I’ve attended the annual Montreal audio show for over 20 years. Usually, I arrive the day before the show opens and leave late on the final day. But to be a little more efficient with my time this year, I decided to arrive on the morning of the first day. That was a mistake.
At 11:30 a.m., I arrived at Hotel Bonaventure Montréal, where the show has been held for many years, only to find its parking garage completely full. You’d think that finding parking in downtown Montreal wouldn’t be a problem. But between all the construction that’s been going on forever and parking-lot closures intended to get people out of their cars, finding a parking spot is harder than losing the ten pounds I put on at the annual CES in Las Vegas back when it was a thing for hi-fi. But I found one—many blocks away. From there, I chugged my way back to the hotel and arrived quite late. Thankfully, Jason Thorpe, my show-coverage partner for this event, was already hard at it. Luckily, I was able to get my badge quickly and get to covering the surprising number of new products that were being launched. Here are some of them, with all prices in Canadian dollars.
Bryston’s history dates back to the 1960s, when the Canadian company made blood analyzers for the medical industry. In the company’s exhibit at this year’s show, one of those analyzers was on display. Bryston CEO James Tanner told me that this experience enhanced the company’s manufacturing capabilities and their ability to work with extremely high-quality parts, because the medical industry has always had very exacting requirements. You know what happened next: Bryston became a world-class manufacturer of hi-fi electronics.
Along with Bryston’s new speakers (described below), the new BP-19 preamplifier might be the newest thing at Montreal Audiofest 2023. Announced just before the show opened, the BP-19 is priced at $5000. Tanner told me that the BP-19 is essentially the analog portion of Bryston’s acclaimed BR-20 streaming DAC-preamp. Designer Dan Marynissen told me that because the BR-19 has no digital circuitry, its signal-to-noise ratio is 2 to 3dB better than the BR-20’s, which is pretty much at the state-of-the-art.
The BP-19 has two sets of balanced (XLR) and four sets of single-ended (RCA) inputs, a front-panel-mounted 1/4″ headphone jack, and controls for balance, muting, volume control, and source selection. I told Tanner and Marynissen that I predict Bryston will sell a lot of these preamps, because there are still many audiophiles who desire pure analog components with minimal add-ons.
Bryston remained an electronics manufacturer for its first 40 years. But ten years ago, the company began making loudspeakers, the first of which was the Model T floorstander. At Montreal Audiofest 2023, Bryston showcased the Model T10 Active, which was created to celebrate the company’s ten years of making loudspeakers. In addition to the Model T10 Active, the new T10 series includes the Middle T10 and Slim T10 floorstanders, as well as the Tiny T10, Compact T10, and Mini T10 standmounts. They were sitting quietly off to one side.
The Model T10 has two 1″ tweeters, two 4.25″ midrange drivers, and four 8″ woofers. Like all T10-series speakers, the Model T10 is designed to be active or passive. The configuration can be chosen at time of purchase, or altered by the user later on for what I was told would be a “pretty inconsequential fee.” All that needs to be replaced is a module on the back panel.
Tanner told me that the price of the Model T10 is $13,000 per pair, whether purchased active or passive. The passive version can be powered by a single stereo amp because you need just one channel of amplification per speaker. The active version of the Model T10 requires three channels of amplification per speaker—one each for the bass, midrange, and high-frequency bands. So six channels are needed for a stereo pair, plus an active crossover. The choice of amps and crossover is up to the buyer, but of course, all amplifiers must have the same gain. Bryston obviously recommends you buy its amps and active crossover, which is how the system was set up in Montreal.
Simaudio is another Canadian company whose people know that there’s still a market for purely analog components—which is why it has updated its popular 250i integrated amplifier to v2 status. We just launched a video on our YouTube channel in which product manager Dominique Poupart explains the changes. In the photo above, it is on top of Simaudio’s 280D DAC.
Priced at $2900, the 250i v2 features six rear-mounted single-ended (RCA) inputs, a front-mounted 1/8″ mini-jack input for an appropriate analog device, a front-mounted 1/4″ headphone jack, and, new for this version, a moving-magnet phono stage. Specified power output is 50Wpc into 8 ohms or 100Wpc into 4 ohms.
No Montreal-based audio show would be complete without Totem Acoustic, which has a magnificent factory in the northeast corner of the city. As usual, Totem had one of the largest and most attractive rooms at the show. In the photo above are Totem’s founder, Vince Bruzzese, and vice president of sales and marketing, Lucy Lentini, with the brand’s new Bison speakers, announced late last fall. From left to right are the Tower, Twin Tower, and Monitor, priced respectively at $3500, $4500, and $2500 per pair.
All three speakers are made in Canada and are available in White Oak, Satin White, and Black Ash finishes. All models employ a 1.3″ soft-dome tweeter. They are all two-way designs with a crossover frequency of 2.5kHz. The Tower and Monitor each have a single 5.25″ midrange-woofer, while the Twin Tower has two of them. When I visited, a pair of Monitors were playing so loudly and with such deep bass, it caused me to walk over and put my hand on one of the Twin Towers, because I thought I was hearing the big floorstanders.
The only non-Canadian company in this report is Luxman, which most audiophiles know is based in Japan. On display was the just-released D-07X, which is priced at $13,955 and is both a versatile disc player and DAC. For disc playback, it supports all types of CDs (CD-R, CD-RW, and MQA-CD), as well as SACD. As a DAC, it has coaxial (RCA) and optical (TosLink) S/PDIF inputs that support PCM to 24-bit/192kHz. The USB input can accept PCM data up to 32/768 and DSD data up to 22.4MHz. Capping off the rich feature set are one pair each of single-ended (RCA) and balanced (XLR) outputs. To me, the D-07X looks like the ultimate digital playback machine—I’d like to get one in for review.
We’ll have lots more to report on from Montreal Audiofest—so please check back as the weekend progresses.