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Salon Son & Image 2014 Report Montreal High-End Audio Show
Salon Son & Image Report 2014 -- Montreal High-End Audio Show
Part 2
Show Report By Rick Becker

  This is the age of headphones, Bluetooth and wireless speakers. And at $90 in the headband of your choice you get two out of three with these headphones from Skech that are a short step away from the high end. The third mantra is sung by the Focal Easya speaker which was seen, but not heard. It's all Lifestyle, but remember earlier on we were all amoebas.

There was a lot of analog in the rooms this year and this $7500 rig featured a Clearaudio Concept table and cartridge from Germany along with a Unico Primo hybrid integrated amplifier with 12AX7 input tubes driving a nice leather-faced floorstanding Opera Grand Mezzo speaker (~$3200). The equipment rack shown here was seen in a fair number of different rooms throughout the show. Solid wood shelves separated by heavy metal bars. This was one of several Coup de Foudre sponsored rooms.

 

It was nice to hear some Manley tube gear again in the Canadian dealer Acoustique Technologies room. A pair of 250 monoblocks ($12,500), switchable from 125 watts triode to 250 watts tetrode were driving a pair of Marten Getz 2 speakers ($23,000), one model up from the ones my friend Tom had just purchased. A Manley Neo-Classic 300B remote controlled preamp was the heart of the rig. This is one of the very few preamps that utilize the 300B tube which is more commonly seen in power amps as a power tube putting out about 8 watts, or as a driver tube for a larger power tube such as an 845. I listened to Paul Simon singing "Tubes on the Souls of Her Shoes" ...err, make that "Diamonds..." which is a song on my compilation CD. It was nice to hear it here from the LP being played on a Dr. Feickert Woodpecker turntable with a Manley Chinook tubed phono stage. I really bopped along in this room, in spite of the conversations.

 

Next door the music was just as good with another Manley Neo-Classic 300B RC preamp driving a pair of Manley Snapper monoblocks with EL34 tubes that put out a hundred watts which were quite sufficient for driving the Nola floorstanding speakers with an open baffle for the midrange, seen here from the very tidy back side. A Meitner ma1dac handled the bits with the big rig here. I also noted a Peachtree DAC.iTx which probably factored in with the $5000 system featuring the stand mounted Nola Boxer ($1650). Others may have heard the handsome Acoustic Signature turntable which appeared to be one of their more affordable models with a Grado cartridge.

 

   

Things aren't always what they seem in these rooms and many presenters could do themselves a lot of good by placing "Now Playing" cards on the gear that is active. The VMAX Services room was a case in point. At Toronto the importer mounted a silent display on a table in the bullpen. Here, they went active with a rig powered by the new Hegel H80 integrated amp with remote control, built-in DAC and five digital inputs. It puts out 75 watts per channel and is far better than the previous H70 model. While the blue readout on the Hegel CD player indicated a CD was playing, the music was actually sourced from the laptop above it, feeding a small Hegel DAC behind it, which then fed into the H80. Double DAC'ing? They assured me it sounded better this way. Most impressive was the music coming not from the stand mounted Amphion speaker, but the floorstanding full-range Essence Electrostatic speaker.

When I returned to the VMAX room on my final sweep, I encountered Richard Kohlruss who insisted I listen to the new Davis Acoustics three-way floorstander that will sell for $1000, retail. His speaker wires were running with bare ends, so it was a hassle to swap the speakers into the rig. I held the speaker at an angle to facilitate the trick and it was certainly worth the effort. Davis manufactures drivers for other speaker manufacturers in Europe and a couple in the USA (which shall remain un-named). They also now make their own speakers and this little gem would bring a $5k entry level system home for a good bit less than $5k. Adirondack Audio & Video, a high-end newcomer with a very nice store just south of Lake George, NY, has just picked up the Davis speaker and I look forward to visiting them again on my summer vacation.

 

   

I had a listen to the Monitor Audio Silver 10 (~$3000) driven by the handsome stack of Cyrus components that were shown in very dim light at Toronto. Still, there are those pesky cables to deal with. A $5k rig on silent display included a Cyrus all-in-one component and a stand mounted Monitor two-way monitor ($900). There were probably twice the number of $5000 systems on display this year, the second time they have promoted the concept, but most of them were not playing when I visited the rooms.

 

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