Continuing my exploration of the Sonor-Filtronique room, which began in my first Montreal Audio Fest report, I spotted across the room a brand whose distinct appearanceI’d characterize it as a blend of modern and retrois instantly recognizable to most audiophiles: Nagra. On static display but beckoning me to snap a photo were Nagra’s 100Wpc solid state Classic Amp ($CA20,995) and tubed Classic preamp ($CA20,000), which has five line level inputs, including a XLR balanced one, and a headphone jack.
Sitting stoically beside the Nagra gear was the GEM Dandy PolyTable turntable ($CA2500 with Jelco SA-250 tonearm), whose architectural design reminded me of the Origin Live turntables. There’s something about the Dandy’s uncluttered, circular form that appeals to me, including the rubber cork compound (RCC) mat bonded to the top platter.
Abutting the long wall opposite the static displays was a system that was actually playing music. It featured Luxman’s belt-drive PD171A turntable ($US6995) with Hana Moving Coil cartridge ($US475), feeding Luxman’s E-250 solid state phono stage ($US2295) and its top-line, fully balanced, solid state C-900u preamp ($US19,950) and the M-900u solid state stereo power amplifier ($US19,950), both part of Luxman’s “Ultimate” series.
Also in Luxman’s “Ultimate” series (pictured below right) is the D-08u CD/SACD player ($US14,995), which is capable of handling PCM files up to 384kHz/32 bit and DSD up to 5.64MHz.
Speakers were Wilson Audio’s new Sasha DAW ($US37,900). DAW is the recently departed David Andrew Wilson, who in 1985 created the original WATT speaker, from which the Sasha models descended. The DAW has now replaced the previous Mk 2 iteration. I heard engaging musical flow and transparency that made me want to sink into the music. Cabling was from Nordost and equipment stands from Modulum, a Quebec-based company whose products I noticed in many exhibitors’ rooms.
Last year, the ArtistCloner room was a favorite of minethe Quebec manufacturer showcased an all-ArtistCloner system whose sound I described as “gutsy, transparent, and excitingly effortless,” and which I summed up as being “… a near ideal balance of sonic virtues between solid state and tube technologies.”
This year’s system didn’t quite reach that exalted level. Still, it projected a huge soundstage, extending far beyond the ArtistCloner Rebel Reference speakers (CA$22,300/pair with stands). But there was some steeliness, and the tonal balance seemed lighter and less substantial than I remembered. When I inquired, Sylvio Comtois, the company’s owner, told me that last year’s system had used monoblocks and a preamp whereas this year the speakers were being driven by the company’s rugged, DC-coupled 50Wpc integrated amplifier, the Scorpi, which starts at $CA12,000).
Quebec retailer Lemay Audio, which specializes in ultra-high end systems that cost into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, this year showcased a system retailing for less than $CA100,000. The system included Baetis Audio’s Reference X server ($CA13,000), T+A’s DAC 8 DSD ($CA6000), Tenor Audio’s 175S stereo amplifier ($CA65,000), and the Kef Blade 2s ($CA30,000), with cabling from German company in-akustik ($CA11,000).
On music by Verdi and Handel, the sound was dynamic, impactful, layered, and replete with dramatic tension that swept me along as I held my breath. Captivating! Owner François Lemay told me later that the music was from Tidal, streamed over the hotel’s wi-fi. My jaw dropped.
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