George de Sa

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Chord 2Qute
Bluebird Music, the North American distributor for Chord Electronics, has just announced that the first batch of the new Chord 2Qutes was shipped to US and Canadian dealers on April 23, 2015.
The new 2Qute is a compact, affordable standalone DAC which combines two Chord products: the Hugo DAC/headphone amp and the Qute EX standalone DAC. The result is a new super-DAC for 2015 with class-leading specification, outstanding technical measurements and proven sonic performance.
2Qute takes the Qute EX DAC up to the latest Hugo specification; and is essentially a Hugo within Chordette dress, or in this case chassis. The 2Qute has the latest FPGA DAC technology, with the same high-performance Spartan 6 FPGA within the Hugo. The 2Qute also boasts astonishingly low distortion levels of 0.0003%.
The 2Qute offers support for up to 32-bit/384kHz audio via coax and USB, and 24-bit/192kHz over optical. DSD64 is supported on all inputs and DSD128 is supported via coax or USB (all via DoP). The new DAC also gains a handy switch to easily move between coax, optical and USB digital inputs.
The device features a Class 2 USB input which, because of the 2Qute’s home-system orientation compared to Hugo’s more mobile aspirations, has been galvanically isolated for greater sonic performance. This has been achieved using a novel technique which allows for very high data rates of up to 384kHz; the input is driverless on Apple and Android devices, with (ASIO included) drivers for Windows devices.

Features Include:
– Coax, optical and USB digital inputs with input switch
– Galvanically isolated Class 2 USB input up to 384kHz
– Driverless operation on Apple and Android devices; drivers supplied for Windows
– Support for up to 32-bit/384kHz audio via coax and USB, and 24-bit/192kHz via optical
– DSD64 supported on all inputs, DSD128 supported via coax or USB input (all via DoP)
– Source and sample rate indication/illumination
– 12V 0.5A power supply provided

Measurements:
– Output: 3v RMS 1kHz
– Dynamic range: -119dB A Wt
– THD: 0.0003% at 3v RMS 1kHz; 0.0002% at 2v RMS 1kHz
– Crosstalk: 126dB 1kHz
– Frequency Response: +/- 0.1dB 20-20kHz

The new Chord 2Qute will be available, starting in April at a MSRP of $1,795 U.S. Look for more details at: http://www.chordelectronics.co.uk

AK Jr
Astell&Kern, manufacturer of portable hi-end audio players has just announced their latest product – their new entry-level AK Jr. The AK Jr is an entry level portable hi-res audio player that has been developed to bring the highest quality to a more affordable level.

The Astell&Kern AK Jr features 64GB of internal memory and a microSD card slot, supporting a 64GB microSD card for a total capacity of 128GB of music storage. The AK Jr features a single Wolfson WM8740 DAC and an unbalanced 3.5mm headphone jack with an output impedance of 2 ohms, powerful enough to drive a wide range of high-end headphones and IEMs. With a 3.1” LCD touchscreen, the AK Jr provides plenty of space to display your music information.

The AK Jr supports a wide range of digital audio files, including 24-bit, up to 192khz PCM and single-rate DSD (converted to PCM) high-resolution audio, as well as the most popular Apple lossless formats in addition to many other lossy music formats users may currently have.

Astell&Kern’s current lineup of audiophile-grade portable hi-res audio players include: the AK100 II, AK120 II and the flagship AK240. These three players feature upgrades from the AK Jr including single and dual-DAC Cirrus Logic 4398 chipsets; single and double-rate DSD playback (native DSD playback on AK240, DSD to PCM conversion on the AK100 II and AK120 II); 3.31-inch high-resolution AMOLED screens; unbalanced and balanced analog outputs that allows the user to use virtually any headphone or earbud on the market and Wi-Fi connectivity to download music wirelessly to the player from a computer or network storage device and provides the ability to wirelessly stream music to the player without downloading music to the player first.

All four players include the ability to use the portable player as a USB DAC, allowing the owner to connect the player to their computer to bypass their internal sound card and get high resolution sound from their PC or Mac desktop or laptop.

The new AK Jr will be on display at High End Munich 2015 in early may and T.H.E. Show Newport in late May, 2015. The Astell&Kern AK Jr will be available shortly at a MSRP of: $499 U.S. Look for more information to become available at: http://www.astellnkern.com

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Sony was showcasing a plethora of products at SSI this year. In the Personal Audio Zone, they had a table where they were demoing and displaying their mobile and lifestyle audio products including their all new flagship Hi-Res Walkman NWZ-X2 $1,200, along with their much lower cost NWZ-A17 Hi-Res Walkman $300. Given the attention the NWZ-X2 was getting, I only got a short time on the headphones to listen but what I heard was very engaging.

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A couple other new products being shown were the Sony Premium Hi-Res Bluetooth Wireless Speakers, the SRS-X88 $500 and the SRS-X99 $749. I was told that a new app allows multi-room control of multiple speakers, much like Sonos or Bluesound.

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Pictured here are also the feature loaded mini-systems: HAP-S1B $1000; MAP-S1 $800 and the premier showing of the CMT-SX7 $600. Sony was also showing their very affordable, yet feature packed 7.2-ch WiFi AV Receiver with Bluetooth, AirPlay and Google Cast $750 (coming soon).

