker was actually a SoftAcoustik SA 2.5, winner of the 1999 Design & Engineering Showcase Honors is the Audio Category. Looks good, sounds good.

Magnum Dynalab's new MD 208 ($3000 US/CD?) tuner was the source for a system that might have sounded better with a properly positioned antenna. After hearing a lot of great systems with both CD and analog front ends, it was perhaps unfair to hold FM radio to the same standard. But for those of us (and I DO mean US) who listen to a lot of radio...maybe we should spend as much on a tuner as we do on a CD or analog rig. How far off is digital radio broadcasting?

Naim speakers sounded very nice and should be noted as one of the few speakers (Linn is another) that sound good when placed close to the front wall.

3DLabs had an expensive surround processor that sounded pretty good with P.E.Leon speakers and some other stuff, but like many home theater rooms, it was too damn dark to see anything in there.

Sumum Acoustique (sp?) continues to improve. These speakers remind me of the diamond-like cabinets of the Avalon speakers, except Sumums seem to be carved out of solid oak rather than veneered.

Cliffhanger Audio had their room much more together this year than ever before. Using their own Cliffhanger preamp, the speakers sounded much fuller with their bass modules. And the super-trick turntable that held me in awe last year was actually playing LPs! The pneumatic suspension/table that is an integral part of the turntable, with its carbon fiber arm, is a sight to behold, complete with metal nipples for adding compressed air.

The Gershman Acoustics X-1 with its SW-1 subwoofer impressed me mightily. The pyramid-like two-way X-1 goes for $1600US, and uses a first order crossover between 1" dome tweeter and shielded 6" woofer. They claim the subwoofer/stand takes system down to 20hz. Kind of suggests a poor man's Wilson Watt/Puppy. Driven by an all-Classe system, the X-1 brings the sound of their GA-P 520X to the masses. Bravo!

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