The 2016 Montreal Audio Fest has already become the stuff of myth and legend. Here's the tale in a nutshell. A few weeks prior to opening, the organizer Chester Group pulled the plug, leaving attendees and exhibitors very much out in a lurch. Former owner of the show Michel Plante and associates Daniel Jacques and Sarah Tremblay threw themselves into a last-minute Hail Mary effort, pulling in a multitude of exhibitors to resurrect the show just it the nick of time. The rest, as they say, is glorious history.

In 2017 the show was back on firm footing with an excellent depth of exhibitors and surprisingly, free admission to the public. I arrived mid afternoon Friday and hit the floor as rapidly as possible. Crowds were already building, promising a good turnout for the event. By Saturday, enthusiastic audiophiles were jammed in the rooms or waiting for their turn in the hallways. The style and focus of the show was quite different from the approach that evolved with the Toronto TAVES event, i.e. more into a CES-type blanket technology style, encompassing audio but in a much broader context. The Montreal Audio Fest focused almost exclusively on audio, with a very slight nod to video. There was some ancillary incorporation of the visual medium, most notably JVC showing their spectacular e-shift 4K projectors, but these were the exceptions.

As with other shows, there were familiar faces among the exhibitors and some absences but also newfound passionate presenters with ambitious product. There was much hard work by all parties to give the public a significant taste of what their products and collaborations can accomplish despite far less than ideal conditions. My coverage will try to acknowledge as many as possible, but it will also be a rapid dash down the aisle of an infinitely long candy store. Some prices and particulars will be mentioned, some won't. If you need a spec sheet exercise, your typing fingers searching Google are faster than mine. If material fails to get mentioned or you catch errors, blame my attempt at brevity and the sheer amount of information to be encompassed. The manufacturers, dealers and distributors are your friends and best resources. On with the show!

What’s musical playback without a reference point? That’s where live music comes into play and live performances were provided in abundance at the show, with vocal material and acoustic as well as electric instruments. Moog had interactive displays set up and Outro fronted a series of live recording experiences for seated audiences. On the day I came by to listen, artist Justin Saladino of El Guitar was working with the recording engineer to show style variation decisions in laying down tracks. All of these events were anchor points, intended to remind you of the intensity of the physical process and also the level of art accomplished by both artist and engineer.

The logical leap is to move on to software. CDs were pretty much a rarity. Vinyl both old and new seemed to be preferred choice as was also evidenced by the proliferation of turntables on display. There was a separate room for the occasion, Foire du Vinyle (or Record Fair for the Anglos), but offerings were also in the hallways and directly from the live performers who hedged their bets with the digital medium as well. Anne Bisson and Vincent Belanger were in attendance doing live versus recorded sessions, and Mr. Belanger was also making appearances with the esteemed Peter Qvortrup of Audio Note to celebrate his new recording under the AN label.

By accident I walked into a high-resolution digital download source quietly tucked away in the large Personal Audio Fest room. The company Pro Studio Masters appears to be a multi-studio umbrella source for 24-bit .aiff, .flac and DSD files and is definitely a  welcome resource in the post hard-medium age. It was a pleasure to chat with the rep and the onsite pricing looked very enticing. It will be well worth checking out.