Montreal Salon Son & Image 2009 Show Report
Clark Hertz - Senior Editor, Canada
This is the 23rd annual Hifi show from Montreal. This year the organizers changed the show name to Salon Son & Image from Festival Son & Image. It sounds more chic anyways to suit its location. This year’s show was held from April 2nd to 5th.and featured live jazz performances and eight floors of exhibits. Hifi is still alive and well during this recession with many new companies from Canada and new imports being the highlights of this show. We have choosen a few new and standout products to feature in this report. Since this was a canadian show, most prices are expressed in Canadian dollars. At the moment, the US dollar is about 20% stronger than the maples leafs, so you can usually take about 20% off the Canadian prices if you live in the US.
A new and exiting company from Toronto is Mass Fidelity. Their first product is a 20 Watt solid state class AB mono block power amp called lil_doosey which retails for $399 Canadian each. It is very compact and has a footprint size of about a CD case. It has a dedicated linear power supply with a custom wound toroidal transformer. It also has a EMI filter on the mains power input and a proprietary grounding system for eliminating unwanted noise. It has both RCA and XLR inputs which are gold plated and selectable via a switch on the rear. The enclosure is precision machined from aluminum and is available in a variety of high gloss colors. Mass Fidelity’s Benjamin Webster said they have a number of products developed like a matching preamp which will be released soon.
The current king of budget items seems to be King Rex which products are reproducing like rabbits. At the show a new wave of amps, preamps, mono blocks and DACs were ready to greet the public courtesy of Obad Imports.
Vinyl Playback Systems
A new Canadian manufacturer of turntables brought a beautiful working prototype. His name is Sylvain Pichette and his turntable bears his name. Much interest was generated by its showing, so much so that one other exhibitor asked to borrow it to try it on his own system on display. Sylvain anticipates it will retail in the $20,000 Canadian range.
Grant Fidelity from Calgary who makes a large line of hi-end products themselves, have also taken on distribution duties for several other brand names. They were showing a large variety of Chinese turntables including the Consonance Forbidden City – LIU for $2200 US with its distinctive split red base.
Obad Imports were showing the new PREference phono preamp from King Rex. It can accommodate both MM and MC cartridges with 6 load settings. It has an outboard power supply, uses an Alps pot and retails for $1499 Canadian.
The Radius from Roksan is not newbut still a contender in the just over $2,000 market of high value turntables. Around $2,500 with arm and cartridge.
The new Naim HDX server was also creating a stir. It features two 400 Gig hard drives and uses one as a backup. It has USB inputs and can process 24 bits at 192 kHz. A separate power supply is available. The price will be $9750 Canadian. We are working on getting one for review.
Grant Fidelity was introducing the new Grant Fidelity Reference Tube CD-1000 (Impression II) CD player with impressive features:
Completely separated left and right channel with 2x BB PCM1794 D/A converting IC chip and 10x OPA2604 / OPA 604 for IV converting and low pass filtering
Sanyo DA11VZ CD drive and Nikon high grade capacitors as key components
TOSHIBA-TA2125AF, TOSHIBA-2157F, TOSHIBA-TC94A14F as servo system
1 set of Vacuum tube (EH 6922) unbalanced output, 1 set of transistor unbalanced output, plus 1 set of transistor fully balanced output at your choice
Other outputs includes digital coaxial, optical, AES/EBU and tube (EL84) headphone output
Defeatable up-sampling with 3 optional frequencies: 44.1 kHz/16 bit, 96 kHz/24 bit and 192 kHz/24 bit
Anti-vibration isolated aluminum chassis for 5 key components
Manual top loading and remote control
The price is $4,032 Canadian or $3,200 US.
England’s Exposure introduced the new upscale MCX series of electronics. They provide a refreshing new look for the company.
The most interesting CD player shown was the Playback Designs MPS-5. It was developed by Andreas Koch, the brilliant engineer who designed all of the amazing digital products for EMM Labs from 2003 to 2007. In 2008 He and Jonathan Tinn formed Playback Designs. Andreas Koch has been working at advancing digital technology since he started with Studer ReVox in Switzerland in 1982. The MPS-5 uses a modified Esoteric Transport and can be directly hooked up to a computer as a server. It also has balanced outputs and through PDFAS (Playback Designs Frequency Arrival System) completely eliminates all jitter. This player sets a new benchmark for digital playback and retails for $15,000 US.
The DAD (Digital Audio Denmark) AX24 DAC was being used with Adam Audio speakers. The DAC can process up to 192 kHz and retails for $5500 US.
The well received Nova Physics Memory Player Transport version which sells for $12,500 US will soon have some more siblings in the family. The tube DAC or solid state version will be released in May and will retail for $18,500 US.
Naim was proud to show the new all in one system called the Naim Uniti. It includes a 50 watt integrated amp, CD player, DAB tuner and features wireless streaming from a USB input. The price is $5,000 Canadian. Also shown by Naim was their new integrated amp, the Nait XS. It puts out 60 watts into 8 ohms and 90 watts into 4 ohms.
Jadis were celebrating their 25 anniversary with special editions of the J80 amp and the JP80 preamp. They retail for $25,000 US each.
