Montreal Audiofest 2024: The Best One in Years

The 35th anniversary of the Montreal Audiofest continues through this weekend at the Place Bonaventure Hotel in Downtown Montreal.  While there is always some terrific audio gear to experience at the show, this year’s event feels different, and I would go as far as saying it’s the best Audiofest I have attended in years.

There’s something for every budget from ultra high-end such as this flagship Focal-Naim display to simple stand-alone streaming speakers.

Firstly, the residue of a few years hosting an event in the aftermath of a global pandemic that kept attendees and manufacturers sparse is all behind us.  This year’s Audiofest boast a near full house of the world’s best brands, some household names such as Marantz, Yamaha, NAD, Totem and JBL, with other brands not so known to the Canadian market such as TAD Audio, attending the show from Hanover MA for the first time, Emotiva Audio a boutique amplifier company from Franklin TN and Elipson, a French brand with a 100 year history that’s gaining momentum on this side of the Atlantic.

NAD uses the show to celebrate the brand’s 50th anniversary featuring top-of-the-line Masters Series amplification with psb Synchrony speakers.

The crowds are also back, with event organizer’s sharing that almost as many tickets were sold for Friday’s first day than sold for the whole weekend last year.  A full house and lots to see brings a great energy to the show.

A newcomer to the show, the TAD Ultimate Reference One TX Speaker System retails for $160,000 that can be paired with the TAD M700S 2-channel amplifier at $60,500.

While the organizers provided a ribbon cutting photo opportunity to open the show that featured what they described as a young group representing a new generation of audiophiles coming up the ranks, this year’s show seemed to lack what I would call distractions, that were part of past events aimed at trying to attract young people and particularly, young women to the show.  Previous events have included gaming exhibitions and a slew of other non-core-audio events in an attempt expand show attendance beyond an older gen demographic of mostly men.

Canadian distributor Erikson Consumer displays Cyrus, Audiolab streamer with Chord amplifiers and DAC with speakers from two legacy brands, Mission and Spendor.

I would never criticize the organizers for trying new things since welcoming a new generation to the world of audio components is tantamount to our industry’s survival, however, removing the gimmicks and allowing audio to be the main event has kept this year’s show focused and fun.  According to the Audiophile Archive and Grading Service, there are as many 22-35 year old’s buying vinyl as there are 55+ buying vinyl, so a show staying true to its core competency should bring in a younger crowd naturally. I have had both of my 20-something daughter’s join me at Audiofest in the past and parents and grandparents should be encouraged to bring their young-adult kids to future events.  And speaking of vinyl, the Audiofest is a fantastic place to secure both new and vintage vinyl on the lower-level marketplace.

Bowers & Wilkins displays an Aston Martin DB12 next to their 800 series speaker in custom British Racing Green paint.

Another meaningful change to Audiofest 2024 is the number of products on display that have prices, and more importantly show-special prices.  Many manufacturer’s have partnered with local audio dealers for a true retail experience.  The Focal-Naim booth for example features single component pricing and then serious savings if you are tempted to buy the amp, speakers and turntable as a bundle.  

Canadian speaker manufacturer Totem Acoustic has partnered with retailer La Boutique Techno Stereo+ to showcase the brands latest Bison Series speakers and how the brand can accommodate a home theatre set-up featuring Totem Tribe V on-wall speakers.
One example of show special bundling. Turning the show into a buying opportunity is a great idea.

Where else can you talk to the manufacturer’s representative, some like Vincent Laigle, the owner of AV Industry with brands such as Elipson, who has arrived in Montreal from France for the show. Indeed, most displays are hosted by the very people who build the products you are listening to.  That knowledge-base is another reason to attend.

This is what $131,000 looks like! Classe Delta amplification paired with Bowers & Wilkins 801 D4 Signature speakers ($72,000) and DB1D subwoofer.

The 35th edition of the Montreal Audiofest continues today and tomorrow, (March 23-24).  If it has been years since you have attended, this is the year to jump back in.

Hotel Place Bonaventure: 900 Rue De la Gauchetière West, Montreal Quebec H5A 1E4.  10:00am to 6:00pm today and 10:00 am to 5:00pm tomorrow.