Note: Most prices are in Canadian dollars unless otherwise noted.
It was almost a complete paradigm shift. Every other audio show I've ever been to has been in a hotel. Here, at the Toronto Congress Center there were still some conference rooms featuring large, mostly very expensive systems, but the second tier rooms were constructed, free standing cubicles on the perimeter of a large exhibition hall. These were constructed of plywood sheathed in black curtains to try and tame the reverberations. The middle area of the large hall was filled with tables full of audio gear and New Age electronic gizmos and exhibition space where one could safely take test rides on Segways and motorized skateboards.
It would be easy to enumerate the shortcomings, but the staff is well aware of them and many, if not most, will be addressed in the future. The picture here was photo-bombed by my audio buddy, Tom Lathrop, who drove separately from Rochester and coincidentally arrived just moments after me.
There was also a large hallway leading into the big hall filled with double rows of audio exhibits, mostly dealing with audio. Think headphones, cables and the like.
I normally like to work a show on Saturday and Sunday to give exhibitors the opening day to fine-tune their systems and give the brand new gear a chance to burn in. This year, because of dance of North American audio shows in the fall, I was double booked with the furniture show in High Point, North Carolina, so I had to split my time between them. And for sure, TAVES was the more exciting show this year.
"In what way?" you ask. As I mentioned to Suave Kajko, director of the show, seen here with one of the artists late on Saturday, I found the show to be much more social. People were talking with vendors and manufacturer's reps... and talking with each other, both inside the cube rooms and in the open spaces around the open tables. Quiet listening environments were mostly found in the conference room and only a few of the cubicles.
"But isn't that a bad thing?" you ask. Not really. One of my most memorable moments in this hobby was talking with John Hellig of Musial Design at CES in Chicago back in the early 1990s when I was just getting started. Like then, TAVES was an opportunity to talk directly with some of the creators of the products you might chose to own. Having a conversation can lead to greater understanding of the product which can in turn lead to greater satisfaction in ownership...or sometimes a wise decision to not make a purchase.
One of the most approachable pillars of High End audio is Vince Bruzzese of Totem Acoustics, shown here with his son who is establishing his presence at the Canadian shows.
New at Totem was the Signature One, a totally updated salute to the 2-way Model One that put the company on the map decades ago. It is seen here on dedicated stands with the Totem logo carved in the metal base-plate and it was driven very appropriately by McIntosh gear. Not only is the new Signature One (~ $2800 Cdn) vastly superior to its namesake, so was the Sky 2-way monitor that was introduced at Montreal and demonstrated on the adjacent wall for direct comparison with the Signature One. At ~$1800 Cdn the Sky is more obtainable for many folks, and doesn't give up as much quality as the price difference might suggest.
In an adjacent segment of the room the Sky Tower in white was actively demonstrated along with a wall of evocative photography for which Totem is justifiably famous. No one in this industry is more aware of the importance of lifestyle than Totem.
In the Bailey Room on a short corridor linking two longer hallways I encountered an unusual combination of gear in a very fine sounding room that seemed focused on the PMC studio monitors. Miles Roberts of PMC explained the front mounted spider (or basket, if you will) was connected to the rear of the driver with a long rod that conducted the heat generated by the speaker's motor. Conducting the heat to the front mounted spider allowed the air motion created by the cone to dissipate the heat more effectively. As their name, Professional Monitor Company, suggests, they build speakers for studio and theater professional applications and this one in particular is designed to play not only clean, but very loud.
It was also a delight to meet Bruce Jacobs of Stillpoints in this room. I had the honor of doing the first formal review of their original footers more than a decade ago and man, talk about a company that has come a long way... their equipment rack shown here can sell for something like $27,000 US, depending on how it's configured. I noticed a couple of their high end footers used on top of the external power supply for the Lumin U1 Transport for vibration control in the same fashion I use their record clamp on my tuner. Other gear in the rack included a Hegel DAC HD30 with volume control that fed a monster Hegel H30 amplifier on the bottom shelf.
A Hegel Mohican CD player and P 30 preamp, as well as a laptop completed the stack. I suspect different combinations were playing at different times, here. Bruce also pointed out the boxes in the corners and the ones bearing the Lumin and PMC names as special sound absorbing (room tuning) panels made by Stillpoints. He tells me they can even put your own art work on them.
Around the corner in the Waxman 4 room it was a pleasure once again to meet Hoo Kong Njoo and his daughter Lee Ming Njoo of Belgium with their large and impressive Venture rig with a Triangle Art Master Reference turntable with TA Apollo cartridge. Venture electronics included the VP 100P phono stage and VP200D preamp with DAC. The gorgeous Quantum Signature loudspeakers are self-powered with three channels totaling 2500 watts in Class D in each speaker. They use their own cables and featured Roon software for digital presentations when the turntable was on break. I also ran into Mirko Krolo who pointed out that his Krolo Design racks in this rig are a major step up from the earlier designs and use four solid aluminum pillars vs. three tubular ones in previous models, giving better stability and easier access to load components and hook up cables.