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Salon Audio Montréal / Audiofest 2023 Show Report

Salon Audio Montréal Audiofest Show Report Part 1
Rick Becker's Montreal Chronicles 2023.
Report By Rick Becker


Salon Audio Montréal Audiofest Show Report Part 1


  As in past years, I wandered through the Adirondack Mountains on the way to Montreal, where I found more ducks in the wilderness atop the Bonaventure Hotel than I saw within the Blue Line.



Arriving before 10am on Saturday, it was not surprising to see a line to get into the show that stretched all the way back to the elevators. What was surprising was how crowded the rooms became as the day wore on.



Friends in the industry greeted me as I swapped the RMA lanyard on my press pass for an orange Enjoy the Music.com lanyard that was standard issue at the recent Florida show. It almost felt like a college reunion — and rightly so. I've been coming to Montreal for a long time and it felt good to be back again.


Here's The Plan
I'll start on the top floor to conquer the sleeping rooms. Part 1 will be Sections 1200 and 1300. Then, some days later, Part 2 will hit Sections 2300 and 2400. Part 3 will cover the Industry Banquet with the Lifetime Achievement awards on that Saturday night. And Parts 4 (and 5?) will be devoted to the larger rooms on the lower level, along with my nominations for the Best Rooms this year.

With Axpona coming up in mid-April, it isn't possible to cover this show in as great detail as in previous years. There were very few presenters who provided equipment lists and not many more who put cards with model numbers and prices on their equipment. Kudos to those who did. Combining the minimal data that was available with the fact that the show was very well attended, maybe that isn't such a problem after all. Rooms were very often packed full. Several rooms I had to double back just to get in. Even Sunday was very well attended. I have to think that this year's show was a resounding success. Sara Tremblay and Michel Plante should be very happy.


Let's Get Started
Prices listed are presumed to be CAD ($ sign after the price) as of March 31
1 CAD = 0.740 USD
1 USD = 1.352 CAD

Walking down the long hall past the swimming pool, I looked to the right to find 1204, Audiofilles presentees par Marantz. Well, I didn't go down the hall far enough, so I missed it. Not a great start, it would seem.

This was the first of numerous minimalist system presentations. Danny Labreque's colorful Luna Cables were barely visible, connecting a Wattson Audio streamer (3850$) to a vintage looking, but brand new Thoress EHT integrated amp (13,995$) which drove a pair of 1970 vintage speakers Danny had re-wired and put up on risers. The Thoress amp had visual design cues that harkened back to my dad's ham radios back in the last century. The Luna cables were from the Mauve series (Speaker, 2200$/2.5m pair; RCA Interconnects, 1500$, 1m; Ethernet, 1650$; DC cables 750$, 1m; Power cords 1900$, 1.5m). All these products are distributed by Phonographe.ca. Given the vintage of the speaker here, the music was very respectable, though lacking in the precise soundscaping that contemporary speakers provide.






Room 1216 Lemay Audio
Last year Lemay had one of the most spectacular rooms I've ever heard, so I was eagerly anticipating this year's presentation with a scaled-down version of their previous speaker. While the speaker was scaled down (relatively speaking), the presentation felt hemmed in by the smaller room. It was still outstanding. As before, a Baetis Audio server linked to an iFi Diablo DAC that Francois had hot-rodded with an external power supply and a special DC cable. Amplification was by the magnificent (and expensive) Tenor. And Modulum stands and footers were used throughout.

The Hommage speaker shown last year stood 185 cm and featured 9 vintage electrostatic cells from Dayton Wright that date back to 1970 and the introduction of the IMAX cinema theater. The Hommage 7 shown here (43,000$), standing 140 cm, uses only seven of the electrostatic cells in a handsome, room-friendly design. In each speaker only one cell is run full-range (40Hz to 18kHz) to achieve pinpoint imaging, while the other cells run up to only 2500Hz. A Mundorf bi-polar super-tweeter adds a great sense of air and physical space, running from 16kHz to 35kHz.

The Tenor pre and stereo power amps were the heavy end of the system, coming in at 200k$ and 150k$, respectively. The Baetis Audio Reference 4 server with Roon was 15k$. The secret sauce in the system was the iFi Audio Diablo at a mere 1350$, though the external power supply and DC cable would add to that price. The Modulum Audio rack (1950$) and vibration pods under all the components showed the attention given to quelling micro-vibrations.




Another high-value item in the rig was the Silversmith Audio Fidelium speaker cable (1000$, 25 cm). Usually, the gold ribbon speaker cables stand out when loosely draped between the amp and speaker, but Jeffrey Smith devised a special cable riser to keep them taut and vertically oriented. They work fine either way. I've tried the speaker cable in my system and they are excellent performers as well as very high-value cables.




Jeffrey Smith, seen below along with Francois, brought along a set of prototype interconnects which they compared with the Inakustik interconnects. I'm told Francois decided to leave the Silversmith prototypes in for the duration of the show. These cables are not yet available, nor have they been priced, but people are anxiously awaiting their availability.



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