Montreal Audio Fest: Day One

Winter is coming… a harsh Bonjour for me on Friday.

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.


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.

Bisson, and Bélanger together again.

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 – usually it is a nightmare of overcrowded elevators – so I found it to be a luxury of sorts to have this type of freedom to roam the halls without fear of entrapment in small enclosed spaces struggling up, and down.

Escalators are my friends.

The show is well thought out in it’s execution, and the majority of rooms are amply sized for audio needs. There are many stepped, two-tier ceilings in rooms that were creating a bit of problem-solving for some vendors, and their room treatments, bass traps, and acoustic panelling, but the majority seemed nonplussed by it.

Sonic Artistry was showing a off a beautifully curated Thrax system built around a Döhmann Helix turntable.

I have to say, there seems to be a tendency towards music first in Montreal – as opposed to gear first – in the attitudes of many of the people running the rooms I visited Friday. There is also a real sense of community among everyone showing here, much more so than any other audio show I’ve been too.

Harry Weisfeld, Mat Weisfeld, and Jeff Joseph… Mat was just starting to do the Macarena.

Perhaps it is the size of the show – Montreal is not what I would call a large show – perhaps it is the sense of communal identity shared among Francophones. Whatever it is, I really like it, and couldn’t help thinking a few more shows could use a boost of this camaraderie.

The Montreal show features a full-blown recording studio to allow visitors a window into the recording the process.

A very cool feature of the show is the recording studio built special-purpose to allow vendors, exhibitors, and show goers a chance to see firsthand how an album can be recorded in the digital realm.

Tenor saxophonist Alex Francoeur prepares to record in the studio.
Sweet, sweet sounds of jazz.

As at every show, attendees were treated to vast diversity of equipment, from personal, portable audio, to large two-channel rigs, with a plethora of accessories, and LPs, CDs. The following images highlight various rooms I made it to today. I hope you enjoy the images, and take away a sense of the event. I’ll drill down in the coming days on specific systems I want to spend more time with. For Friday from Montreal, that is all.

–Rafe Arnott