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Moving to another Sony room I was amazed by the beautifully sharp and colour rich images of Sony’s new Ultra-Short Throw Laser Light Source 4K/3D Projector (VPL-GTZ1) approximately $50,000 (special order only). The projector is capable of throwing an image of up to 147″ (a 133″ image was being demonstrated), from just a few inches away from the cast wall – just amazing!

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I made it over to another room being hosted by Sony to demonstrate their Hi-Res 2-ch stereo products. The setup included the HAP-Z1ES Hi-Res DSD Music Server / DAC combined with the TA-A1ES 80wpc integrated amplifier, playing through the Sony SS-NA2ES loudspeakers $11,000/pair. Here I had the chance to listen to the track “Keith Don’t Go” by Nilson Lofgen. The guitars sounded very crisp and the presentation was incisive yet smooth; with a little extra hi-frequency energy, which was not displeasing.

Audio Group AG:

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Audio Group had an interesting display centred around a large wooden crate, sporting a dozen or so wooden pegs, on which a string of Grado’s new e-Series headphones were hung. The models for the picking included everything thing from the entry level SR60e $119, right through to the RS1e $899.99 but that wasn’t it.

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To the right was a table setup featuring the Meridian Prime headphone amplifier $2,699 with an optional PSU power supply unit $1,749 and the latest Explorer2 DAC $1,749 – both now MQA compatible (MQA is Merdian’s all-new proprietary digital encapsulating/decoding format). Listening to a few tracks demonstrated the very detailed, delicate and clean sound of the Meridian devices.   Along with the Meridian head-amps were the Grado GS1000e $1,299 and the PS1000e $2,199 headphones. Personally, I find Grado’s open and slightly forward / lively sound addictive. Within the Grado line, you can get a touch more warmth with the woodies and a little more detail and air with the metal earcups. All-in-all, I find Grado headphones very high from a performance-to-value perspective. This was a great booth to visit at the show.

Import HiFi:

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Import HiFi is the importer/distributor of BC Acoustique (BCA) and Davis Acoustics (Davis) brands. In a large room, they were showing off three different full systems. The first was made up of Davis Dhavani $1,799/pair and Davis Maya loudspeakers $999/pair, driven by a BCA EX202.1 $329 integrated amplifier and an EX602 CDP $329 as well as alternatively with a BCA EX712 $499 all-in-one integrated with built-in CDP.

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The next setup included Davis Vinci HD $2,599/pair or Davis Cezanne HD loudspeakers $3,899/pair with BCA EX622.1 CDP $649 and 332D integrated amplifier $1,299.

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The third system was comprised of Davis MV-One loudspeakers $7,999/pair with BCA EX888.1 kt88 40wpc integrated $2,499 and EX362D Class A 80wpc integrated $2,499. I only got a little time to listen to this third system but what I heard was vibrant and engaging. Cabling on all three systems was full Nordost Blue Heaven.

Audiophile Experts:

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I came across the room of Audiophile Experts, a Quebec-based dealer. The setup in their room sounded wonderful with amazing clarity, dynamics and imaging. The system was fronted by a pair of Audio Physic Scorpio 25 Plus loudspeakers $,11,500/pair that were being driven with Devialet D200 monoblocks $7,500/each. The source was an Esoteric CDP K-05 $15,000 and cabling was Kimber Select, with the 8ft speaker cables priced at approximately $7,000/pair.

Audio Physic:

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Goerner, distributor for Audio Physic, Grandinote, Creaktiv, Funk and Trigon put together a room with terrific imaging, impact and tonal colour; however, not strictly a typical two-channel setup but rather a 2.1 setup. The system used Audio Physic Virgo 25 Plus loudspeakers $20,000/pair and an Audio Physic Rhea II subwoofer $5,490. Amplification was by way of Grandinote Domino preamplifer $17,000 and Demone (pure Class A) monoblock amplifiers $50,000/pair. The digital source was a Grandinote Volta music server $14,000.

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The analog setup was comprised of an Acoustic Signature Storm table $9,000 with their 12″ TA-1000 tonearm $2,300 and London (Decc) Super Gold cartridge $1,875, running through a Grandinote Celio phono-amp $8,750. This system sat on a Creaktiv Big Reference rack $7,000.

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Here is Reinhard Goerner himself proudly standing by the Acoutic Signature turntable. Also in this room was a Funk Vector table $2,995 with a Funk FXR 9″ tonearm $2,750; Trigon Chronolog CD/DVD/Server $9,495; Trigon Epilog amplifier $12,990; Audio Physic Classic 20 loudspeakers $5,790 and Creaktiv Alu Line 1-3 rack $2,500.

Zidel Marketing:

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Zidel put together a room featuring an immense set of speakers – the Tannoy prestige Gold Reference, Westminister Royal $50,000/pair. These speakers were connected to an all Cary Audio system, made up of a Cary 120S MkII amplifier $6,000, all-new SLP-98 preamplifier (1st Canadian showing) $4,500, connected to a Cary DMC-600SE Digital Music Centre with CDP and tube output section $8,000. I was impressed with the sound, which delivered on big, room filling sonics.

