Part Two of our Salon Son & Image 2010 show report featured new-product highlights that will appeal to the budget-conscious consumer. For Part Three, we went searching again and found plenty of new products of differing sizes, styles, types, and prices that we've highlighted here. (All prices are in US dollars.)
Raysonic's head office is in Toronto, Canada, but they make their products in China to keep the prices low. But whereas other companies completely outsource manufacturing, Raysonic's owner, Steve Leung, says he also owns the company that manufactures Raysonic in China, giving them far better control over product development and quality. In Montreal, Raysonic showed two products that hit the market in late 2009. Above is the all-tube SP-200 stereo integrated amplifier, which is priced at $2990. Raysonic says it can output 100Wpc into 8 ohms.
Raysonic also showed their massive Reference 23 monoblock amplifier, their most expensive amp, which is priced at $9990/pair. The Reference 23 uses eight KT88 output tubes in a triode configuration to produce 100W into 8 ohms. Each Reference 23 weighs about 75 pounds and features metal work that looks exceptional.
Canada's Divergent Technologies is another interesting company. On the one hand, they distribute various brands in North America. On the other hand, its owner, Tash Goka, also owns Reference 3A, a loudspeaker company, whose products Divergent obviously distributes as well. Divergent also helps to design "DT"-designated Antique Sound Lab products that come from China and get sold only by them. Divergent is quite diversified. In Montreal, Divergent Technologies showed the latest version of the AQ 1001 integrated amp that's been in their line for over ten years. This new iteration now bears the Mk.II designation and sells for $1950. According to Tash, they looked at every aspect of the original AQ 1001 design and improved it where they could, including brand new output transformers. Divergent says that the KT88-based AQ 1001 Mk.II DT outputs 50Wpc into 8 ohms in pentode mode or 25Wpc into 8 ohms in triode mode. As with the rest of the Far East-sourced tube amps shown in Montreal this year, the new AQ 1001 Mk.II DT appears to offer a lot of bang for the buck. [www.divertech.com]
Grant Fidelity is headquartered in Calgary, Canada. The trick this company has up its sleeve is combining factory-direct selling with Far East manufacturing to offer tube-based products with plenty of features at a price lower than you'd expect. Above is the new Grant Fidelity W30GT integrated amplifier, which sells for $1950 and comes stacked with a tube-based phono stage, as well as a headphone amp and DAC. Consider the W30GT the Swiss Army Knife of tube amps. The W30GT can be equipped with EL34 tubes to produce about 45Wpc into 8 ohms, or with KT88 tubes to produce about 55Wpc into 8 ohms.
Canada's GutWire seems to have a new product at every show we cover, and Salon Son & Image 2010 was no exception. Above is the $999 4 Bar line conditioner that we assume replaces their older MaxCon2 model. The 4 Bar uses Hubbell hospital-grade receptacles.
Last year Canada's Lafleuraudio showed the X1: a two-way, stand-mount loudspeaker that retails for $14,000/pair. Part of the reason for the sky-high price tag is the X1's cabinet, which is made of many layers of Russian cherry plywood topped with a clear lacquer finish. Jason Thorpe reviewed X1 on Ultra Audio last year, and although he liked the speaker, he simply found the price too high. Lafleuraudo now has a remedy for that kind of sticker shock with their new MX1 loudspeaker, which has been designed to bring most of the performance of the X1 into something much more affordable. The MX1 sells for $6000/pair and the cabinet is still layered, but they're using a combination of HDF and MDF topped off with an automotive-paint finish. Even though the MX1 is less than half the X1's price, we think it looks better.
Ken Choi reviewed Gemme Audio's Katana loudspeaker (on left) last year on SoundStage! and quite liked its sound. However, it's price, $12,995/pair, makes it too expensive for many consumers. This year, Gemme showed the new G5 Type R loudspeaker that's part of their new Tonic series. The G5 Type R's price starts at $1395/pair in a basic finish and features a ribbon tweeter that is said to extend past 25kHz.
We saved one of the most peculiar products until last: Tenor Audio's new two-piece preamplifier showing in Montreal in prototype form. On the right is the main preamplifier chassis and on the left is the power supply. Jason Thorpe and I each inquired about the product separately, and we received very different answers. I was told that the product didn't have a name yet, but Jason, who asked before me, was told that the right chassis is going to be called Line 1 and the left chassis Power 1, to form the name Line 1/Power 1. Since it was Jason who asked first, we figured that they might have been re-thinking the name by the time I asked, which wouldn't be a bad idea. Jason was told that the price is $75,000, and I was told "north of $50,000." Perhaps they were re-thinking that, too. In any event, whatever the name and price turn out to be, if you're looking for a preamplifier that costs more than most people's entire systems (not to mention their cars, as well), Tenor Audio appears to have one for you. At least we think they do.
March 27 marks the last day of our coverage even though Salon Son & Image runs until March 28. At first, we were only staying for one day, but then one turned to two, and two turned into three. The fact that we were here this long speaks well for the show, particularly since when we were skeptical as to whether this year's Son & Image show would be worth covering at all. This event was not just good but great.
The move from the Sheraton to the Hilton Bonavenutre appears to be a very good one. Overall, the hotel is nicer and the rooms are more spacious. What's more, people I saw today agreed -- the consumer traffic today was so good that it made it difficult at times to move in the halls. These kinds of crowds make show coverage tough, but they make exhibitors happy, and they're a signal that Salon Son & Image 2010 was a success. I suspect that next year's event will be even bigger, and that we might come not just for three days, but four.