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TAVES Consumer Electronics Show 2015 (Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show) Report
TAVES Consumer Electronics Show 2015 Show Report 
Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show Part 4
Report By Rick Becker

 

Back in the hallway I stumbled into a ménage a trois which Sarah Tremblay (formerly with the Montreal show, Son-Image) sorted out for me. Sarah, along with Stephan Ritch is now running Audio Group, which is the Canadian distributor of Grado headphones. She is also the rep for FiiO in Quebec. And Nexus International is the distributor for both FiiO and Audio Alchemy (which I saw, heard and praised in my Saturday coverage of the Best Western rooms.) Consequently, I had the opportunity to briefly listen to both the new wood body Grado Reference Series RS1e and the wood body (with stainless steel cavity) Statement series GS1000e headphones through a FiiO headphone amplifier that was switchable from a line input to the docking station (for a FiiO music server, of course) with variable gain to work with everybody's headphones. The sound of both headphones was excellent, as I've said before, but I prefer the wood body Reference Series and loved the light tan real leather on the headband of the RS1e. Also on display at this table was an Audio Alchemy DPA-1 Stereo digital power amp that was atop an Audio Alchemy headphone/pre-amplifier supplemented with an outboard power supply.

 

In an alcove almost out of the flow of migrating attendees, I came upon Trevor Doyle, founder of Massif Audio Design, and Angela Bradfield, who works with him in marketing. We had met socially the night before when I learned that they were both avid bicyclists and we shared stories of our favorite rides. Trevor has spent much of his early adulthood building pool tables for one of the top manufacturers in that business. The philosophy and skills learned there carried over into his life-long passion for music. The good news for audiophiles is that his skill at building custom audio racks far surpasses his ability with a guitar. Like the pool tables he built, you can remove the hardware from the racks and they will still support your gear. (You will probably sleep better if you leave it in place.) Everything is built with solid wood and looking at their work, you will understand the company name. But beyond that, Trevor has a true appreciation for wood that, in other brands, is usually homogenized and given a more commercial look. The grain, texture, coloration and at times even the imperfections of real wood are allowed to show through, becoming a rack with unique character rather than one of many with a common identity. No two audiophile rigs are the same, and no two Massif racks are completely identical. In fact, they are often custom made to accommodate the specific gear of the new owner. The photos, here, tell the story better than words. Later, in the Audio by Mark Jones room, I would see another of their very special creations. In fact, Massif racks appeared in a number of rooms at TAVES, which you can see on their website. Click on the small photos to view the enlargements.

 

Having recently been loaned a vintage Yamaha receiver, circa 1975, I was interested in visiting the Yamaha room. They seem to be following in the footsteps of Sony in returning to the high end. The styling hasn't changed a bit, which is to say it is very post-mid-century modern with white meters and silver face plates – a very clean look, but nowhere near as sterile as the Swiss are doing these days. I liked it then, and I like it now. They showed an A-S3000 integrated amplifier ($3000) putting out 150 wpc with tone controls, phono stage, and headphone amp with adjustable sensitivity. The front ends were the correlate CD-S3000 CD player ($6500?) complete with heavy duty transport, an ESS ES9018 32-bit DAC, balanced outputs and USB input that was connected to a laptop. They were driving a pair of Bowers & Wilkins' new 803 v3 speakers ($20,000). And yes, those were power meters on the amp!

 

Yamaha also had a shelf-full of diminutive lifestyle mini-boom-boxes that were Bluetooth capable, as well as the wireless omni-directional LSX-170 three-way speakers with Bluetooth aptX for decorating your home with music. So they are not abandoning their roots which permeate the masses.

 

Yamaha also had on active display one of their grand pianos with scheduled appearances of Montreal jazz singer Anne Bisson. Ms. Bisson improvised along with the playback of some of her recordings so we could compare "live" with "recorded" music. The difference was minimal. People stood around in rapt attention, taking photos and recording with their phones. The t-shirt of one of her admirers caught my attention. Parasuco is not the Italian counterpart of Parasound, but a high-end jeans company founded by a young Italian immigrant to Canada. Strangely, it is not listed on the denimology.com list of brands. Guess I don't get to the mall enough.

 

Moving through the Yamaha room into the Kennedy Hi-Fi room I found a relatively modest home theater set-up with Monitor Audio speakers. Apparently they applied too late to obtain a liquor license so they stocked the bar with fine cables from Kimber Kable. New from Monitor were two in-wall speakers. The CP-IW260X ($1450 CAD each) uses a gold dome tweeter from their Silver series, while the CP-IW460X (($2250 CAD each) uses a ribbon tweeter. Both models use acoustically sealed cast polymer back boxes rather than spilling the energy into the wall cavity. Tuning is possible through HF/midrange controls and boundary compensation switches.

 

Todd Garfinkle of MA Recordings had a table set up in the hall where people could sample his purist recordings and buy his CDs and LPs. He was quite proud to be offering not only CD and LP versions of the Goldberg Variations of Johann Sebastian Bach by Japanese pianist itoema, but also reel-to-reel tapes of the work. The LPs are now sold out, I'm told. I guess you had to be there.

 

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