IsoAcoustics:

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IsoAcoustics is a manufacturer of vibration/resonance control loudspeaker stands. Featured in the room and demonstrated was their Aperta model $200/pair. Two pairs of identical Focal Aria 906 bookshelf speakers were set up side by side with offset left and right channels. One set was set atop the IsoAcoustics Aperta, sitting on a standard steel stand, while the other pair was set on three ½ inch plywood planks atop of the same model of steel stand. With height and placement matched, an A/B comparison resulted in a significant improvement in clarity, extension, articulation and detail retrieval with the Aperta foundations in place. A very effective demonstration and a product I’ll need to put on my list. 

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IsoAcoustics offers their vibration/resonance controls products in a variety of heights to meet a wide number of applications.

Meridian Audio:

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Meridian was running regular closed door seminars daily demonstrating their all-new breakthrough MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) technology. Over 30 minutes, John Bartkowiak, International Sales Executive at Meridian Audio Ltd. described the invention, its objectives and its benefits before providing a demonstration of a few MQA tracks. MQA was espoused as allowing the common listener to hear for the first time all the nuance and details of the original studio master recording with nothing lost and nothing taken away. MQA was described as providing a 100% faithful representation of the original studio master recording, allowing listeners to hear more than has ever been possible with any digital format currently available. MQA captures and compresses the original master, while eliminating pre/post digital ringing – preventing the hard/glassy sound typically associated with digital music. It also ensures that critical timing information is preserved intact. An MQA master recording, regardless of the playback format / device will sound better than any comparable digital version and if an MQA decoder is used on the playback end, the MQA will reveal the exact and full representation of the original master recording, as never been heard before. MQA requires going back to the master tapes and re-mastering with MQA in place or having MQA in the original recording chain. MQA files, though larger than MP3 files, are smaller than CD-quality files and therefore can be easily streamed. Meridian has been working with music artists and companies in the recording, mastering and sales channels, including TIDAL music, to roll out MQA. A number of music files was demonstrated, with Meridian’s own Special Edition DSP Digital Active DSP7200SE speakers $46,000 U.S./pair – these included Roberta Flack “Killing Me Softly”; Natalie Cole “Fever” and Lady Gaga “Do What You Want”. The sound was very lifelike, very natural and put the performers in the room, with amazing detail, space and touch. I’m looking forward to trying MQA in my own listening room.

TIDAL HiFi

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One music streaming service that has been getting a lot of attention lately is TIDAL HiFi. TIDAL offers subscription-based music streaming, which is in competition with the likes of companies such as Spotify and Deezer. However, TIDAL’s claim to fame is that it streams lossless audio and high definition music, along with videos with curated editorial. Currently, TIDAL offers over 25 million tracks and 75,000 music videos. Just recently, in fact, while the Montreal SSI was going on, music celebrity Shawn Carter a.k.a. Jay Z purchased the company for $58 million. At the show, I met David Solomon, National Sales and Marketing Director for TIDAL. David and I spoke about their service offering and he was the one to let me in on the Jay Z purchase announcement. TIDAL is offering a free 14 day trail right now and after that it will be $19.99/month to continue.

Live Recording / Live Music

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In one of the large rooms I had the chance to witness a live performance recording in an open door professional studio that I was told incorporated equipment exceeding $300,000. The studio recording session included performances from members of the Give Band (Stephan Rich and Caroline St. Louis), as well as guest chanteuse Anne Bisson.

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I also caught a live chorus-line performance by Maison Corbeau, which was sponsored by Delaney Technologies, a design and engineering firm that specializes in handling and has a proposal out for a retractable room design for the Montreal Olympic Stadium.

Muraudio / Tenor Audio / Kronos

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The most expensive setup at the show was put together in an immense room and setup along the long wall, with delightfully comfortable and luxurious leather seating. This system was touted as being “The World’s Best Canadian Audio System” and included the following equipment totaling $450,000:

Tenor Audio: 350m Haute Puissance 500 Watt power amplifiers $125,000 (world premier); Line 1/Power1 Preamplifier $100,000; Phono1 phonostage $50,000

Kronos Audio: Kronos Pro (World Premier) turntable a$38,000 and Black Beauty tone arm $8,500

Muraudio: Domain Omni PX1 ESL, 360 degree electrostatic loudspeaker $65,000/pair

Solid Rack stands

Kubala Sosna Elation cables

The sound of this system managed to fill the gigantic space, remaining surprisingly even throughout. Impressive yes, though I could not say it was the highest performance system at SSI.

Closing:

I hope you enjoyed my highlights of the 2015 Montreal Audio Show. I’m already looking forward to next year. To close, here is a shot of me with a couple of items on my own “bucket list” – the 580lbs. Naim NAP S1 Statement Preamplifier & Amplifier with 1450 Watts-per-channel ($100,000 & $150,000) and the majestic Focal Grande Utopia EM ($195,000/pair) loudspeaker.

George - Naim and Focal (Custom)

Montreal Audio Show (Custom)

Oh, Montreal, a city full of fun and ever more so with the return of the 2015 Montreal Audio Show | Salon Son & Image (SSI) show.   SSI was held, once again, at the Bonaventure Hotel over three days – March 27 to 29th to be exact. This year, Suave Kajko, Editor-and-Chief of CANADA HiFi Magazine and I were able to attend the show for all three days, which gave me enough time to take in all the sights and sounds at a more leisurely pace. Though the bones of the show remained as it has for the past few years, there were a couple net new attractions, including a live music recording studio setup which I’ll tell you about soon.

