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Salon Son & Image 2009
Salon Son & Image 2009
Report By Rick Becker  Part 3

Level 2

Dropping down to Level 2, in Salon 4 sponsored by Le Son Ideal I found Martin Logan CLX electrostatic speakers being driven by Bryston electronics. Their CD player was being used as a transport to feed their new separate BDA-1 DAC. The muscular 28B SST2 (squared) monoblocks, which I had seen topless at CES, were driving the Martin Logans. The system produced a big spacious sound, but I really am not into opera so I moved on.


Level A (below ground level)

Simaudio Moon CD.5 CD player ($1200) once again combined with their I.5 integrated amplifier ($1200), this time with a new Dynaudio X12 stand mounted monitor (also $1200) to produce very nice music at a relatively affordable level. The drivers of this two-way monitor were mounted on a baffle of material different than the wood speaker cabinet. It was rear ported and allowed for single wiring only in keeping with its cost. I specifically asked the host to switch over to this rig since no one was listening to the larger floorstanders being played. Within a couple of minutes a substantial crowd had gathered, listening very intently. In a large room, mounted on the long wall the X12 was very impressive at a moderate volume. I'd call it a winner.


Vince Bruzzese played up the red theme of the new Totem Acoustic Wind floorstander ($12,500 US) introduced at CES, contrasting it with white walls and white shag carpet. A horizontally mounted Tribe III provided center channel, also in red. An in-wall surround was mounted in the white side walls and red Tribes were used on the red back wall to provide a complete surround system, along with a couple of Storm subwoofers ($1050 US, each) sitting directly on the carpet without spikes. The side and rear surround pairs were mounted in phase, parallel. The Wind is a very reasonably sized loudspeaker, weighing only 75 pounds, but they put out a very large sound both here and at CES. The skid plate across the back edge of the loudspeaker is a machined piece of metal designed to drain resonances out of the cabinet. They pushed some serious emotional buttons in this room with a few of my favorite oldies by the Beatles and Pink Floyd. While Totem is perennially a very good room at Montreal , this year's presentation deserves recognition as one of the Best Rooms, unusual for a surround system.



Once again I came upon the Arabesque glass loudspeaker from Crystal Cable and found my friend Ernie Fisher of The Inner Ear with Gabi van der Kley, the CEO and driving force behind this unique loudspeaker. It sounded much better here at Montreal than it did at CES, I'm happy to say, but my ear is probably not as critical as Ernie's. This time I noted a carefully disguised port in the narrow end of this somewhat paisley shaped design and paid more attention to the inner wiring which is plainly visible as you see here. Electronics included a Moon CD player and integrated amplifier and a Sota turntable.


Audioville, a Montreal retailer, had a table with a trio of integrated amplifiers that included the Music Hall 25.2 ($800), Roth MC4 ($550) and the cute Fatman I-tube ($399, all CDN). Both the Roth and the Fatman are made by Mr. Roth, who remains a mystery to me. It seems the price of the I-tube has come down quite a bit over the last year. Both are great for office desktop rigs. I stuck my finger on the volume control to give you an idea of the size of these little gems. Both offer docking for iPods and the MC4 offers four additional inputs making it a little more functional. Although the wattage is small (13 wpc for the Roth), both units are capable of driving small monitors to civilized listening levels in an office, or while your spouse sleeps down the hall. It was a pleasure to meet Steve Nicola again who kept a watchful eye on me to be sure one of these little devils didn't inadvertently fall into my briefcase and become a review sample.


Outside the AuDIYo.com room I listened in on a fascinating demonstration of copper turntable platters and mats as well as copper outer rings to flatten warped LPs. All of these come in different sizes and weights for different styles and different models of turntables. Larry Denham is the president of LJT Manufacturing, a company practiced in the art of ultra precision CNC machining for the aerospace industry. Fortunately for us, Larry has an interest in analog playback, metallurgy and vibration damping. The result is TTWeights Audio and a host of the prettiest turntable accessories I've ever seen. They were not set up with a playback rig, but Larry's demonstration convinced me that he knows of what he speaks. Rapping on the copper mat showed it to be far deader than the platter on which it was placed. And their Plexiglas centering tool made positioning of the TT outer ring a snap. Eight different record clamps are offered and they are all gorgeous. Lest you think these jewels are meant for ultra-High End turntables, Larry suggests they will take even mid-fi turntables into the High End. You can certainly believe I'd love to find that out for myself.


Just as fascinating as the TTWeights turntable accessories were a photo of a couple of LP grooves magnified 500X. It blew away my vision of a grove being a steep-walled "V" rather than the flat-bottom canyon we see here. It would be really cool to see a 500x magnified video of a cartridge tip in the groove of a spinning LP. Maybe next time?

