Vancouver 2016

Now in its second year, the boutique-style hi-fi show in Vancouver boasted 23 display areas at the Hilton Metrotown, although unfortunately two were not staffed. Nonetheless, this left a host of brands for visitors to sample. Many of the demonstrations were staged by hi-fi dealers from the Vancouver area, such as the display (above) by Liquid Sound with their Dynaudio line-up including the 24-bit wireless hub and Focus XD floor-standers, plus the Aurender network music player from Korea which is making strong inroads in North America. The retailer reported how streaming in Canada had now overtaken traditional sources.

Proud to show for the first time in Canada the Renoir speaker from French Davis Acoustics (below left), Atoll Electronique made the most of this North American premier following the unveiling at Munich High End  just six weeks before.  The brand was created in 1986 and is perhaps better known for its OEM Goldmund and Avantgarde drive units. Also with a ‘first showing’ in Canada was the smaller Matisse and two-way desktop model, the Eva.

In the second of their four rooms, Liquid Sound featured the mightily impressive Magico S5MkII floorstander (above right) as brand new to the Canadian market from California.

Room Three waved the European flag with British loudspeakers from Harbeth and Norwegian pre and power amplification by Hegel. If the larger Super HL5plus cabinets were too close to the wall, the smaller Monitor 30.1s were simply singing. The speakers are new to Canada’s west coast and the Canadian distributor was on hand to support the brand.

Liquid Sounds’ final room had an impressive back-lit display for a Devialet Phantom system. The speakers can be used singly and start at £1,690 each plus stands.

Feeling rather home-from-home in the Pat’s Audio Art room, I lingered to enjoy the mix of Naim’s huge Statement amplifier array, the mighty KEF Blades and Rega RP10 front-end which made an impressive if pricey system.

Cellist Vincent Belanger from Montreal took centre-stage in the Audio Note room with regular ‘live versus recorded’ demonstrations of his playing and attracted crowds to the Sound Hounds room, a Victoria-based dealer.
 

In one of two rooms, Commercial Electronics (from downtown West 7th Avenue) showcased a mix of electronics from HEOS by Denon and Marantz’s PM8005 integrated and SR7010 home-theatre receiver with Dolby Atmos, alongside some impressive T&A loudspeakers from Germany.

Next door the same dealer featured Focal’s Sopra No1 and No2 loudspeakers with electronics courtesy of Roksan, Thorens and Solid Tech. The HEOS multi-room drive here provides independent streaming for up to four stereo pairs (rooms).

In an all-French line-up for the room, electronics were by Atoll: the highly styled CD400SE and IN200SE integrated below.

In what was a rather small room for such a big brand, Sony had an impressive wall display of classic album covers to set the scene for demonstrations of the PS-HX500 turntable with in-built A-D converter to allow vinyl to be transferred to computer via a USB connection under the banner ‘Get your records ready to go’.

Cello Technologies is now based in Seattle and owner Tom Hall showed an example of the first paper-cone drive units employed by SL Speakers from 1972 alongside his mighty new Super 7 which has been uprated for ever greater power handling. As with the rest of the line-up, it’s available as a complete kit, half-made or ready-built.

Relying on some impressive-looking electronics courtesy of Boulder, the Cello system made some seriously full-bodied sounds which the visitors lapped up and kept the engineer busy.

On home soil, Totem Acoustics had journeyed from Montreal and coupled a Michell Gyro SE as the main source to dem their Element Series Metal speakers. Designer Vince Bruzzese explained that there's no crossover on the woofer which operates as a full-range driver and rolls-off naturally – giving impressive LF down to 16Hz. With over seven hours to make each drive unit in house, not to mention their own tweeter, it takes 30 hours of manpower to make a pair which retail at around $14,000 US. That said, it did create one of the best-sounding rooms at the event.

Moon electronics by SIMAUDIO saw Costa Koulisakis from Montreal pleased to show his electronics to visitors, from the Neo entry-level range to the flagship Evolution series. Powering Wilson Audio speakers, with a Pro-Ject analogue front-end, the result was sweet and melodious. Their Vinyl Friday (6-8pm after the show closed on the first day) provided the chance to hear some old favourites.

The lower floor features some much larger banqueting areas which allowed for magnificent sounds which were more difficult to achieve, it seems, in the smaller conference rooms upstairs. Montreal-based Art Vibes Audio combine art and hi-fi in one loudspeaker enclosure and proved just how entertaining solo piano can be. Each cabinet is taken to one of three artists to create a unique mural before lacquer seals in the work.

Equally impressive sonically (and visually in their own way of revealing the natural beauty of real wood light-mahogany veneer) were the German-made Sunray loudspeakers from Tidal, powered by the mighty Burmester 909 power amp with 1,980 Watts.

Burmester’s man-on-the-spot was also greatly proud of the first public showing of his brand’s newest product, the Phase 3 – this all-in-one package contains highly-reflective stand-mount speakers, DAC, transport and amplifier, other finishes are available.
 
The Vancouver show may not have been the biggest or busiest our industry has, and whether brands continue to support it remains to be seen, but it did entice a hardcore of audiophiles, many from the burgeoning Asian community settled in Canada’s second-largest city. And that can only be a good thing.

Trevor Butler