SSI continues to be a show focused on music playback, predominantly of the two-channel (stereo) variety – whether from digital or vinyl source or for that matter, orated by loudspeaker or headphone. This year, 2015, marks the 28th year of the SSI – an astounding accomplishment in these days of constant change. However, somewhat of shock to me was the markedly lower number of exhibitors, less than I’ve seen in several years. Despite the reduction in rooms to visit, it seemed as though visitor traffic was still healthy, a reassuring sign.

Sony a6000

Photos With a Sony a6000 Camera:

Before I go any farther I would like to let you know that all my photos were taken using an off-the-shelf Sony a6000 digital camera with the standard 16-50mm lens ($799). The Sony a6000 is a mirrorless camera with an incredibly fast auto-focus – just 0.06 seconds and a 24.3 MP image sensor. I found the a6000 to be very light and compact, yet very capable, which made it a joy to use throughout the show. I’d recommend that anyone looking for SLR-like performance in a much smaller package, give it a try. For more about the Sony a6000 mirrorless digital camera, visit: http://store.sony.ca/digital-cameras/cat-31-catid-Digital-Cameras

And now – to my coverage of the 2015 Salon Son & Image – Montreal Show:

Audeze:

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At the Audeze table, I was greeted by Tasvee Uka, International Sales Associate for Audeze, who I had first met last October at TAVES 2014. Tasvee introduced me to the Audeze EL-8 headphone, a new model available in both closed and open-back format, each priced at $699 U.S. The EL-8 was designed to be easy to drive, even by a mobile device.

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I gave a listen to a couple tracks and was quite amazed by the openness and soundstaging of the closed back model. Turning to the LCD-2 headphones $995, I gave listen to Audeze’s all-new prototype headphone amplifier, the Deckard Class-A Amp/DAC. I was impressed with the detail, quickness and incisiveness of its sound – and found the design very attractive. I was told Audeze is still working on some finishing details but that it is expected to be released soon. Other headphone models on display were the LCD-X $1,699; LCD-XC $1,799 and LCD-3 $1,945, all in U.S. dollars.

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I spent some time listening to the LCD-3 and was just bowled over by how three-dimensional the sound was with images seemingly reaching out towards me from the space around – note-to-self; add this to the bucket list.

Audio Note UK

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My visit to the Audio Note turned out to be a bit of a surprise. Over the years of hearing the Audio Note products, I’ve gone from totally dismissing them given there 70’s appearance, to being intrigued by their music portrayal, to now, especially on this latest visit, being astounded by the lifelike rendition they are capable of portraying. In this room, was the Audio Note CDT One/II $4,100 CD transport hitched to a DAC2.1x Signature DAC $5,500, which in turn was connected to a P2SE Signature 18 watt/ch integrated tube amplifier $6,000, powering a pair of J/D loudspeakers $4,000 with a hemp woofer (all pricing in U.S.). Listening to the Oscar Peterson Trio album, We Get Requests and the song “You Look Good To Me” I was blown away at the eerily realistic portrayal. PRAT, flow, liquidity as well as texture and tonal accuracy were all there and I found myself totally absorbed in the listening.  

Gershman Acoustics

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In the Gershman Acoustics room, the star attraction was the Grande Avant Garde loudspeaker $12,900/pair which was being demonstrated with Naim and Devialet integrated amplifiers. While I was in the room, the Naim equipment was in place and the sound was very lovely. The speakers though quite modest in overall size are able to dig deep and provide quite amazing articulation. All Gershman Acoustics are proudly handcrafted in Canada – just North of the Greater Toronto Area. With a frequency response of 22Hz to 20kHz they are full-range speakers that are adept with a broad range of music.

Audionation / April Music

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As I was walking down the hallways, the sound emanating from one of the rooms was particularly beautiful and lively, drawing me in. This was a room hosted by Audionation, the Canadian distributor and online sales channel for April Music, Vifa, DALI and Exposure.

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Featured inside this room was the all-new, April Music Aura Note V2 $2,999, its first Canadian showing. The Aura Note V2 is an all-in-one integrated amplifier /FM receiver/CDP. This system was demonstrated with the DALI Rubicon 6 floorstander $6,999. On hand was also the DALI Rubicon 2 bookshelf $3,499. The sound was truly engaging and musical with lovely presence and tone – one of my picks for value and performance.     

ClaeCast

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ClaeCast, a new Canadian manufacturer based out of Gormley, Ontario was showing off their first product for the first time – referred to simply as the ClaeCast Loudspeaker est. $25,000/pair. The speakers were unusual in form, using twin woofers, an open port enclosure with an upright bar housing twin planar-magnetic midranges, and what I perceived as a magnetostat ribbon tweeter. Zdenko Zivkovic, a veteran electronics designer who has worked for companies such as Sonic Frontiers and Magnum Dynalab was proudly providing the details on the speakers, as well as the DAC, integrated amplifier and preamp that were of his personal design. What was different then probably anything at the show was the “live-performance sound” these speakers were capable of producing – dynamic, quick and open. Sitting below and just behind the main escalators, their sound made its way up and could be heard right from the main entrance area of the hotel. In fact, before I actually saw them, I was fooled into thinking that a live musical performance was underway. I’m hoping to see more of this company in 2015, perhaps even at TAVES 2015.

