The Audio Traveler

Where Epicurus stops to listen, but only after 8.
  1. It was like that scene out of Life of Brian. The one where Brian – our protagonist – opens the curtains in the morning, and is greeted by something wholly unexpected. So it was as I threw open the curtains in my room at the Hotel Bonaventure Friday morning: the day before had been glorious with sunshine, and I expected the same as I woke. But the scene that greeted me was a blizzard. Any thoughts I’d entertained of blissfully strolling Montreal’s streets sipping a caffe latte, with a baguette tucked under my arm vanished. Instead I trudged through the driving snow freezing my ass off, and made it to a Starbucks for some yogurt, and granola. Sigh. Luckily, the rest of the day vastly improved. I came back to the the Salon Audio Montreal, and the utterly charming duet of pianist/singer Anne Bisson, and cellist Vincent Bélanger playing songs from their album Conversations in the Ville-Marie grand room.   From there it was a relaxing tour of the sprawling Bonaventure, and the surprise (for me anyways), of having almost all the show rooms located on two floors, connected by an escalator. This is something I’ve never experienced before at a major show – [...]
  2. Leaving the monochromatic rain of Canada’s Wet Coast, I boarded a flight at 9 a.m. Thursday from Vancouver, British Columbia eastward bound in search of colour. Two-thousand, three-hundred miles, and five hours later I was jolted from my in-flight reverie of movie watching by the big bounce of 240 tons of Airbus A330 introducing itself to a runway at Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport outside Montreal, Quebec. The sun was shining brightly as I lifted the window shade, and took in my new surroundings. Everything looked tres jolie. I’m here to cover the Salon Audio Montreal this weekend, which is my first time at the show, and my second time in Montreal. Although, while disembarking the plane I calculated how long it had been since my first visit, and became rather melancholy at the passage of so much time, so I took solace in a pint at the airport bar while waiting for my ride into town. Cellist extraordinaire Vincent Bélanger soon arrived to shuttle me, and after a few stops to attend to some business we made our way to the Hotel Bonaventure in downtown Montreal to check in, and take stock of what was happening as manufactures, and exhibitors prepared for Friday’s opening. Things were pretty [...]
  3.   Some equipment just speaks your language. Pass Labs designs have always been a favourite of mine on the audio-show circuit. They construct incredibly musical components with real sonic muscle that never sacrifices air or detail, so when I was offered an opportunity to review some of their gear I was very happy indeed.   After some thinking, I decided that my approach to this upcoming review would be from the point of view of someone looking to make the jump from an integrated amplifier to separates. With that in mind, and with a budget in my head ($15,000 USD or less) Pass Labs have sent me their entry-level XP-10 preamplifier, and X150.8 power amplifier. Thanks to Soundhounds in Victoria, and DeVore Fidelity in Brooklyn, I’ve got a beautiful pair of DeVore O/93s to review along with the XP-10, and X150.8. AudioQuest cabling throughout wires everything together. Things have been busy at Part-Time Audiophile north lately. PS Audio recently sent me their Perfect Wave Power Plant 10 for review, and the Pass Labs equipment is enjoying their break-in period with noticeably improved dynamics, and a much-lowered noise floor thanks to the P10. Our listening/living room is just starting to clear out after parting with a slew [...]
  4. Canada’s sophisticated French-speaking metropolis Montreal is about to be descended upon by the masses of high fidelity, and this time we’ll be there to cover it. I’ll be heading to Salon Audio Montreal on Thursday morning, and while the weather forecast calls for some chilly temperatures, I’m looking forward to a warm reception with a number of good friends who will be attendance. Former show stalwart David Cope will be there, as will cellist Vincent Bélanger for the launch of Audio Note Music with his new album Pure Cello. Industry legend, and Audio Note top man Peter Qvortrup will also be making a rare North American appearance. Vancouver friends Edward Ku, and Jeffrey Tseng from Element Acoustics are going, Wynn Wong from Wynn Audio in southern Ontario will also be in attendance along with David Chan, and Lawrence Lock from DVL Audio. Show organizer Sarah Tremblay – who helped to step in and rescue the show last year when the Chester Group suddenly cancelled it – very kindly responded to me with answers to some questions regarding Salon Audio Montreal. Keep checking back throughout the week, and into the weekend as I will be posting from the floors of the show. Sarah Tremblay [...]
  5. MQA continues to muscle through the audio world with yet another coup in the digital-audio player market. Audirvana Plus, the well-loved desktop music application for Mac OS has just announced that their latest Plus 3 player includes MQA software unfolding of the MQA origami codec. This type of MQA integration seems to be the same level of authentication as Tidal is offering in their desktop application. Audirvana Plus 3 player also implements a blue or green light for confirmation that the file is delivering an authorized sound recognized as identical to the source recording. –Rafe Arnott From the edited press release: London / Paris, 16 March 2017 – Audirvana Plus, the desktop music player for Mac OS, has released the latest version of its software which now includes integrated MQA audio technology. In addition to optimizing sound quality and authenticating file provenance, Audirvana Plus 3 also includes the following benefits: A complete library management system with full metadata and cover art display for all music, whether stored locally or streamed. Integration with premium streaming services such as Tidal and Qobuz.  The MQA Core decoder’s initial file ‘unfold’ recovers all the direct music-related information and makes it available for either analogue or digital output at 88.2 [...]
  6. Press Release on death of Senior Design Engineer, Ward Fiebiger Plymouth, MN, March 14, 2017 – On March 13th, Senior Design Engineer Ward Fiebiger suffered a sudden and fatal heart attack. Ward was 58 years old. “After many years of dedication to Audio Research, Ward’s passing comes with great shock.  Ward was a mentor to many at the company and his legacy has been passed on to the employees at Audio Research.  My sympathy goes out to Ward’s family and friends,” said Charlie Randall, CEO, McIntosh Group; President, McIntosh Laboratory, Inc. Ward was born in St. Paul, Minnesota. Ward grew up working at his father’s radio/tv repair shop as a youth repairing turntables and vacuum tube electronics in the early to mid-1970’s. After graduation, Ward attended trade school for radio/tv repair where one of the last of the classes teaching vacuum tube theory was still available. His career started and ended at Audio Research. In 1978, Ward worked in the service department, later moving into Quality Assurance and eventually transferring to engineering where he supported engineers in board layouts and prototyping. Ward had the honor of working side by side with Bill Johnson and other engineers learning from Bill his [...]
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