Montreal Audiofest 2024: by Roger McCuaig (suite)

Audio by Mark Jones

Mark Jones spent his whole professional career in the audio industry and set up Audio by Mark Jones in Ajax Ontario in 2013. He is a regular participant in Audiofest. I was able to speak to Mark for a few minutes and he explained the system they had set up for the show.

The source they were playing while I was there consisted of a Linn LP12 Klimax turntable equipped with a Lyra Aetna SL cartridge. This is the top of the line for Linn and I believe that the Aetna SL is the top (or pretty close to the top) for Lyra also. At the heart of the system sits the CH Precision model L1 integrated amplifier. In only 10 years of existence, CH Precision of Switzerland has acquired a solid reputation and the L1 amplifier is packed with technology and versatility. One of its interesting features is a current-sensing phono stage that enables it to play well with very low impedance phono cartridges.

The sound was coming out of a pair of Magico S3 loudspeakers. These loudspeakers, as one comes to expect from Magico, are packed with innovative design features, many of them borrowed from their flagship M series loudspeakers. All the power and interconnect cables were from the Nordost Valhalla 2 series which is their Reference range.

This system tallies up at well over $100k and the sound was, as expected, superb. Airy, focused, detailed and natural. A real pleasure to listen to. First, I heard The Weavers, a beautifully produced record. Mark Jones introduced the next record by saying that people don’t just listen to audiophile recordings, you should know how your system will perform when playing all types of music. Then, we jumped to Led Zeppelin and I can’t remember ever hearing them sound like this. The system was able to sort out all the instruments and deal with the dirty guitar, the power voice and the big drums better than many. I would have liked to have stayed longer.


• • •

There are a lot of things going on at Bryston. I had a long conversation with Blair Crowly and the word “new” came up quite often. Starting with the system that was playing, this was the first ever public appearance of the Trim T10 loudspeaker which has a new driver configuration, new crossovers and a new vent design. The loudspeakers were running with the 7B version of the famous B series amplifiers and a BP-19 preamp. The BP19 is a new edition this year that features an optional phono stage that can be either MM or MM / MC and has adjustable gain. The system also included a BDA-3 DAC and a BDP-3 Network player and a BIT20 power isolator. The sound from this system was among the highlights of my day. At one point during my visit, they put on Nils Lofgren Keith Don’t Go and I just had to stop and listen until it was finished.

On display was the new BI-200 integrated amplifier. So new, in fact, that it is not yet in production. This unit is basically a BP-19 preamp and a 3B3 amp in one box. A great idea that should have a lot of success.

More new stuff; the Middle T10 and Middle T10 tower subwoofer in natural walnut finish. You can buy one or the other or both. A beautiful set that will look great in a larger room.

As you can see in one of the photos, the T10 loudspeakers have a crossover module on the back. Bryston has long been an advocate of active crossovers and this module has a passive crossover on the inside and a plug-in module that allows you to switch between three modes of passive operation: mono, bi or tri-amping (or wiring) as well as operation with an active (external) crossover, the BAX-1.
Blair informed me that all loudspeaker drivers are by Bryston and that the metalwork for their products is now being done in-house. Some Bryston components are now being offered on several colours as they have moved to painted finishes due to environmental considerations.

I learned today that Bryston, Magnum Dynalabs and Axiom Audio are now under one corporate umbrella so it will be interesting to see what new products evolve from this grouping.

• • •

NAD, PSB, Bluesound
NAD, Bluesound and PSB are all part of the Lenbrook Group based in Pickering Ontario, and there seems to be a burst of energy and innovation coming from this group.

The system playing in this room presented the newly released NAD M66 BluOS Streaming DAC-preamp which is described as the most advanced preamp they have ever made. Montreal Audiofest was the first showing of this unit. Its features and capabilities are too numerous to mention so I will only note the Dirac Live Room Correction and DIRAC Live Bass Control which independently controls each subwoofer. The results are exceptional. The power output was taken care of by two NAD M23 power amps in Bridge Mode, so that’s 700 Watts per channel! At the receiving end of all this power was a pair of PSB flagship Synchrony T800 tower loudspeakers. The system also included four PSB subwoofers under DIRAC control. The big room was filled with an evenly distributed sound and perfectly controlled bass. The T800 loudspeakers sounded, and looked, very good and mated perfectly with the NAD amps. At their list price they seemed like a bargain.

The PSB Imagine series loudspeakers in Satin White were on display. They also come in Satin Black. This is a Mid-range offering from PSB with quite budget friendly pricing. The Alpha IQ streaming powered bookshelf loudspeakers with BluOS were also on display (in 4 colours). A very interesting product that unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to listen to during my visit.

Jeff Earl, brand manager for BlueSound, showed me the array of products they had on display. There is really something for everyone and every budget. Basic streamer, add a DAC, go high-end with MQA capability and add a 2 Tb hard drive. You can connect as many as to 64 players!

More to come soon…