SAR Labs from Winnipeg was showing the new gold faced MOS 150 power amp. It puts out 150 Watts into 8 ohms using hexfet outputs and retails for $5800 Canadian. Also shown was the MOS 400 which sells for $4400 Canadian.
The Shindo Laboratory line of tube electronics from Japan were in various systems, though not new. The Giscours preamp will set you back about $25,000 US.
At about $4,000, the Aurieges Stereo Pre is considered by some a real bargain.
Integrated from Sheng Ya imported by Grant Audio - about $3,000
Green & gold from Leben and distributor Tone Audio
Made in Germany - 400 watt monoblock - about $6,000
Avalon was showing the new Aspect which is a triangular design in which the wooden sides form the legs of the speaker. It is a two way three driver speaker and retails for $8500 US. A new Avalon model called Time will be released this spring and is going to be priced at $48,000 US. It will be marketed between the Diamond and Isis models.
Canadian manufacturer Coherent Speakers was showing the floor standing 8-PHY featuring construction from old growth wood that was buried 200 years ago. The list price is $14,000 Canadian.
The new Spendor A6 was producing amazing sound and solid bass. It is part of the new A series from Spendor and retails for $3795 Canadian. Also shown is their new flagship, the ST which retails for $10,500 Canadian.
Lafleur Audio was showing the stand mounted X1 and X2 laminated speakers, which were sounding spectacular. They announced that a new entry level model called the MX1 will be released in July.
Verity Audio was showing the new height adjustable stand for the Parsifal monitor. The Parsifals were set up with the matching Rocco subwoofer which features opposed double 12” woofers in a piano black ported enclosure. It is powered by a 1000 watt built in amplifier and features both XLR and RCA inputs. The subwoofer is rated down to 18 Hz and is priced at $10,000 US.
Herold Audio were demonstrating the H-744 new passive floor stander. It is a three way design and the woofer is transmission line loaded into a port which exits into a gap between the speaker and its base. These were sounding better than last year’s demo of the active version. Their look is similar to the B+W 800 with top modules above a wrap around wood grain bass enclosure. They have a rated frequency response of 21 Hz to 32 kHz. The highs were clean and detailed and the bass was excellent with authority and clean power. The price is $7,000 US a pair.
The silver Mordaunt Short Performance 6’s ($6,000 Canadian) were shown with the matching Performance 9 subwoofer. The sub features two 10” woofers and a large centrally located flared port. The sub retails for $3000 Canadian.
Monitor Audio were showing two new products together, The PL-200 floor stander which retails for $9995 Canadian/pair and the new PLW-15 active sub. The sub features a single 15” C-CAM aluminum/magnesium woofer with a ceramic coating in a acoustic suspension enclosure. It is driven by a 1000 watt amp and has a 4 inch long throw voice coil. It comes in three finishes and comes with a wireless remote. It is the best looking subwoofer I have ever seen and sounds great too. It lists for $5895 Canadian.
Totem was showing the revised version of the Wind floor stander called Wind Design. It comes in four gloss colors and has an improved crossover. The internal bracing and base have also been improved. The price is $14-15k Canadian depending on finish.
The new Martin Logan flagship is the CLX. It is a full range electrostat and retails for $21,832 US. Also available is the 25 anniversary version which sells for $25,000 US.
A new company from Quebec called Hathor was showing the Ma, a stand mounted ported two way speaker. It features a triangular top and an outboard crossover. Hathor was an Egyptian god that healed the people with his beautiful singing. The Ma retails for $4000 Canadian.
The big Wilson MAXX series 3’s were helped out by the new and massive Thor’s Hammer. You want to impress the boys, well how about a subwoofer the size of a fridge? This sub uses the dual spider driver and crossover technology developed in the Watchdog and is said to outperform the seven foot tall XS sub from Wilson. The dual 15” drivers produce bass response down to 10 Hz in its dual ported cabinet made from X material. The subwoofer operates with the Wilson Controller which is an electronic crossover and equalizer. The Controller accepts XLR and RCA connections. Thor’s Hammer retails for $21,000 US.
The Rockport Mira Grand is a tall silver floor stander with a retail of $35,000 US. It features a centrally mounted mid, tweeter section and has two side firing 8 inch woofers
Solen was showing their latest speaker project which features multiple drivers in large triangular cabinets and external crossovers. It is a showcase for the driver retailer and they will sell this pair for $20,000 Canadian.
Earthquake was showing the PN 2550 monitors ($699 Canadian each) with the Earthquake Mk 6 subwoofer. The sub features a single 15 inch driver and a built in 600 watt amplifier. It automatically EQ’s itself to the room it is located in and comes with a calibration microphone. It is available in piano black and is priced at $2500-4000 Canadian depending on finish.
Power Conditioners and Cables
Herbert Wong from Gutwire was showing their new SP line of power cables with heat treated center body cubic graphite beads which reduce RF interference. This line will replace the well received Clef series. They were also showing the new Gutwire 6 Bar AC Conditioner with solid aluminum construction and the same graphite beads. It retails for $3500 Canadian.
The Chang Lightspeed Ultimate Reference Power Conditioner features Hyperdrive which is a shunting mechanism to reduce noise. It retails for $2600 US.
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