March 31 - April 3, 2011
All prices in Canadian dollars unless indicated otherwise
Companies featured in gallery below: Hegel, Rega, Atoll Electronique, Tangent Audio, Thrax Audio, Triangle, Vienna Acoustics, Beyond Frontiers Audio, Kronos, DeVore Fidelity, Sonus Faber, Nagra
All prices in Canadian dollars unless otherwise indicated
I'm noticing a definite increase in the number of high-quality two-and-a-half-way speaker designs. At this show I was bowled over by Jeff Joseph's new Perspective, a two-and-a-half-way floorstander that costs $11,800 per pair, and I also quite liked Vienna Acoustics' Mozart Grand Symphony Edition (SE), which is just under one-third of the price: $3500 per pair.
I don't really like using classical music for evaluating systems under show conditions. The environment's generally too noisy to flatter the high dynamic range and delicacy of well-recorded symphonic music. And baroque is just too precious for me to take seriously for anything other than brunch in a quaint bistro. So it's usually jazz for me unless I feel like clearing a room, at which point Mr. Bungle or Tomahawk usually does the trick.
I never get tired of audio shows, just as I'd imagine test pilots or (trust me on this one) motorcycle reviewers wouldn't get bored with their work. It's just so much fun. Not so much, though, for the distributors and manufacturers who put in long hours sitting in their rooms repeatedly answering the same questions.
As far as we can tell, everyone, including us, really likes the Hilton Bonaventure hotel, which has been home to Salon Son & Image since 2010. It's a bit weirdly situated -- more or less like a luxury three-story hotel atop a nine-story building -- but it's beautiful in many ways. I recommend staying here, particularly if you're attending the show. On the other hand, most of us have a love-hate-hate relationship with the lobby restaurant/bar.
The wacky world of audio contains a huge number of fringe players. You've got the Lowther single-driver crowd who get their kicks from a remarkably quick midrange at the expense of the frequency extremes. There are the horn dudes who crave the jump factor of their 104dB-efficient speakers despite vocals that often sound like they're coming out of a megaphone.
Analog is just wonderful in my books. It's arcane, elitist, and fussy. That might seem like a strange group of adjectives to use for praising an audio format, but it's a big part of the draw, man.
The arcane and elitist parts intrude on each other's turf. A great many kids don't even know what records are, so that keeps analog on the fringe, while the relatively high price of entry keeps out the riff-raff.
It's extremely hard to put on a truly great demonstration, but, as strange as this sounds, it's just as hard to put on a really horrible presentation that will have someone scurrying for the door in 30 seconds flat. Usually I have much more tolerance for crap displays and I'll stick around for a few minutes, if only to be polite. In Montreal this year, there were three rooms where I just couldn't stand it any longer and I headed for the door quickly because they were just way too loud for anyone's good.
Don't ask me why, but I wasn't expecting much from Joseph Audio's new Perspective loudspeaker when I first went into their room. Frankly, I can't put my finger on why I felt that way. I'll cut to the chase, though, and tell you that it blew me away. The Perspective is a two-and-a-half-way design that will sell for $11,800 per pair when it becomes available in June. The Perspective's parts quality is extremely high and the technology borrows from the company's flagship Pearl2 design.
The North American press can rightfully be accused of missing the boat when it comes to Vivid Audio, a company that does its design work in Britain and its manufacturing in South Africa. That includes us. Vivid released their B1 loudspeaker in 2004, yet we only reviewed it in 2010, and some other magazines are just getting around to writing about it. The B1 is still current in their line-up, and they have no plans to change it.
When it comes to tradeshow displays, Canada's Totem Acoustic is clearly ahead of its competition, and has been for several years. Whether the company shows their wares in a massive booth on the floor at an event such as CEDIA, or in a large room like at Salon Son & Image 2011, the displays are bright, lively, and thoroughly memorable. Totem Acoustic is also one of the few companies to use people in their ads, which, in our opinion, gives their marketing material better visual appeal and a more personal touch. It's odd that more companies haven't caught on, because it's obviously working well. Saying this year's display is eye-catching is an understatement. Awesome better describes it, and you couldn't help but be drawn into their room.
Our goal with this year's Salon Son & Image coverage is to produce the largest show report ever done at this event, and we also want to get it online quicker than anyone. Fifteen years ago when we first started covering this show, no one else was doing online coverage. Times change, though, and we now have competitors trying to catch up to our on-the-spot coverage. The result is that we have to be better than ever. In order to meet this year's goals, it means getting to Montreal early and starting off our coverage with a BANG! That bang, though, was just supposed to be a figure of speech; it wasn't supposed to involve my car.
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