For the first time in a very long time, the first day of Montreal Audiofest 2022 had me feeling a bit overwhelmed. Not long after I got off the escalator that took me to the lower level, which had the largest rooms and the most exhibitors, I knew that there would be more new and/or interesting products than I originally thought might be at the show. This was just like Florida Audio Expo 2022, which I’d covered in February—it wound up exceeding my expectations. But unlike at Florida Audio Expo 2022, where I had Jason Davis to help me cover it, I decided to go to the first Montreal Audiofest since 2019 alone—we usually have two or three people at this event.
That decision to go it alone at this show might have been a mistake, particularly since I also wanted to take as much time to listen as I could, which I don’t often do at shows. But it was too late to do anything about it, so I started covering what was there—fast. I also decided to forgo thinking of ways to divide the coverage into product types, such as speakers and amplifiers, choosing instead to simply present everything in order as I walked around. So without wasting more time with this preamble, here are the first products I saw at Montreal Audiofest 2022. All prices are in Canadian dollars.
Totem Acoustic’s room was the first one I went into, and without question, it was the best-looking room I saw all day. That’s no surprise—Totem’s product presentation is always first-rate. When it comes to creating attractive surroundings, this is a company many others can learn from.
Playing music all day long in this room were a pair of the company’s new Kin Play Tower floorstanding loudspeakers, which are sold only in pairs for $2250. Like the Kin Play Monitor standmount loudspeakers they’re based on, one speaker (the one on the left from the listening position) in the pair has amplification for both speakers built into it (2 × 200W), so it needs to be plugged into an electrical outlet. It also has digital and analog inputs, with one of the analog inputs switchable to be a moving-magnet phono stage. The other speaker, which is what we audiophiles like to call a “slave,” only has speaker wires from the left speaker connected to it.
Since the Tower has three drivers—a 1″ tweeter and two 5.25″ woofers— I thought at first it might be a three-way design, but it is in fact a two-way, meaning both 5.25″ drivers reproduce all the bass and midrange frequencies up to where they both hand off to the tweeter. I traveled back to this room several times throughout the day, and I was more impressed with the speakers each time. In particular, the bass was always full and powerful sounding, which tends to be a Totem hallmark, while the midrange was rich but still clear, which I really liked. Since users simply have to supply a source component, and can even connect to the main speaker using Bluetooth—so any phone can be a source—and stands aren’t required, I think this is going to be a really popular product from Totem.
I next went to the Kevro room and found a stack of reasonably affordable products from Roksan’s Attessa series. Kevro is the North American distributor for Monitor Audio and Roksan, which Monitor Audio now owns.
On top in the photo is the Attessa turntable, which is made in the UK and sells for $2250. It’s an all-in-one vinyl spinner, so buyers get the turntable, tonearm, and cartridge. They also get quite nice styling, which is typical of Roksan. Directly below it is the Attessa streaming amplifier, which is priced at $3499 and is rated to output 80Wpc into 8 ohms or 130Wpc into 4 ohms. It comes with BluOS streaming software as standard, which I think is a good call. The BluOS software platform was developed by Canada’s Lenbrook Industries and is typically seen on NAD and Bluesound components. I’ve used it, and it works great. Below it is the Attessa CD transport, which is priced at $1199. It plays CDs but doesn’t decode them. Instead, it’s intended to be connected to one of the Attessa streaming amplifier’s digital inputs—the amplifier has two S/PDIF coaxial RCA and two S/PDIF optical TosLink digital inputs, left- and right-channel moving-magnet phono-stage inputs for the turntable, plus three more pairs of line-level analog inputs. The BluOS software also controls the transport when used with the integrated amplifier.
Not content with me just looking at the products and taking photos, Sheldon Ginn, who manages Kevro, took the turntable off the top and had me pick up the amplifier to demonstrate how beefy it feels and how well it’s finished. Not only that, but the integrated amp and transport look good, which, again, is not surprising, since they’re from Roksan.
Centre Hi-Fi is a Quebec-based retailer with 12 locations. In its room were one of the few pairs of KEF Blade One Meta loudspeakers in North America right now—the Blade One Meta is the blue-colored speaker in the photo (the other two are from Marten). Priced at $40,000 per pair, the Blade One Meta improves upon the original Blade One design by now having the high-frequency metamaterial absorber that was originally designed for the LS50 Meta as part of its Uni-Q driver array. The metamaterial absorber, which we featured in a video that we published in September 2020, is also now in the Blade’s little brother, the Blade Two, and in KEF’s Reference line of loudspeakers.
That KEF continues to update the Blade One and Blade Two is a good thing because, aesthetically and acoustically, I think they’re both ground-breaking products. I still remember when the Blade One, which was inspired by the company’s Concept Blade engineering effort, was unveiled in 2012. It made a bold statement a decade ago—and still makes a bold statement today.
Speaking of speakers that make a bold statement, I just had to include a picture of the Bowers & Wilkins Nautilus, which came to the market in, get this, 1993—so darn near 30 years ago! It’s still in production today, and it’s a standout in any display room. In Canada, it costs $45,000 per pair. The Nautilus was the result of the bold vision of Laurence Dickie, who was a speaker engineer at Bowers & Wilkins, but has since gone on to cofound Vivid Audio, which pushes the ideas he had for the Nautilus even further. If you’d like to learn more about the Nautilus loudspeaker, Laurence Dickie, and Vivid Audio, I encourage you two watch my interview with Dickie, which was conducted in March 2020 and is available on YouTube.
The Bowers & Wilkins company is now owned by Sound United, which also owns several other brands, including Classé Audio, which used to have its headquarters in Montreal. Classé didn’t have any new products to show—nor did Bowers & Wilkins—but its products were used in a large and impressive display run by Classé CEO Dave Nauber, who first started working with the company about 20 years ago. Thursday, March 31, 2022, will be Dave’s last day at Classé, so I was really pleased to be able to personally present him with a SoundStage! Network 2021 Product of the Year trophy—the brand won the award for the Delta Mono amplifier, which Aron Garrecht reviewed on SoundStage! Ultra on February 1, 2021. Aron liked what he heard so much that he bought the review pair, and he’s still using them today. The amp currently sells for $21,998 per pair.