More from Art’s Day One at the Montreal Audio Fest
I suppose I’m odd man out for not liking Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, which has sold over 45 million copies since its release in 1973 yet for me remains a monument only to the hazards of excessive marijuana consumption. Too bad for me: On Friday, the sounds of that album blasted from what seemed every third demonstration, and by the time I approached the door of the room sponsored by Montreal retailer Son Ideal, I was hearing DSOTM for literally the fourth time since the show opened. Quiet desperation, indeed.
And here, it sounded grainier than I likebut that may have been due to both an excessive volume level and the fact that it was still too early in the show for everything to sound its best. And indeed, when I passed by later in the day, I was lured inside by music that was both more to my liking and played at a saner volume level, and the sound was now colorfully and dynamically inviting. The system included the newly revised Rega P8 turntable-tonearm combo (approximately $CD5000), a Naim Uniti Nova integrated amplifier-digital front end ($CD9000), and a pair of Harbeth 30.1 loudspeakers (approximately $CD5000/pair).
Speaking of Cannabis sativa: As I approached the room sponsored by the Canadian manufacturer Tri-Art Audio, most of whose products use bamboo as a structural material, I remarked to their rep how much I enjoyed the scent of linseed oil wafting from their room (better that than other things that waft), and he corrected me: they use hemp oil. There it is.
As at past shows, the sound of the all-Tri-Art system was delightfulcolorful and tactile, with notably taut bass from their large dipole woofersand they played real records, not the usual demonstration fare. An electric blues number by guitarist Hans Theessink was incandescent, and “Crazy Bone” by John Prine was pure joy, so good it made me want to buy the record (and I’m not what you’d call a John Prine fan).
Included in the system were the following Tri-Art products: the TA-2 turntable with 9″ and 12″ tonearms ($CD4224), 7216 passive preamp ($CD1709.40), 9395 60Wpc amp ($CD2633.40), 9409 CD/DVD player ($CD990), and the 21680 tube-buffered power supply ($CD759).
Those who were disappointed by recent news that Canadian manufacturer Blue Circle has ceased doing business may be happy to know that their founder, Gilbert Yeung, has designed some products for a newish company called Saturn Audio, also headquartered in Canada. At the Montreal Audio Fest, Saturn demonstrated their 201 D/A processor, 501 preamplifier, and 601 power amplifier (pricing information was not available) in concert with a Lumin streamer at one end of the system and a pair or PMC standmounted loudspeakers at the other. Listening to a 44.1kHz FLAC file of the Eagles’ “Long Road Out of Eden,” I heard stereo imaging that was impressively detailed and delicately drawn, although the sound overall was lacking in richness and bass extension.
The system in the first of two rooms sponsored by the Montreal retailer Brosseau was their show special: For $CD3299 they would supply a Bluesound Node 2i wireless streamer; a Hegel H90 integrated amp; and a pair of DALI Oberon 7 loudspeakers; cablessupplied for this event by Biswere not included. When I first entered, a bunch of guys were having a lengthy and loud conversation at the front of the room, making listeningnot to mention the asking of questionsimpossible. By the time they moved on, I was almost out of time, but I listened to a jazz piece by an unknown-to-me piano trio and heard from this relatively inexpensive system very good musical timing, plus decent overall tonal balance, if not the last word in presence or dynamics.
Almost as economical and far more grabbing was the one-piece system in the other Brosseau room: the Cabasse Pearl, seen here in black ($CD4250). The Pearl combines a front-firing coaxial driver and a rear-firing bass driver with an onboard network player and three onboard amplifiers; a single Pearl functions in mono, but when two are used together, both can be switched to function as a stereo pair. The sound from a single Pearl was incredibly big, spacious, and wide of range, with shockingly good impact.
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