Professor Schenbeck Goes to a Show

Last month I was in Montréal for a professional meeting when Bill Leebens texted me: “Larry. Listen: there’s a hell of a good audio universe next door!” He was right, of course. I hadn’t been to an audio show since Axpona’s dismal Atlanta debut and demise. But here was Le Salon Audio Montréal, celebrating its 30th anniversary as le seul show de Haute-Fidélité GRATUIT en Amérique. Veteran organizers Sarah Tremblay and Michel Plante put together a show that was free to attendees. How about that?

I got a kick out of an all-Audio Note room playing cellist Vincent Bélanger’s Audio Note LP Pure Cello. Bélanger also offered live performances throughout the weekend; he’s been a welcome fixture at SAM and other audio shows for several years.

Speaker designer Jeff Joseph shows up at these things even more often than Vincent. He took charge of a pair of bewitching Joseph Audio Pearl 3‘s sourced by vpi Titan w/ Lyra Etna cartridge, Technics RS1500 reel-to-reel, and the inevitable MacBook (electronics: Simaudio/Moon; cabling: Transparent Ultra; racks: Modulum Audio). We heard Joe Morello’s rebooted Take Five, then tracks from Midori’s 1991 Carnegie Hall recital. Pièce de résistance: Acoustic Sounds’ Ansermet Royal Ballet Gala Performances. Wow. Just wow.

Always good to see future audiophiles at a show!

Don Rhule of Kimbercan with products from Kimber, NEAT Acoustics, and PS Audio (new Stellar Gain Cell DAC and S300 power amp) on Custom Design Milan racks. Yes, he had us convinced the sound was coming from the Momentum SX5i pair, not the dainty Iota Alphas alongside them.

Iain Richardson, with a typically-stylish display of Devialet products, in this case Phantom wireless speakers. He saw me peeking at the Phantoms’ unusual configuration, asked me if I liked organ music, and proceeded to show them off with an astonishing 17-Hz pedal tone that effortlessly filled our 40-ft.-square corner of Salle Ville-Marie.

There was vinyl aplenty—not just binaural, but bilingual too!

And plenty of interest in headphones and personal audio, with helpers on hand to guide the curious.

Mark Jones showed gear from Kronos, CH, and Focal. Using vintage LPs from The Police et al. to highlight this system’s unflappable imaging and plentiful but well-controlled bass, he convinced me there’s nothing ordinary about “ordinary vinyl.”

Celebrated homeboy Vince Bruzzese holds court at Totem Acoustic.

Wynn Wong showed gear from Karan, Goldmund, Thales, and the amazing Tidal Sunray G2 speakers from Germany. (That’s tee-DOLL, BTW.) I also heard remarkably good systems from Monitor/Roksan (PL300ii, Blak) and Revel/Arcam.

Perusing le Drink Menu at the venerable Maison Kam Fung. After a well-spent day at the show, on to the Centaur Theatre. Some of my friends arrived early enough in the week to catch Kent Nagano conducting Messiaen’s Turangalîla-Symphonie with the OSM.

A great show in a lovely city. Despite the cold, we were sorry to leave.

Random notes: Le Salon Audio Montréal has been going on a long time; many attendees have formed lasting friendships. It’s almost like being at an extremely large family reunion—provided, of course, that everyone in your family speaks French. The convivial atmosphere was also  due in part to a certain intimacy. This was not a giant event on the order of RMAF or Munich. Canadian gear, also French and British brands well-distributed in Canada, got the emphasis, resulting in a manageable, newbie-friendly event. You weren’t likely to feel exhausted afterwards.

But if you did grow tired of audio (“When a man is tired of audio, he is tired of life.”—Samuel Johnson), you could plop down and gaze out a window—lots of windows at the Hotel Bonaventure—on falling snow, ducks by the pond, guests frolicking in the heated outdoor pool. And did I mention great restaurants, concerts, theatre?