The Montreal Festival Son & Image offers a delightful mix of Audio and Video, covering an enormous range of budgets and tastes in its four-day program. The first day is reserved for the trade and press while the exhibitors, as always, seem to have differing opinions on what the opening time should be. The Sheraton Hotel provides a great venue with rooms of all shapes and sizes and not too much sound bleeding from one room to the next as has happened in previous years.
This is definitely the year of the speaker. I found more interesting speakers than all other components put together.
Let us start out with my nomination for best sound in show. Having covered many such events, I can tell you that it is a rare thing for the best sound in show to be the most expensive sound in show. More particularly, rarely are the biggest speakers the most musical and convincing. This time however the tables are turned and I was completely blown away by the limited edition KEF Muon Speakers that will cost you (and just 99 other customers) a cool $150,000 Cdn. This is not the first time I've seen the 6 foot 7 inch
aluminum bodied Muons but this time they were sounding better than ever, accompanied by relatively inexpensive Musical Fidelity electronics and reproducing Haydn Quartets with all the warmth, passion, detail and instrumental color you could wish for. Key to this performance is the latest iteration of the famous Uni-Q midrange/tweeter, also found in KEF's more affordable Reference line. Richard Colburn, Manager of KEF's Reference Business Unit stands rightly proud next to the
100,000€ ($158,000 USD) will get you Gamut's new El Superioris, seen here with creator and GamuT President Lars Goller making its very first appearance.
The speaker sits on stainless steel stands and features unusual fan shaped internal bracing to reduce standing waves. Lars used to work for renowned driver manufacturer ScanSpeak, and is a big fan of their drivers, which he uses exclusively. However, he has now developed some custom modifications that take these drivers to new levels of performance. The speaker features a protective frame of horizontal bungee cords (my description
-- not GamuT's) that protect the drivers from damage while being acoustically transparent. You can remove the entire frame if you are so inclined. This big speaker throws a very large and effortless image. It represents quite a step upmarket for this company known in the past mainly for its power amplifiers.
Kim Neeper Rasmussen, a former member of the GamuT team, introduced his Neeper Perfection One speaker, an ambitious, gently contoured 3-way design that will sell for $23,500.
The secret to the success of this design is not new drivers or the patented Hornflex enclosure so much as painstaking attention to the effects of small differences in construction of the cabinet shape and crossovers. The claim is that the cabinet permits no standing waves to form, allowing the drivers to work to their full potential. All drivers and cabinets are designed and constructed in Denmark. The bass/midrange is made exclusively for Neeper by ScanSpeak, while the tweeter is the famous ScanSpeak ring radiator. Internal wiring is by Van den
New from Elac is the 240 range of speakers based on a new multi-faceted driver cone, a development of Elac'saluminum sandwich cone design. Elac claim lower distortion across the frequency range and reduced resonance in the crossover frequencies for these proprietary transducers. The floor-standing FS 249
will sell for $5400 Cdn, and is a three-way four driver design, using a new version of the famous JET tweeter. $1350 will get you the bookshelf model BS 243
and in between you will find a smaller floor-stander - the FS 247, a larger bookshelf
-- the BS 244 and a centre channel speaker -- the CC 241. Special attention has been given to three dimensional radiation patterns in the design of these speakers, so you can expect exceptional imaging. Construction quality is awesome as usual. I look forward to an extended audition.
Another impressive offering is the Platinum series from the UK's Monitor Audio. These are without doubt the finest speakers ever to wear that famous name. Some very high technology lurks within these speakers, from the ceramic-coated aluminum/magnesium bass and midrange drivers to the platinum high frequency ribbon transducers that extend to 100 kHz. All drivers feature C-Cam, a material developed for the aerospace industry whose combination of low density and extreme rigidity makes it ideal for audio applications. A very high level of material quality and attention to detail give these speakers a luxury feel to go with the price tag. Shown here is the range topping PL-300
listing for $11,000 a pair, while the two-way bookshelf PL 100 comes in at
$5300 and the
center channel PL350C is also $5300.
Totem Acoustic has been developing very high quality wall mounted speakers (the Tribe series) that can serve double duty in an A/V system and a stereo music system. Designer Vince
Bruzzese is especially proud of the Torrent bass/midrange driver he is holding here. This driver was developed especially for this application, and is driven directly from the amplifier without passing through a crossover. The 36" Tribe III tops this range at $1750 Cdn each, the 29" Tribe II is $1100 and the 26" Tribe I is $875
-- you pick the ones to match your screen size.
Also new from Totem is the white finish shown here for their more conventional speakers, if such a description can ever be applied to Totem.
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