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Le Festival Son et Image de Montréal 2002

Le Festival Son et Image de Montréal 2001

Friday Part I
By Ian White


Send in the clones…

  British loudspeaker manufacturer PMC now offers a dozen different models and one of its best offerings at the Festival this year could be heard on the main floor of the Delta Hotel. Driven by a pair of Conrad Johnson Premier Twelve monoblocks, the rather massive MD 1 three-way loudspeakers were incredibly smooth with strings and resolute with orchestral works, making it easy to forgive their clone war-era appearance. The Emperor would be proud indeed. Interested listeners should also consider trying the various PMC models with some of the solid-state offerings from Canadian manufacturer, Bryston, as they proved to be a rather synergistic match with a number of the smaller PMC loudspeakers scattered throughout the show.


Come what may…

ProAc wasn't the only manufacturer using Moulin Rouge (gee, what are the odds the wife and I will be tossing that DVD by the time we get home) to demonstrate both the two-channel and surround sound capabilities of its products, but it is one of few who did it really well. The rather successful Response 2.5 loudspeakers ($6,599 Can) were the heart of this system, which included a state-of-the-art surround sound processor from Lexicon, the ProAc Response Center Channel 2 ($2,999 CDN), ProAc Tablette 2000 monitors ($1,495 CDN), and Response ER-1 active subwoofer ($2,999 CDN). As impressive as the exceptionally large center channel speaker was (don't even attempt to try this speaker on top of a television as it will crush your dog or teenage children if it falls over), it was the tiny Tablette 2000 that really stood out. After listening to a number of jazz tracks, it was very apparent, that the twenty-three year old design has improved significantly with age.


Look what the cat dragged in…

When I asked my wife to accompany me this year, I had some ulterior motives. Yes, I wanted to show her Montreal and introduce her to a number of the crazy people that I have become friends with over the years in the audio business. Yes, I wanted to hear her opinion of a number of products that I have had serious problems wrapping my ears around in the past. Yes, I really wanted to know if she would let me buy a 47 Labs PiTracer transport ($25,000 USD) later this year.



Hey, we can always dream. Sharing a room with 47 Labs this year in Montreal, was Moondog Audio, who were demonstrating their Maya horns ($14,000 USD). After suffering a horrible groin pull, the standard Lowther PM4A drivers had to be replaced at the last minute with a pair of similar drivers from Frank Reps, and the results were both hit and miss. On a number of jazz tracks, the wife and I both agreed that the sound was immediate, crisp, and emotionally engaging. What intrigued me more was her reaction to a classical piece where she noticed a level of distortion when the music hit a rather difficult and complex section. At CES 2002, I had an opportunity to hear the Moondog horns with their 2A3-based monoblocks, and they exhibited none of the harshness that we both heard with the different drivers here in Montreal. A follow-up listening session is planned for Saturday, and hopefully this time a rather rude and cranky "cat" will leave his attitude at the door and not attempt to bump my wife out of her chair, in an attempt to monopolize the entire listening seat


"I" is for Victory?

Canadian loudspeaker manufacturer, Coincident Speaker Technology, has decided to join the pack of high-end manufacturers offering a complete system to its customers with the introduction of its 18-watt 300B-based MP300B monoblocks ($3,495 per pair USD) and its own line of cables.


The MP300Bs were used along with a Wadia CD player to drive a pair of the 97dB efficient Coincident Victory ($4,499 USD) four-way loudspeakers. The Victory was finished in a lovely real cherry veneer (hey, just quoting the designer folks!) and I was quite impressed by their immediacy and sense of pace. If you are looking for a full-range floor-stander to try with a single-ended amplifier, this is one worth considering.


What do you mean, would these fit in our living room?

As my wife had never been to Montreal before, I felt it was only fair to make her walk in the numbing cold all the way to Schwartz's so that her selfish husband could enjoy his last decent meal before Passover starts in a few days. As we fought our way up St. Laurent, my wife decided to lecture me about the rooms that she didn't like, the rooms that she absolutely hated, and the few that really impressed her. At the top her list on Day One (and mine as well), was the Gershman/Audio Aero combination over at the Sheraton 4 Points. While the $14,000 Opera Sauvage are not at a price point that we can afford (I left that little tidbit out until the end of dinner), it was the best demonstration of a large loudspeaker that I have heard in quite some time. At 89dB, the Opera Sauvage are fairly efficient, but I doubt that my eight-watt WavelengthAudio Duetto has the low-end grunt required to drive their two 10" woofers.

On the other hand, the 50-watt Audio Aero Capitole tube amplifier barely broke a sweat powering these behemoths and it was quite clear that they are an excellent combination. The Sauvage can alternate between klezmer, rock, techno, and orchestral music selections without losing their composure at either end of the frequency spectrum, and their midrange clarity is quite exceptional. If these are in your price range, and your floor can handle their 210 pounds, they are without question worth a serious audition.


Mama Mia… Quads ESLs and Triodes!

Matt Brazeau, of Globe Audio Marketing always strives to be different, and he came to Montreal this year to make a statement. Globe Audio distributes Nirvana Audio cables in Canada and also distributes Audio Aero in North America. While it would have been nice to see a turntable in their room (come on guys, you are really beginning to slip), it was beyond cool to see a pair of refurbished and modified Quad ESLs powered by a pair of Audio Aero Prestige 40 watt monoblocks. In classic Quad style, the listening chair was set-up for a near field listening experience and the music just flowed from these wonderful speakers.


After suffering through more than thirty home theater demonstrations in one afternoon, it was nice to sit down and listen to some mellow music for a few minutes. If the Quads represent the "past" achievements of the high-end, then the new Audio Aero Capitole CD player ($8,900 USD) represents the future. Rather than embroil itself in the SACD/DVD-A turf war, Audio Aero has created one of the smoothest and most analog-sounding CD players that I have heard to date. Who do I have to kill to review this?


Paradigm does it again!

Three years ago, I had the opportunity to spend a day at Paradigm and watch how they make a number of their loudspeakers. Not only did I learn a lot about the design and testing process, but I also came away with a serious appreciation of how hard it is to make a good, yet affordable loudspeaker. I also discovered, that anechoic chambers are not a fun place to hang out. Anyone see that barf bag? One of their latest offerings is the new Studio 100 loudspeaker ($3,000 USD for real wood, $2,400 USD for laminate), and they proved to be quite adept with both music and home theater material. With the discontinuation of their excellent active speakers, the Paradigm Reference models are once again at the top of the company's product line.


What do you mean it isn't available?

Naim Audio recently introduced a sister preamplifier for its flagship NAP500 power amplifier at a show in England, but the new 552 preamp was nowhere to be seen in Montreal. Another no-show was the new SBL II loudspeaker, and I think I heard some grumbling amongst the Naim crowd. Calm down people, it is only a loudspeaker. Geez…you're almost as bad as the Wilson customers. There was a CDX/NAP250/NAC82/Hi-Cap/Alae system making some wonderful music in one of the rooms on the ground floor of the Delta, but based on what I have been reading on the Naim Forum, that would only be considered a mid-level Naim system. Potential customers should be aware that they aforementioned system would require an LP12/Aro/Troika/Cirkus/Lingo/CDS II/XPS/NAP500/NAC52/Super-Cap upgrade to be considered worthwhile.


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