The Montreal Audio Show Starts Friday

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. Such is the story of the Montreal Audio Show aka Salon Son et Image (SSI), which takes place this coming weekend, March 28–30. The Chester Group may be sponsoring the show for the first time, and longtime show organizer Michel Plante may have ceded the reins to his partner/wife, Sarah Tremblay, but both the location (the Hilton Bonaventure Hotel) and the show structure are pretty much the same.

Tremblay expects about 80 exhibitors—the same as last year—holding forth in 80–100 rooms. To please up to 7000 attendees, SSI will again join forces with photography store Photo Service, which will bring various lenses to enable zoom viewing of Montreal. There will again be a Canada Pavilion to promote Canadian high-performance audio brands, including Totem Acoustic, Bis Audio, Blue Circle Audio, Kronos Audio, Mur Audio, and Bryston. Any exhibit that displays a complete audio system priced under $5000 will be identified by a special symbol. And, of course, there will be Personal Audio Zone, where for the first time, people can not only try out 60 brands of headphones, but also purchase on the spot not only headphones, but also DACs and amplifiers that fit into the Personal Audio category.

But what's new—and it's a BIG new—are the approximately 80 new products that will make either their Canadian, North American, or world premieres. At the top of the list is Naim, which promises the first public showing of its humongous, cost-no-object Statement amplifier. Blue Circle Audio presents a host of new products, Dali launches the Epicon 6 loudspeaker, Kronos Audio dems their new Sparta turntable, and Bryston launches the BUC-1 in the Canadian pavilion.

Art Dudley, who with Robert Deutsch will be covering the show for Stereophile on this site, has signed on to attend the unveiling of Rega's new Spin Baby Collection, created with Canadian artist Zilon. Other well-known companies offering new products include Aragon & Acurus, Audio Physic, Bel Canto (the Black system), BMC, Cambridge, Dynaudio, Focal, Grimm, Hegel, Jeff Rowland Design Group, Martin Logan, Music Hall, Nuforce, Raidho Acoustics, Tannoy, Triangle, VA, and YBA.

Much loved Canadian vocalist, Anne Bisson, will not only be visiting rooms throughout the weekend, but also sing in a few. She will also offer her new album, Tale from the Treetop, for exclusive pre-sale, five months before its official release

The other big news is the demise of the special industry-only day. "This year, we're only having a three-day show," says Tremblay. "The day was not used properly, because we were inviting the industry to private showings when some retailers' doors were closed and others were in the midst of setting up. But the good news is that we will have the Industry Cocktail on Saturday night, and distribute two Lifetime Achievement Awards."

The seminars, some of which will include different sessions for English and French speakers, and some which will be presented in simultaneous translation, take place all three days. Among the well-known presenters are Mark Waldrep of AIX Records, Costa Koulisakis of Simaudio, and Steve Silberman of AudioQuest. As you might expect, computer audio, streaming, and hi-resolution playback/downloads are major topics. Expect local TV techie guy Richard Zidel, known in Quebec as the person who makes "hard" subjects easy for everyone to understand, to present a daily seminar on music servers and streaming that is sure to attract new attendees.

The Special Atmosphere
Tremblay prides herself on creating, along with the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, the friendliest and most welcoming atmosphere of any audio show in North America. "I don't have the percentage, but everyone tells us that we're the audio show with the most women," she says. "At my show, I think I'm less in the minority."

SSI also must be one of the most cultured audio shows on the planet. While the California Audio Show did offer a wonderful presentation by a string quartet, and Ray Kimber customarily brings some of his superb IsoMike artists to RMAF, the Montreal show may be the only audio show whose show guide includes a large ad for a local opera company's production of Donizetti Lucia di Lammermoor. Maybe the promoters think that bel canto mad scenes are the perfect complement to audiophilia nervosa.

In Montreal we've always done things differently," says Tremblay. "That's what makes us what we are. The Chester Group is helping with marketing and giving us support, but they are ensuring that the uniqueness of the Montreal Show remains. My only hope is that we won't be in audio snow this week. We always pray that it won't be an audio snow. But if it is, there's always the outdoor heated swimming pool on the hotel's roof."

volvic's picture

I always enjoyed my former home town's Hi-Fi show, always a lot of fun and great exhibitors, would have loved to go this year and finally meet and say hello to Mr. Dudley and Mr. Deutsch.  Perhaps L'année prochaine.  

PekaJ's picture

I'll be interested to see the coverage of the show this year as the Chester Group has bought Salon Son but is keeping Tremblay running it.  I know it has always been a highly regarded show - I hope some of that is brought to the New York show now that Tremblay is running that also.