Friday—opening day—was crazy. I’ve never visited so many rooms in one day at an audio show—14, to be exact. That’s a lot of rooms to cover. As a show reporter, you must take the time to listen to the gear, evaluate its sound, jot down legible impressions, make sense of exhibitors’ explanations, get product names and prices, take photos of the gear, and ask for business cards so you can contact someone later if you’re missing information. Then, despite my best efforts, I often must make a repeat visit because I forgot to take a particular photo or pick up a price list or ask for the exhibitor’s business card. It’s time-consuming.
So how did I manage 14 rooms on Friday? A combination of my normal efficiency and something new: This year, I accepted show organizers Sarah’s and Michel’s invitation to partake in the ‘fest’s inaugural wine tasting and music tour, “The Musical Wine Tour,” an after-hours event created in collaboration with local wine distributors LBV International and Agence Trinque.
The concept of the tour was straightforward: Ten groups of ten people would take turns visiting some of the best-sounding rooms at the show, in 15-minute segments that included wine sipping and music listening.
In other words, after hours, I was still visiting rooms.
It turned out to be fantastic for a couple of reasons: In most cases, we were guaranteed a seat, and people didn’t talk while the music played. No visitors congregated in front of the speakers or blocked my view for a camera shot. This made for ideal moments of listening appreciation that, as a show reporter, I don’t always have the luxury of enjoying.
The first room I visited—the NAD-DALI room—delivered sound that put a spring in my step. In this system, the preamp section of a NAD Masters Series M33 streaming DAC / integrated amplifier ($7800 CAD, $6000 US) fed an NAD Masters Series M23 stereo amplifier ($4900 CAD), which, like the M33’s amplifier section, employs Eigentakt class-D amplifier modules manufactured by NAD under license from Denmark’s Purifi Audio. Purifi’s load-invariant design is said to make noise, harmonic distortion, and IM distortion practically unmeasurable at all frequencies and output levels. (You can see JA’s measurements of the M33, including its amplification stage, here.) Powered by the M23 were the made-in-Denmark, elegantly majestic—in sound and appearance—DALI KORE loudspeakers ($150,000/pair). Cabling and line conditioning were furnished by AudioQuest. (Except for the room itself and the use of one M23 instead of two, this was the same room I heard at the Toronto show.)
This system offered a wonderful balance of extremes—force and delicacy, authority and ease, Yin and Yang. The music was gliding, effortless, yet full-bodied and immovably anchored. Highs, mids, or lows, the music delivered tonal realism, life, fast transients, and clear, crisp imaging with just enough warmth to round corners and make this system’s bigtop performance glare-free, flowing, and organic. Over several Tidal-streamed FLAC files, I heard chest-thumping rhythms, stygian bass wallop, a layered soundstage with real depth, and highs that sparkled. Pianos and trumpets, sounded real.
All prices are in Canadian dollars unless otherwise indicated.