Brosseau / Simaudio

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Simaudio was being hosted by a local Quebec dealer – Brosseau. The active setup was made up of the relatively new Simaudio MOON 280D DAC $2,200 running into a MOON 340i integrated $4,700. Speakers were DALI Rubicon 6 $6,999/pair. I really liked the overall tone of this system and was amazed at its sound given its relatively affordable overall price. My interest was spiked enough I asked Lionel Goodfield, VP Marketing, Simaudio for a review sample of the MOON 280D DAC – watch for this in the coming months.

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On static display was a custom special edition MOON 600i integrated amplifier with 24-karat gold plating and custom black paint $13,000; along with DALI Epicon 6 loudspeakers $17,000. An interesting fact I found out was that Simaudio offers custom paint and metal finishes on all of its components, though price will vary depending on the request.

AudioQuest

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AudioQuest was set up in a room with a local dealer, Audioville, running a number of closed-door demonstrations focused on digital audio music playback. At the heart of these demos was the AudioQuest DragonFly DAC 1.2 $149 U.S. along with a new prototype device – the JitterBug est. $49 (first Canadian showing). The JitterBug is a dual-line conditioner that reduces jitter, ringing and digital noise through USB. The “bugs” they were showing didn’t even have enclosures and a formal release date has not yet been announced – though when pressed, the AudioQuest folks did say it should be in 2015, if everything goes as planned. More significant was the all-new AudioQuest NightHawk, a semi-open-back headphone $699. The NightHawk uses unique biocellulose diaphragms, paired to 1.2 Tesla magnets and all PSC+ copper conductors. The earcups are constructed of Liquid Wood, a man-made material comprised of reconstituted wood pulp. The finish made the earcups look like they were of an exotic wood. Liquid wood is used to provide performance benefits, lower cost and aesthetic appeal. I had some time to listen to the NightHawk powered by both the DragonFly, as well as a Woo Audio Firefly – in both cases with the JitterBug hooked up in line. The source was a MacBook running Audirvana Plus software. I found the sound to lean to the warm with full rich bass and a good helping of detail, though for me lacking a bit of treble extension and bass articulation.

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Also in the room, AudioQuest was featuring their CAT 7 10-Gigabit digital cables, including the Pearl CAT 7 $29/1.5m and Diamond CAT 7 $1200/1.5m. An active system included a Bryston BDA-2 DAC and B&W 802 D2 loudspeakers driven by a Conrad Johnson ET5 preamp and ART power amp. The system was wired with AudioQuest Redwood bi-wire speaker cables $9,000/8-ft pair; and their new Fire RCA interconnects $3,000/each that replace the AudioQuest Sky cable.

Woo Audio

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Personal audio was the focus of the Woo Audio room. Woo Audio setup a large conference table with multiple sit-down stations featuring different head-amp / DAC models. Most stations had a couple of hi-end headphones to play with. I spent some time with a few and really enjoyed the experience.

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Woo Audio was featuring an all-new prototype WA8 portable tube headphone amplifier with 24/192 USB DAC, est. $1,500 U.S. – check out the Nordost cable, as well.

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Other products, available for audition included (in $U.S.): a WA6-SE head-amp with separate power supply $1,999 connected to a WDS-1 DAC $1,199; WA22 head-amp $1,995; an immense and eye-catching pair of WA234 mono-blocks $15,900 capable of driving any headphone and some speakers with up to 8 Watts/ch on tap; WA2 head-amp $1,190; WA6 head-amp $699; WA7 Firefly $999 with optional WA7 tube power supply – total $1,398 and the; WES 2-box fully-balance electrostatic head-amp $5,000. I picked up one of their light headphone stands $34 U.S. which are just the right style for my listening room.

Soltanus Acoustics / Brooklyn Audio Inc.:

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Brooklyn Audio Inc. was hosting a room for Soltanus Acoutics, one of the brands they represent. This was the world premier showing of the Soltanus Acoutstics ESL Virtuoso $10,995/pair, which Soltanus claims is the world’s first crossover-less multi-panel full range (40-20,0000 Hz) electrostatic loudspeaker. It was driven by a recently refurbished 1978 Threshold amplifier, pure Class A (Nelson Pass design). The speaker does have a cross-over for use with lesser amplifiers.

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The speaker’s designer, Zoltan Mikovity, was present in the room and graciously accepted my request to photograph him with his creation. I didn’t get enough time in the crowded room to listen but what I did hear was room filling and large – no doubt in part to their 1.5 metre by ½ metre stature.

VMAX Services:

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VMAX Services has hosted some great sounding rooms in the past and this year did not disappoint. The main system running was fronted by Triangle Signature Delta (made in France) loudspeakers $9,900/pair and driven by a Hegel H160 integrated $3,800 coupled to a Hegel HD12 DSD DAC $1,400 with a QAT Audio Technology MS5 Music Server $5,995. There was also a Hegel CDP 2A MK2 CD player on hand $2,900.

