Robert’s Day 3 in Montreal: Grandinote, Elac, Neat Acoustics, Etc.
A perennial exhibiter at the Montreal fest, Quebec-based importer / distributor Goerner Audio usually puts together a wonderful-sounding system built around a turntable, but this year’s setup was one of my favorites of theirs in recent years, and it included no vinyl. Rather than fuss around with LPs, the affable Reinhard Goerner was sitting leisurely in the corner of the room doing what most other exhibitors were doing: stabbing a finger at the screen of a tablet to choose the next piece to play.
I wasn’t complaining, since the sound I heard was captivating, courtesy of a complete system from Grandinote, an Italian brand I was unfamiliar with but was immediately taken by. The system included the Volta music server ($CA14,000), the 37Wpc, class-A, no feedback Shinai integrated amplifier ($CA20,000), and the aluminium-bodied, high sensitivity (95dB) Mach 4 speakers ($CA36,000). Luna did cable duty and racks were from Modulum, whose products Reinhard called “incredible”.
The enchantment began with an excerpt from Henry Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas, which possessed such vivacious energy and presence that I will shamelessly use an audiophile cliché to describe my experience: it was as if I were there, in the hall, watching the opera being performed in real time. Time machine indeed!
I heard more good sound in the Trends Electronics / Elac room, where Elac’s wireless-capable (but wired at the show) Navis ARF-51 3-way powered speakers ($CA6400) were delivering big sound and deep, pounding bass. Each driver in the Navis is powered by an amp (bass, midrange, and tweeter: 160Wpc, 100Wpc, and 40Wpc, respectively) which might help explain the clarity and force I heard across the frequency range. Electronic bass whomps never overwhelmed softer sounds such as delicate cymbal trails, which were allowed to express themselves without interruption. Downstream components included Alchemy by Elac’s DDP-2 preamplifier/DAC/streamer ($CA3000) and Discover server ($CA1500), which streamed music from what appeared to be the most commonly used streaming platform among exhibitors: Tidal. Cabling was provided by Audioquest.
Another neat (hehe) pair of speakers was found in the room presented by Canadian distributor Kimbercan: Neat Acoustics’s Ekstra speakers ($CA5499), a 2.5-way isobaric bass reflex speaker that incorporates an integral isobaric subwoofer (in this case, two woofers, one behind the other, simultaneously pumping bass downward from the bottom of the cabinets), and equipped with a ribbon tweeter.
Joining the Ekstras in the music-making was a 100Wpc, class-D Cyrus One integrated amplifier with phono stage ($CA1499), a Chord Qutest DAC ($CA2349), and, even cuter than the Qutest, the Raspberry Pi ($CA50!), an inconspicuously small, multipurpose, single-board computer adapted for audio to stream music from a memory card. Cables from Kimber Cable tied everything together.
The sound from this system was remarkably sweet and airy, with a good sense of rhythm and a large, if not ultimately resolved, musical presentation.
The best disappearing act by speakers I heard at this year’s show was pulled off by Swiss manufacturer Stenheim’s Alumine Two SE ($CA19,500 / pair), which have a claimed sensitivity of 93dB, a nominal impedance of 8 ohms, and a frequency response of 45Hz – 30kHz. Making their official debut at this year’s fest, the Alumines were driven by Soulution’s 120Wpc 330 integrated amp ($CA25,000), Brinkmann’s Nyquist MKII streaming DAC ($CA20,000) via its tubed output stage, and Wolf Audio’s Alpha 3 server ($CA9000), which also officially launched at the show. Stands were by Massif and cabling from Quebec’s Bis Audio.
There was an effortless delicacy, openness, and scale to the presentation of this system that made music seem to exist on another plan,e distinct from that occupied by the system or the speakers. Had I not had a report to finish, I would have stayed much longer.
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