As I mentioned in the first round of show coverage, I was feeling a little overwhelmed by being the only SoundStager here covering the show. But by staying up late on the first show-day night and sorting through my photos and notes, I got my feet under me and was better prepared for the next day of coverage. Below you’ll find more of what I witnessed at Montreal Audiofest 2022, with all prices in Canadian dollars, except for the product described at the very end.
Perhaps the newest company at Montreal Audiofest 2022 was BSC Research, which is based in Baden, Ontario, Canada. The company is just one year old—and it has just one product, the Dundee 8 loudspeaker, priced at $19,850 per pair. But that one product is an interesting one—plus, this company has some history to back it up.
Mark Kinzie, who’d designed speakers for Tannoy for 30 years, is behind the Dundee 8 effort. As a result, you won’t be surprised to learn that the dual-concentric driver in the Dundee 8 comes from Tannoy. It has a 1″ horn-loaded compression driver for the high frequencies, located within the throat of an 8″ polypropylene-cone midrange-woofer, which is “backloaded” via a folded horn that’s built into the cabinet. That horn basically boosts that midrange-woofer’s output.
The cabinet is made in Canada and is available in a variety of painted or wood-veneer finishes. The “block” you can see on the floor beside the speaker houses the crossover, which is stacked with high-quality parts. The Dundee 8’s anechoic frequency response is rated as 38Hz to 30kHz (+/-3dB), while the sensitivity is said to be 96dB (2.83V/m), which, if true, is high, meaning you don’t need all that much amplifier power.
I was telling someone at the show that when I see these new companies at Montreal Audiofest—over the years I’ve seen lots and lots of them—I always wonder if they’ll be around to attend next year. BSC Research certainly has its work cut out for it to make sure it’s one of the few new companies that make it, but the Dundee 8 is a product that is not only unique but also well thought out and backed by experience. If the company makes the right moves, it should stick around.
Canadian distributor Atoll Electronique was showing the Davis Acoustics MV One Master loudspeaker, which is part of the company’s Dream series. It’s priced at $13,599 per pair. Unlike the BSC Research speaker, which appears to have one driver but really has two, since it is a coaxial design, the MV One Master has only one driver, which is claimed to cover the frequency range from 40Hz to 20kHz. There’s also a rectangular vent near the bottom of the front of the cabinet to augment the bass. According to the company’s website, the MV One Master was designed by Michel Visan, who founded Davis Acoustics in France in 1986. It apparently took him 1000 hours to optimize the driver for this model.
One interesting design wrinkle has to do with the network that precedes the driver—or the lack of it, depending on how it’s used. In Direct mode, there are no electrical components between the amplifier and the driver—so you only have the speaker wire. This yields the highest sensitivity and, according to the company, “an extraordinary listening spontaneity without any loss of dynamics!” The other two modes are said to optimize the speaker for smaller listening rooms, but I couldn’t find any detail to explain what makes that happen. I suspect there must be some kind of filter to tweak the frequency response. The company says that because of the constant impedance and high sensitivity, low-powered amps, including tube amps, can be used with the MV One Master.
Another company making high-sensitivity speakers that can be used with lower-powered tube amps is Coherent Audio, which is based in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Frank Fazzalari, who’s the owner and chief designer, told me that the 18″ coaxial driver in his new The Eighteen loudspeaker, which is priced at $20,000 per pair, is custom made for his company by Radian Audio.
At the center of that huge driver is a 3″ compression driver, which crosses over with the 18″ bass driver at 500Hz. On the rear of the cabinet are dual ports, and the cabinet itself is said to adhere to “the classical Golden Ratio proportions.” The speaker’s overall sensitivity is said to be 102dB—although the spec sheet doesn’t say it, I’ll assume that’s with a 2.83V input.
I’ll be straight up and tell you that most of these way-off-the-beaten-path loudspeakers rarely impress me, but as I took a few moments to listen to the speakers in the packed room, I noted clarity combined with effortlessness that I know many people will like. So if you’re shopping for atypical speakers and like using lower-powered amps, Coherent Audio’s The Eighteen, or the other two speakers above, might be what you’re looking for.