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VMAX Services was also featuring a new QAT music server – the RS3 $1,995 with internal DAC that works with both Android & Apple OS. The sound in this rooms was detailed, smooth, natural and effortless and I would have like to spend some more time listening to some familiar tracks but had to move on.

Triode Lab:

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In the Personal Audio Zone, a Canadian manufacturer by the name of Triode Lab was showing off their tube amplifier products on static display. I don’t typically cover static displays; however, given my recent interest in tube products and the sheer beauty of the specimens on display, I couldn’t resist taking some pictures and getting to know a little about them. It turns out that this was the debut of the Triode Lab 2A3 Mono SET amplifier. The power amp is manufactured in Canada and outputs 3.5W in Class A with an 80db signal-to-noise ratio. Parts used include Mundorf Supreme caps, a Furutech Gold AC inlet and CMC USA Gold RCA Inputs. The MSRP for the 2A3 Mono starts at $3,999/pair, including tubes.

Look out for Part 2 of my coverage to be posted on www.canadahifi.com in the next few days.

Project TT

Pro-Ject has just announced their latest turntable model – the 2 Xperience SB DC, which is an evolution of its predecessor. The table’s deck minimizes resonance using a heavy MDF plinth with non-resonant construction techniques. The platter is a precision sandwich design with non-resonant properties, making it deal for supporting vinyl directly.

A new 9V AC motor ensures precise speed control and easy switching between 33 and 45 RPM. In fact, the speed control mechanism is powered by a new DC power supply that reduces electrical motor noise. The 2 Xperience SB also adds a 9CC Evolution carbon fibre tonearm and is fitted to an Ortofon 2M Silver cartridge.

The 2 Xperience SB DC is available in: Olive, Walnut, Mahogany and Piano Black.

Effective Tonearm Length: 9″ (230mm)
Effective Tonearm Mass: 8.5g
Overhang: 18mm
Downforce Range: 10 – 30mN

Speed Variance: ± 0.5%
Wow & Flutter: ± 0.08%
Signal-to-Noise Ratio: -70dB
Output Voltage: 15V / 800mA DC
Power Consumption: 4W Max. / <0.5W Standby
Dimensions (W x H x D):460 x 160 x 360mm (Lid Closed)
Weight: 7.7Kg

Pricing is yet to be released. Look for more details at: http://www.project-audio.com

Audience Au24 USB

Audience has just announced the release of their new Au24 SE USB cable. The Au24 SE USB is a premium-quality USB interconnect designed for superior performance with digital music files and USB components.

The new Audience Au24 SE USB is engineered incorporates highly effective shielding against EMI and RFI and reduces timing issues in data transfer. Using a “dual-cable” construction, with separated conductors for the data (signal) path and for the power path – this serves to provide the highest level of signal integrity and isolation.

The data side of the Au24 SE USB features shielded silver over OCC copper conductors with Teflon insulation. The power side is also shielded and made from OCC copper wire with polypropylene insulation. The USB connector contacts are gold-plated copper.

There are two versions of the new Au24 SE USB cable: 1) with single USB-A male connector at the source end and; 2) with two USB-A male connectors at the source end for use with computers and components where the data and power can be sent from two different USB busses (providing the best signal / power isolation).

Audience holds that the USB cables, where engineered and manufactured correctly, can make a significant different in sonic performance – which can be easliy heard. The timely and coherent transfer of data is absolutely essential for sonic purity. USB cable materials an construction, which includes dielectric absorption and conductor metallurgical characteristics affect data timing and flow. Given the millions of bits per second, every little factor can make a difference.

Audience purports that a high-quality USB cable can provide more purity to the music, a more expansive and realistic soundstage and a more natural quality for vocals and instruments.

The Audience Au24 SE USB cable is currently available at a MSRP of: $945 U.S. for 1-metre dual-end (two USB connectors) and $895 U.S. for a single-end (one USB connector) cable. Look for more information at: http://www.audience-av.com/cables/.

Goldmund Tower Series Loudspeakers
Goldmund, best known for their audiophile performance level products, is bringing their technological expertise to a more reasonable price-level with their new Tower Series Loudspeakers that are adapted to today’s lifestyle consumer.

Consumers often opt for one loudspeaker over another based on shape, color or style, as the loudspeakers become a part of the one’s living environment. Loudspeakers therefore need to be both a pleasure for the ears and for the eyes. Goldmund, recognizing this, has decided to diversify its speaker line and offer more choice to interior design focused customers. The Logos and Metis Tower models are the first of the new Tower Series.

Both the Logos and Metis are traditional in shape, though are made of anodized aluminum – with materials made exclusively for Goldmund. Aluminum was chosen for its refined finished texture but also it’s rigidity and ability to reduce vibrations that impinge on sound quality. Aluminum is also long lasting, resistant to temperature and humidity.

Both models host a gold plated plaque on top that is engraved with the Goldmund logo and their feet are adjustable thanks to screws with the same golden finish.

The Logos and Metis have been engineered to include all the technological development made by the Goldmund Research & Development team to provide a very high level of sonic refinement and performance.