This reminded me that earlier in the show I had met Mike Latvis of Harmonic Resolution Systems in the hallway. I had reviewed his Analog Disc some years ago and have watched his superb equipment stands proliferate at shows ever since. Mike told me that HRS is now collaborating with acoustic room designers in this country and abroad to solve (or preferably avoid) problems when people spend big bucks on high end audio equipment and achieve only mediocre results. The story goes a lot deeper than this, but if you're in such a situation, now you know who you can contact.



At AuDIYo.com the Gang of Four from Richmond Hill , just north of Toronto , seems to have been downsized again this year. From left to right, Rick, Ed Jong, Simon Au, Ray Li, and Linda. They dragged me up to the "loft" part of their room and insisted I listen closely to the Rossner & Sohn rig from Germany . There I met Lawrence Lin of Excel Stereo, a firm that offers equipment repair and modification services, and now imports the Rossner & Sohn line. Norah Jones Live from Austin, TX was spinning on the KLM-15 turntable ($8500 CDN for the table & arm) outfitted with the new Sussurro moving iron cartridge from Soundsmith ($4500). The tonearm mount was especially interesting in its simplicity and beauty. A stand-alone DC motor drives the platter with a fish line belt. The R&S Canofer phono preamp ($7200 US) is totally adjustable with 300 possible settings for mm cartridges and 1836 settings for MC.

However, my photo indicates that a Soundsmith MCP2 phonostage sitting below the tonearm may have been in use. The Canofer V integrated amplifier ($8500 CDN) was a beauty, putting out 125 watts into 8 Ohms, and doubling down to 4 Ohms, and again to 2 Ohms. There were no traditional knobs on the integrated amplifier and I didn't take the short course on operating it. There was also a remote control for listening chair potatoes that should make it easy. Perhaps Steve Rochlin will see this line in Munich and have some additional insight and opinion. I thought it was superb sounding with the Gemme Audio Katana, ranking as another Best Room in spite of the high ambient noise in the multi-level space. A while later I had an opportunity to hear the Klaro Audio Primara Monitors ($1800) with 91dB/W/m efficiency at 8 Ohms that sounded very competent with the Rossner & Sohn rig. On another front, Ray Li told me the Blueberry Hill Cables are designed and made in Toronto by Mr. MarlenMogilever using silver and OCC copper conductors with Furutech connectors for the most part. Most uniquely, he produces a combination step-up transformer/phono cable that puts the step-up transformer closer to the tonearm for superior sound. This should be something to hear.


Verity Audio toned down their presentation in their usual space this year, substituting a Parsifal Monitor on an adjustable stand ($12,000 w/stands) for one of their larger models. A Nagra PSA pyramid solid state stereo amplifier was used instead of often used tube monoblocks from various manufacturers. The digital front end was by dCS and the preamp was also a Nagra. While the speaker/stand combo was an intriguing design, it drew more visual attention to itself than their stately floorstanders and required an equally large footprint. The addition of their large powered subwoofer ($10,000) in the corner brought the price up, undermining some of the price advantage. The lesson here is that you can have outstanding sound without large, imposing loudspeakers just as I learned with the Gemme Audio Green Gem at the start of the show. But if that is your goal, you might want to evaluate Verity's new, more affordable Finn mentioned earlier. Fortunately, attendees had the opportunity to hear larger Verity loudspeakers elsewhere at the show. Nonetheless, this ranked as one of the Best Rooms again this year with excellent transparency, dynamics, soundstaging and focus.


As I near the bottom of my pile of literature and scan through my unused photos, I stumble across the missing link that allows me to identify the Mystery Speaker near the start of Part 1. The loudspeaker was the Coherent 8 Phy Si and the flaming golden birch veneer comes from old growth trees that sank to the bottom of the lake before they could make it to the mill. This $14,500 two-way loudspeaker comprises an air motion driver with a conventional woofer. With its 97 dB sensitivity and 15 Ohm impedance you would expect it to be driven very nicely by a SET tube amplifier, but instead it was powered by a SAR 150 Mosfet amplifier. SAR goes back 30 years according to the literature, but it was news to me. The faceplate was stunning and so highly polished that I couldn't avoid the reflection of the carpet beneath it. The source was the Nova Physics Memory Player from Mark Porzilli, which was the pioneering effort in playing CDs not from the disk, but from a near perfect copy created in a flash drive from multiple reads of the CD. It goes for about $14,000, but the bit stream must still be fed to an outboard DAC, hence the Audioaero unit below it on the rack.


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