A popular, consistently crowded Montreal Audiofest 2022 display was in the super-large room of Focal Naim America, where, towards the back of the room, two systems were set up in one space. Front and center were a pair of Focal Maestro Utopia Evo loudspeakers being driven by the enormous Naim Statement-series NAP S1 mono amps and NAC S1 preamp. Directly behind the Statement gear was a rack with a Naim Audio NDX 2 network player, which fed music signals to the Statement-Maestro system, as well as to a secondary system, comprised of an SPL Phono X preamp and Performer S800 stereo amplifier (also on the rack) driving a pair of 1000 IWLCR Utopia in-wall speakers and a pair of 1000 IWSUB Utopia in-wall subwoofers.
I did a quick tally of the prices and came up with the Maestro-Statement system retailing for over $500,000, with the NDX 2. The secondary system with the Focal in-wall speakers, SPL electronics, and NDX 2 player added up to around $50,000. Of course, I didn’t mention cables, footers, and the Vicoustic room treatments around, or their prices. But the point of the display wasn’t to show what a $50,000 in-wall system sounds like compared to a half-million-dollar standing-out-in-the-room setup—it was to show what a topflight traditional stereo sounds like for those who don’t mind having giant components on the floor, as well as what a premium, more lifestyle-friendly system sounds like for those who might not mind having component electronics on display, but would rather have their speakers right out of the way. Good idea—because there are shoppers for both types of high-end hi-fi systems these days.
On the first day of the show, I uploaded a picture similar to the one above to my Facebook newsfeed with the caption “Holy Hegel! Nice job on the Montreal room—the equipment ‘pops!’” I always admire when companies are conscious of what the products look like at the show, as well as in pictures like the one above. After all, how many times does someone have to see black speakers or electronics in front of a black or dark background—whether in real life or in pictures—to know that it almost always looks bad?
Hegel had an assortment of electronics on display, but when I was there the H190 integrated amplifier was driving a pair of Apertura Edena Evolution loudspeakers, which come from France. This speaker model isn’t new—I looked online and found it’s been out for at least a couple of years—but I’d never seen the speaker, and I don’t think many others have seen it either, because the brand name, let alone model name, never comes up.
Perhaps this caption will fix some of that Apertura obscurity so the world knows more. Priced at $14,000 per pair, the Edena Evolution is a two-way design in which an 8.6″ woven-polypropylene composite-cone midrange-woofer is married to a ribbon tweeter that, according to the company’s website, has a “flat metalized polymer diaphragm.” The tweeter is offset to one side of the cabinet, so the speakers come in handed pairs. Correct placement seems to be with the tweeters on the inside. There’s also soft material to one side of the ribbon, presumably to absorb some energy, so it won’t travel to the nearest wall. The website also states that the cabinet has “two curved sides of different length and no parallel front and back panels,” which I didn’t pick up on when I quickly snapped my pictures. The Hegel-Apertura combo sounded good, so this is a speaker, as well as a brand, I plan to learn more about.
I’m going to end with the only product I couldn’t get a Canadian-dollar price on, probably because the company is only now trying to get established in this country. But first a bit about the brand, which I’d never heard of before Montreal Audiofest 2022, even though it has been around for quite a few years. From its website: “Angel City Audio is owned and operated by Hugh Nguyen, a longtime audiophile and founder of HTN Enterprises. We are a different kind of audio company, eschewing direct sales as well as large scale brick & mortar presence in favor of a small network of dealers across the country who function as a team. This allows ACA to focus on product without managing a large company and all the associated distractions, while still maintaining a close link to the dealers and a short path to the customer.”
Nguyen, who flew all the way from California to be at Montreal Audiofest 2022, was showing the Trinity monitor, a three-driver, two-way design that starts at $4749 per pair (US dollars), but goes up in price depending on finish and crossover-component quality. The Trinity uses a Viva XT ring-radiator tweeter and two custom 7″ midrange-woofers. The crossover is at a sensible 2.2kHz. Interestingly enough, the Trinity comes in two variants. There’s the Trinity LR, for left- or right-channel use, as well as C, for center-channel use. They actually vary in size and weight—the LR version has four inches of added depth, as well as six more pounds. For both versions, sensitivity is rated at 90dB (2.83V/m), and the impedance is said to be 4 ohms.