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Salon Son & Image 2015 Report Montreal High-End Audio Show
Salon Son & Image Report 2015 -- Montreal High-End Audio Show
Report By Rick Becker -- Part 2

After finishing up on the 1300 hallway, Mark cut out for the train station for some health food while I sat down with a Clif bar and some Mt. Dew to take in some live opera singing with accompanying piano at the top of the escalator. The event was sponsored by Simaudio (Moon) to mark their 35th anniversary. I'm not a big opera fan, but the young diva was lovely and the music was mesmerizing.


In the large Le Portage room throughout the weekend was a series of live recording sessions where visitors could watch the recording and mixing of songs performed by various artists. It was kind of a lecture/demonstration opportunity with seating set up with a suite of Focal Scala Utopia speakers and subwoofers. Over the railing, seen in the photo, were a couple dozen wireless headphones for participants to wear, but at the moment people were listening to an explanation of the mixing process (presumably) in French.


Back in the hallway surrounding the restaurant I browsed at the Nordost table where they were selling cables and footers. A blue bottle of their anti-static spray caught my attention. They said a treatment of your cables with the spray should last several months.


Stealth Acoustics had their waterproof, wireless speaker suspended in front of a waterfall to emphasize its outdoor capabilities. He was using a tiny Mass Fidelity rig and streaming with Bluetooth. Perfect for the deck of your yacht, perhaps, but not exactly high fidelity.


The 2300 Hallway


When Mark returned from lunch we resumed the hunt in the 2300 hallway and immediately found ourselves in one of my perennial favorite rooms, Goerner Audio. Perhaps this is because Reinhard prefers to show with analog front ends, namely Acoustic Signature turntables as well as more affordable Funk Firm. He is also a distributor for Trigon and Grandinote amplifiers, and Audio Physic speakers. The speaker here was the Avantera+ model, and wiring was with Nordost Valhalla 2.  While these are not the biggest names in the industry on this side of the Atlantic, they are all heavy hitters and his rooms are always exceptionally well set up. Again this year, the very clean, neutral sound of this room rates a Best Rooms nomination. New this show was the 12" TA1000 Acoustic Signature tonearm ($2300) being demonstrated with a London cantilever-less cartridge. London picked up the cartridges from Decca when Decca exited the cartridge business. There is also a 9" ($1600) and 10" (~$2000) version of the tonearm. The shaft and headshell of the Audio Signature look very similar to the FXR tonearm of Funk Firm, though the bearings of the latter is a hot-rodded re-build of the Rega design. Reinhard was kind enough to lift the platter off the white Funk Firm table on display to reveal the multiple pulley/one motor design they developed to re-distribute the torque on the sub-platter. Note that the tension is adjustable by the pulley mounted in a slot on a carbon fiber arm. Very nice design.


In the Skogrand Cables suite was yet another of the Best Rooms, though the rig here offered considerably more bloom and liquidity to the music than the previous room. It was also a much more expensive rig. Raidho D3 speakers ($85,000) were powered by VAC Master preamp and Statement 450 stereo power amp, both tube designs. A Bergmann turntable with a linear air-bearing tonearm, one of the most beautiful turntables in production, was at the front end featuring a Triangle Art Apollo cartridge ($12,000). This rig put Bob Dylan right in the room with an LP offered up by a visitor. Like Dylan himself, the presentation here was spellbinding. Cabling for the rig was from Skogrand Cables from Norway who sponsored the room. Their Tchaikovsky series of interconnects and speaker cables starts out at $6950US/pr (1m) and reaches $9350US/pr (3m). Their Wagner series power cables in use here start at $2100US (1m) and reach $2900US (3m). Using Ultra-Pure Ohno Continuous Cast copper wire in an air dielectric, these cables achieve specs that Skogrand is proud to post on their website. Unfortunately the room was too dark to photograph the beautiful brocade silk sleeves that dress their cables. While the Tchaikovsky series is stratospherically expensive, their top line Beethoven series escapes the earth's gravitational pull. Fortunately, for the merely wealthy, there are four series below what I heard here.


Getting back to the real world, in the Audiophonie room Rogers LS5/9 speakers ($4800) were perched upon cleanly designed, but rather low mass stands. At the other end of the chain was an Audio Space T88A vacuum tube CD player ($1840). Powering the rig was a handsome Dared Audio Saturn Signature integrated amp ($3995) with a single KT150 tube per channel delivering 25 watts, Class A in SET configuration. (The standard Saturn model goes for $3459.) As well as line inputs, there is a USB input for the built-in DAC spec'd at 32 Bit/ 384kHz. A " headphone jack is on the faceplate. This was a really fresh looking design from Hong Kong and the fit and finish was quite good. The analog front end I heard in this room was the Hanss Acoustics T-20 turntable featuring three belts and a separate power supply for $4880. The cartridge was the new Ortofon Quintet Bronze low output moving coil ($839US) which sounded very good at this price level. The phono stage was another tubed unit from Dared, the LP-100 ($2403) with adjustable mm capacitance and mc impedance as well as overall gain allowing it to feed a power amp directly in a dedicated LP rig. Overall, this was a very good sounding room.

On a side table were a couple of very interesting items from Dared. The diminutive Mars ($795) integrated amp uses a tube in the preamp section and puts out 25 wpc in Class A from solid state components that will drive speakers down to 2 Ohms according to Charles Kirmuss of Dared Audio. It has 2.4GHz Wireless Audio Input, USB DAC and RCA line inputs, as well as a preamp out for greater flexibility. Additionally, it serves as a headphone amp with a 1/4" jack. Next to it was a similarly sized phono stage with a single tube and a substantial separate power supply at the same price. The large knob on the front is for variable mc cartridge loading.  The proof of value will be in the listening, but this sure looks interesting.


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