The Logos and Metis Towers are wireless speakers that you can play directly from computer with a USB dongle. The Metis tower is wireless only, whereas the Logos Tower can be used with coaxial cables. Both can function with a simple hub like the Goldmund Mimesis 11 to connect several sources, including televisions, players etc. With a few satellite speakers, they can also make perfect multichannel systems.

Apart from their size (the Metis tower is slightly smaller than the Logos) the two models have different efficiencies (86.5 dB / 2.82 V/1 m for the Metis Tower, and 100dB for the Logos Tower). The Logos Tower bandwidth is also wider with a frequency response of 40Hz (-6dB) > 25kHz.

Pricing and availability has not yet been announced. Look for more details on these models at: http://www.goldmund.com

PSB SubSeries150

PSB Speakers has just announced their new SubSeries 150 compact subwoofer. This new model was designed with flexibility of placement in mind, having a low-profile, gloss black cabinet that can be placed vertically, horizontally, face-up, under furniture or even hung on a wall.

The SubSeries 150 has been designed to deliver clear, powerful, deep bass, regardless of its small size and low cost. Performance is facilitated by a custom-designed 6 ½” polypropylene cone woofer and high temperature voice coil with a vented pole piece. A 100-watt (continuous) 200-watt (dynamic) amplifier provides robust power.

At just over 13 lbs and measuring only 17 1/8” wide by 10 7/8” high and 3 7/8” deep, the SubSeries 150 is a compact low-profile place-anywhere subwoofer. Finished in a rich gloss black, the sub works in both open space as well as in concealed (even underneath furniture) locations.
As an additional solution, the SubSeries 150 can also be mounted on virtually any wall in the home. For ease of mounting installation, the sub comes supplied with a convenient mounting bracket to make the job simple and secure.

For added convenience, the sub includes Auto On/Standby and top-mounted controls for volume, crossover and Variable Phase from 0-180°. In Standby mode, power consumption is rated to be below 0.5w so need to constantly turn the sub on and off.

Features:
•Versatile mounting options from wall mount, flat on floor, to standing freely on its supplied feet
•Allows subwoofer to be out in the open or concealed (i.e. under a couch)
•Robust 100 watt amplifier with peak output of 200 watts
•Custom designed 6 ½” woofer with polypropylene cone
•Auto On/Standby
•Stylish, curved, gloss black cabinet
•Final voicing performed by Paul Barton at Canada’s famed NRC

The PSB SubSeries 150 subwoofer will be available in April 2015 for $499. Look for more details to be shared at: http://www.psbspeakers.com/

DTS-X

DTS, Inc. has just released details about DTS:X – an open, next-generation, object-based, multi-dimensional audio technology, which allows for numerous customization options for both commercial cinema and home theater applications.

Unlike existing surround sound systems, DTS:X is not tied to prescribed speaker configurations or a specific number of audio channels. DTS:X adapts to the viewing environment, allowing for a flexible speaker configuration that best fits the viewing space. DTS:X more accurately conveys the fluid movement of sound to create a richer entertainment soundscape than has previously been possible by moving sound objects to and through specific locations within – in front of, behind, above and beside the audience, precisely where the mixer placed them.

Using object-based audio, DTS:X can scale soundtracks across a wide range of playback systems, while remaining true to the content creator’s vision, resulting in an immersive and most authentic three-dimensional audio experience.

The foundation of DTS:X is MDA, DTS’ license fee-free, open platform for creation of object-based immersive audio. MDA gives movie studios unprecedented control over the specific placement, movement and volume of sound objects. The platform also enables sound engineers to “mix once” for both immersive and conventional cinemas in a combined object- and channel-based audio format, allowing content to be easily distributed beyond the theater for streaming, broadcast, optical media and more.

MDA provides the professional audio community with a license fee-free method for mixing and storage of audio content. The DTS:X licensing program in cinema will offer theater owners the opportunity to provide their audience the most compelling, immersive sound experience possible. This can be achieved for almost any room configuration by installing DTS:X-approved equipment and working with the recommended speaker installation guidelines.

To ensure quality and provide flexibility within the DTS:X program, DTS has partnered with industry-leading server, sound rendering and processing companies. Carmike Cinemas, a leader in digital cinema and 3D cinema deployments and one of the largest motion picture exhibitors in the US, will upgrade selected theaters to DTS:X beginning in Spring 2015.

•Carmike 15 (Columbus, Ga.)
•Carmike Movies ATL 278 (Atlanta, Ga.)
•Chapel Hills 13 (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
•Rosemont 18 (Rosemont, Ill.)
•Thoroughbred 20 (Franklin, Tenn.)
•Thousand Oaks 14 (Thousand Oaks, Calif.)
•Valley Bend 18 (Huntsville, Ala.)
“We believe in the open platform philosophy of DTS:X and are excited to be among the first theater partners to be onboard,” said Fred Van Noy, senior vice president and chief operating officer, Carmike Cinemas. “The flexibility of DTS:X allows us to deliver an immersive experience to a broader audience. We love the fact that DTS:X adapts not only to numerous room designs; it also enables us to continue working with our existing equipment provider, QSC.”

DTS is presently working with several major studios and mixing stages in Los Angeles, Northern California and Canada that are evaluating DTS:X. DTS:X content announcements will be made by the studios when ready, in alignment with DTS.

