But in amongst the crazy expensive cars, the immersive gaming set ups (Yamaha actually brought a genuine Moto GP ‘bike’ on a rig that allowed it and its attached display to achieve scarily realistic cornering angles) and massive LED or projection screens, there were more than a few audio nuggets waiting to be unearthed. This being France – a country with an audio heritage that’s as innovative as it is apparently reluctant to spread beyond its borders – many of the more interesting and unusual products emanated from indigenous manufacturers. This being France – a country where digital solutions seem like second nature – digital technology was very much front and centre.
Atohm, manufacturer of an extremely impressive range of surprisingly affordable loudspeakers, showed a fascinating new power amplifier – the RS700 “GT Edition”. Described as a DSP controlled power amp, each standard width chassis contains a high-powered fully differential, fan cooled stereo amplifier (350W/8Ω – 700W/4Ω) and a high-resolution DSP capability. Able to accept analogue (single-ended RCA or balanced XLR) or digital (coaxial S/PDIF) inputs, the amplifier offers four operating modes, one for general applications and three dedicated to the three speaker models in the company’s flagship GT line (hence the three individual amps positioned between the speakers in the show set up). Played via the stand-mounted GT1-HD speakers (€2,700/pr), the sound was refreshingly open, expressive and unconstrained. Dynamics and tonality were natural and scale and extension belied the compact speaker dimensions. This was impressively musical performance, especially at the price: the RS700 amp weighs in at a mere €3,490. That will be music to the ears of anybody whose space is as constrained as their budget, while the performance with the larger GT2-HD and GT3-HD speakers presents a tantalizing prospect. (firstname.lastname@example.org, www.atohm.com)
Another product that combined digital and analogue engineering in an unusual way but to considerable affect was the elegant, compact, floorstanding Artaliis Idyle loudspeaker. Making its debut at the show, price is still to be fixed, but expect it to be in the region of €50,000 a pair. For that you get a pair of slim and beautifully sculpted cabinets built from a special, high-density natural fibre material combined with a powdered marble composite and given a furniture standard finish. Each cabinet contains a 29mm beryllium dome tweeter, ceramic midrange unit and a pair of 27cm side-firing aluminium coned woofers. The speakers are active, with a pair of 150W/Ch Class A/B amps driving the mid and tweeter, a 500W Class D amp driving the bass. The active crossover is entirely analogue although the speaker will accept both digital and analogue (balanced XLR) inputs – allowing owners to run either a traditional analogue line-stage or a digital front-end with a variable output. The internal DAC is an R-2R design, with input bandwidth out to 384kHz. The sound of the show set up was impressively linear, with deep, tactile bass that was beautifully integrated with the mid and treble. Artaliis claim extension down to a -3dB point at 26Hz and on this evidence that’s a number that I’m ready to accept. Those who discount side-firing woofers might care to take a listen to the Idyle, while I for one have not heard Class D driven low-frequencies that integrate this naturally. This was an impressive start and Artaliis looks like a name to watch… (www.artaliis.com)