Salon Audio Montreal / Audio Fest
2022 Show Report
Resuming The Lower Level
You walk into the room, with your camera in your hand,
The theme continued as I entered the darkened Outremont 2 room and found myself listening to what looked like might be PureAudioProject Trio speakers on steroids. The room was deathly silent aside from the music as people listened with an intense sense of religiosity. That alone told me I was in one of the Best Rooms Of Montreal 2022 at the show. I sat down to verify that truth.
The name Lemay on the banner and the Tenor 350M monoblocks were dots that connected when the familiar face of Francois Lemay approached and sat next to me. We go back to when Tenor first burst on the scene. I had made an erroneous assumption they were Italian in my 2000 show report but identified them as one of the best rooms at the show in 2003. They were driving an upscale Kharma speaker in that room, and I first met Bill Parrish of GTT Audio, the importer of the speakers. Shortly thereafter, I reviewed the Kharma Ceramique 2.2 speakers that remain my reference to this day.
While others examined the system Francois invited me to the hallway where he explained the three rectangular modules of these Hommage Dayton Wright speakers each contained three NOS electrostatic panels from vintage Dayton Wright speakers. Only the center channel of the center speaker is run full-range, while the others are confined closer to 3kHz midrange at the upper limit for tonality. A pair of open-back subwoofers from GR Research supplement the bass and a Mundorf ribbon tweeter augments the highest frequencies. The speakers sat on custom-designed stands from Modumlum, as did the components in the rig. I met Jean-Francois Michaud of Modulum who did the design work to minimize the vibrations of this tall design.
I also had the pleasure of meeting Jocelyn Jeanson (above) who was involved with the restoration and reengineering of the Dayton Wright panels. Michel Vanden Broeck of Tenor Audio and industrial designer Patrice Guillemin were also key players in this unique audio adventure. And lest you think you need a huge room for such a tall speaker, it will be custom made for ideal listening distances of 3, 4 or 5 meters.
The price of the Hommage Dayton Wright speaker with all the electronics that support the electrostatic panels is $58k and they have only enough NOS panels to make 10 pairs of speakers, so these will very likely become highly sought after once this small lot is sold out. This is one of those incredible niche stories in the history of High-End audio. The sad part is that while the project began when Michael William Wright was still alive and he was aware of it happening, he passed away in 2018 at about the age of 82 before its completion.
From what I learned in the brochure, he was a man of many talents and a prolific inventor... which makes me wonder about that vintage diving helmet on display in the hall. After I struggled with the French, I went to the Lemay Audio website and found it all spelled out in English. He sounds like a man who would have been fascinating to meet.
Coming back to the room and listening to a variety of music from loud, dynamic jazz, to classical orchestral works, to large choral music—and I visited this room three times over the two days, I was continually impressed. Surprisingly, the music was from Roon from an internal drive or Tidal via the new Baetis Reference 4 server ($15k CDN) which is built in Montreal. The fine resolution, magnificent sound staging, tonal balance, and the way it emotionally drew me into music that I don't normally care to listen to — and that’s saying something. The micro-dynamics were superb and the macro was very pleasantly sufficient. The audible transparency made the large speakers seemingly disappear.
It's not unusual for a system driven by Tenor Audio amplifiers to rank among the Best Rooms at any show — they usually do, but with the Hommage Dayton Wright speakers, I'm quite sure that years down the road this room will stand out as one of a handful of Very Best Rooms that I will remember from all the shows I've covered. At about a half-million dollars (CAD) for the gear in this room, that might not be unexpected, but money alone is not a guarantee. To steal a quote from an audio blog:
"My experience is, one doesn't get to a magical level for free and also not with lots of money alone." — Jazznut, February 10, 2022, on Paul's Post.