The Second Day
A good day was had by all, and we can say that without exaggerating. By all accounts the visitors had a ball, though one Toronto visitor confided that "you could spend weeks here."
Here, by the way, is the sight (and sound!) that greeted audiophiles arriving at the Delta Hotel. Yes...classical musicians, not sounding at all hi-fi-like. The cellist, like the other musicians tuning up for their turn, are students at the Pierre-Laporte high school, giving everyone a chance to compare the real thing with what they were headed upstairs to listen to.
We had a look at the Creek CD-50 Mk2 player, successor (so soon?) to the one that got warmly reviewed in UHF No. 69. How does it look? Identical. How does it sound? Also identical according to Creek importer Derek Coates. The new one, however, uses a computer drive to load the CD into memory, and plays it from there. Our plan: at the end of the show we'll give him back the CD50 and pick up its successor to have a little listen.
For many years the market for Verity Audio's decidedly upscale speakers has been far from here, though Verity is a Quebec company. But that doesn't stop Verity from showing up at the Festival, nor does it stop knowledgeable audiophiles from looking for the latest speakers. This year Verity returned to the Delta (from the 4 Points across the street) to show its biggest speaker ever, the Lohengrin. The woofer (which faces backwards is 15 inches across, with a resonance of 19 Hz in the baffle. Since the resonance also marks the essential cutoff of bass response...well, you can figure it out. Like Thiel, Verity uses a short voice coil, which can move back and forth a lot without ever wandering far from the centre of the magnetic field. That keeps distortion lower than the usual long (and therefore efficient) voice coil.
The Lohengrins (Canadian price $80K) were rather too large to be actually be played. The slightly scaled down Sarastro speakers were playing next door, and very well too!
We had seen a pair of giant Innersound electrostatic hybrid speakers in Vegas, but a much larger pair (the Kayas) were playing here. Innersound was also premiering its new DPR 500 power amp (the model name is a hint at the power per channel). The sound was very large, bordering on awesome.
It's interesting to see not only established European brands turning up at the Festival, but some prototypes. The FJ speakers is German, and looks interesting in its configuration. You look at it and it appears to have only tweeters...actually a dome tweeter and a somewhat larger dome midrange. So where's the woofer? Ah, there it is uptop, facing straight up. The overall sound was very good, playing the legendary Opus 3 Test Record 1 LP, with which we have reason to be highly familiar. The source was the DPS turntable shown at left...and we recall commenting favorably on it last year too. The electronics were from Tron. Their look is very much heroic industrial, but the sound is more lush and Romantic than you'd expect.
We ran across Jim Griffin of Griffin Audio, and talked about possible future tests. Likely candidates: the new ProAc D38 speakers, and the Lexicon universal player...not necessarily in that order.
We love off-the-wall components, whether they sound good or (as sometimes happens) inspiredly bad. The Villa Stibbert suspended CD player shown in our picture turned out to be in the former category, happily. It was feeding a Demidoff amplifier (isn't that a cigar?) and a pair of familiar Merlin speakers. Nice. In fact more than just nice.
Over at Charisma Audio, we looked over some new Shanling amplifiers and players (we're about to review the Shanling SACD player, so more about that shout that shortly). We were fascinated with an ALI Acoustic speaker from China...and especially its horn mouth, composed of a number of layers of laminated wood. The horn mouth aside, it has a lacquered finish that looks...well, Chinese in the very best sense. No model name yet, though the price has been chosen: around C$4000.
Want music throughout your home? The Cyruslink unit shown here looks like a CD player, but is in fact a music server. You load CDs into the usual drawer, and record them onto the 160 Mb or 250 Mb hard disc. From there, you have a digital jukebox filled with uncompressed music. The price is around $9500. Local units (for remote rooms) are of course extra. Neatly worked out, though.
Totem used to take small rooms at the Festival. They used to take the room we now have in fact. This year the company took a large hall, in which the Indian theme was taken a step further. We have yet to step beyond the entranve, but here's what you see when you enter. We presume there really are speakers on the other side.
Aurum was back this year, after an interesting but possibly premature start last year. This Newfoundland company is offering something totally different from anyone else. Designer Derrick Moss has designed a pair of large three-way amplifiers accompanied by a large six-channel amplifier to drive them. The amp itself contains an electronic crossover, and so there is one amp channel for each driver. The midranges and tweeters are driven by single-ended tube amplifiers. The woofers (which come into play below 375 Hz) need more power, and are driven by solid state sections from Bryston.
The setup was much more complete and finished than last year, and it was accompanied by an Aurum Integris CDP, the $10K CD player with gorgeous finish. The sound? Well, let's just say we're not prepared to bet against Moss carving out a niche for himself.
And that's the end of Day Two. Tomorrow is the final day, and it comes one hour early, courtesy of the insane move to Daylight Saving Time, but don't get us started! We'll bring you more tomorrow. But when the show ends, at 5 pm EDT, we have a lot of unpacking to do, followed by lining up for the elevators at the Delta. Likely time for the final update: not till late Monday morning.
See you then!