DTS:X + AVRs
Manufacturers representing nearly 90 percent of the home AVR and surround processor market will launch DTS:X-enabled products beginning in early Summer 2015, with additional manufacturer and model announcements to follow in the coming months. Confirmed AVR partners include:

•Denon – AVR-X7200W available now / DTS:X firmware upgrade later in 2015
•Integra – launching several models by Fall 2015
•Marantz – AV8802 available now / DTS:X firmware upgrade later in 2015
•Onkyo – launching several models by Fall 2015
•Pioneer – details to follow
•Steinway Lyngdorf – P200 Surround Sound Processor available Summer 2015 / DTS:X firmware upgrade in Fall 2015
•Theta Digital – Casablanca IVa available Summer 2015
•Trinnov Audio – Altitude32 available now / DTS:X firmware upgrade Summer 2015
•Yamaha – launching DTS:X ready models in Fall 2015

DTS:X solutions are also available for 2015 AV receiver silicon platforms representing the majority of the DSP platform market share, including Cirrus Logic, Analog Devices and Texas Instruments.

For home theater system owners, DTS:X provides personalization, flexibility and control for the most optimized listening experience possible. DTS:X builds upon existing DTS-HD Master Audio to provide backward compatibility with existing DTS bitstreams and speaker layouts. All features of DTS-HD Master Audio are supported and enable an immersive audio experience for older content. DTS:X can spatially reformat stereo, 5.1 or 7.1 content to take full advantage of all speakers in a surround system.

Flexible Speaker Layout – With flexible speaker layouts and remapping technology, DTS:X allows the placement of home theater speakers virtually anywhere. The freedom of object-based audio enables optimized playback on a multitude of speaker layouts, with any number of speakers. The DTS speaker remapping engine supports any speaker configuration within a hemispherical layout based around the listening position in the room.

•2015 DTS:X AVRs can support up to 11.2 speaker output channels
•Content created for a specific speaker layout can be remapped for playout through a different layout
•Enables remapping of outputs to custom or OEM-defined speaker layouts, and remapping legacy content to new output configurations
•Support for 32 speaker locations (subject to each manufacturer’s product capabilities)
•Metadata-based spatial mapping renders the ideal 3D sound image to actual speaker layouts
Lossless – DTS is known for lossless, master audio quality with no compromise, delivering dynamic bit allocation. DTS:X supports lossless encoding for the highest audio quality possible. In situations where bitrate is of high concern, DTS:X can also operate in a high-quality lossy mode.
•Supports up to 96k for object mixes
•Still supports up to 192k for stereo and multi-channel mixes
•DTS:X is true to the audio master, delivers in the highest quality and preserves its fidelity

DTS Headphone:X
As part of DTS’ strategy to support the entire ecosystem of sound, DTS Headphone:X will be operable over mobile devices, enhancing ordinary headphones with fully immersive surround sound. With DTS technology, even the smallest screens will sound huge.

For more information about DTS, please visit: http://listen.dts.com/

Denon headphone.jif
Denon has just announced a new wireless noise cancelling headphone to their Globe Cruiser series – the AH-GC20. The new AH-GC20 headphone has been designed to deliver a natural tonal balance free from exaggerated colorations. Denon measured more than 4,000 people’s ears and distribution of facial structures, to ensure that the new AC-GC20 provided the best in sound quality and comfort.

The Denon AH-GC20 Noise Canceling Headphones feature a contemporary design, coupled to wireless technology that makes it a superb travel headphone. The elegant spur hanger uses aluminum to support an ergonomic ear cup filled with the latest active noise cancelling circuitry and Bluetooth connectivity. The dual microphone noise cancelling system provides the near elimination of outside sound, and the Bluetooth 4.0 Dual Mode with aptX/aptX Low Latency and AAC combined with the Multi-Point feature gives crystal clear connection to 2 compatible devices simultaneously. The AH-GC20 is also equipped with cVc (Clear Voice Capture), a sophisticated noise reduction system which enhances received audio quality and includes noise suppression, adaptive equalization, automatic gain control, echo cancellation, wind noise reduction and noise dependent volume control. With this technology, the AH-GC20’s are designed to deliver the clearest voice quality even in harsh noisy environments. Voice prompts with seven language options offers a Status of Operation and remaining battery life.

The new Denon AH-GC20 will use the wireless headphones via Bluetooth most of the time, but for convenience a headphone cable is included for when wireless usage isn’t permitted or preferred. The kit also includes a 3.5mm-¼” standard headphone plug adaptor for connection to home and studio audio gear, as well as an airplane adapter plug. The included USB Micro-B cable lets users charge the AH-GC20 lithium-ion battery from any USB charger or computer USB port. To enjoy a full 20 hours of wireless listening*, the AH-GC20 recharges in only three hours. If the battery is depleted and there’s no USB port for recharging available, users can still enjoy listening to music via the included audio cable. The specially designed carrying case provides a home for the AH-GC20 along with all its accessories.

It adds up to the perfect choice for critical music listening in harsh noisy environments and while travelling. AH-GC20. It is expected to available beginning in April for $399.00 MSRP. Look for more details at: http://ca.denon.com