The biggest audio/video show on the continent?
Not quite. That honor belongs to CES in Las Vegas. But CES is strictly a trade show, whereas this festival is open to the public. It's the biggest, yes. And the best, if you ask us.
This show (Le Festival du Son et de l'Image, to give it its official title) is the 15th annual version. However it is billed as the 16th, because there was an earlier one, way back in 1984. That one was organized by Michel Prin, who was then our publisher, and it was a resounding success. Since then, the shows have been organized by Marie-Christine Prin, Michel's sister.
The theory among the (many) exhibitors is that the Montreal show works because Montreal is a great hi-fi town. That's certainly a factor, but the show itself has helped make it a better hi-fi town. Another factor is that, unlike some other shows we can think of, this one is held right downtown, not out near an international airport. Of course, that's possible because Montreal hotels--like real estate in general--are reasonably-priced. In turn, that means the show can make money without overcharging exhibitors. And the show is held in a pair of hotels, with real rooms, not in a huge barn best suited to an auto salon.
We have exhibited at 14 of the first 15 shows, and we are here again this year: room 317 at the Delta (the main venue).
The downtown Delta hotel (the one on President Kennedy Avenue, not the one south on University) has long been the main site for the festival. It is ideal, too. The building was originally intended to be a condominium complex, though the original developer went bankrupt. this means the walls aren't the usual cardboard and Masonite blend (we're barely exaggerating). Even more interesting is the fact that most rooms don't have parallel walls. The shape discourages the formation of standing waves, which are the acoustical bane of exhibitors trying to make their products sound presentable.
The downside? Exhibitors mostly unload in the parking garage, which has one elevator. A change of elevator is needed to get to the majority of the exhibit floors (about 12 of them in all.
Large as the Delta is, the Festival long ago outgrew it. So the hotel across the street, the Hilton Four Points, has been added, for the third year in a row. It is considerably smaller than the Delta, but it has larger rooms, which some exhibitors require. And the exhibitor rates are lower, since it is assumed that visitors will do the Delta first. And perhaps never quite making it across the street.
In 2002 there was actually a third hotel, the inelegantly-named Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza, which has a number of large convention-sized rooms. The Crowne Plaza is not used this year. Just as well, since it seems to have chronic labor problems, and last time we drove by there were picket signs in front.
The two hotels are right downtown, where they are easily accessible by the Métro, or--if you're staying downtown--on foot.
Since music is so much a part of our existence, we have lots of it in our room. We are bringing elements of our reference systems. The source will be our long time Parasound/Counterpoint CD player. The preamplifier will be the Copland CTA-305 (new to our system, and reviewed in UHF No. 66). The amplifier will be the Moon W-5. The speakers (the only borrowed component) will be the Living Voice Avatar OBX-R. Cables will be a mix of Pierre Gabriel and Wireworld. AC filtering will be by Foundation Research, with a hospital quality power bar from Gutwire.
So here we go...
We do expect our own room to be rather busy, but there are three of us at the show (Reine, Albert and Gerard), and we will take a bit of time to get a look around. Our digital camera will capture some pictures, and an iBook will be used to create the daily reports and upload them to our site.
Right here on the UHF site, you'll be able to visit the Festival without leaving home. You'll find the links at upper left.