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Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show (TAVES 2011) Report
Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show (TAVES 2011)
Part 4 Show Report By Rick Becker

  Sunday morning Tom and I packed up and took our bags across the street and downstairs into the parking lot. As an extra measure of security, the elevator was not working, forcing us to use the stairwell. We figured would-be thieves would sooner loot the cars on the first level, so we felt secure several levels further down. Unlike the parking lot below the Hilton at the Montreal show, this lot was practically empty on Saturday and Sunday. At McDonald's for breakfast we found two young girls slumped over a table who had obviously endured the entire all-night Art Festival, raising the existential question "Is there life after Art?" We returned to the King Edward to finish up the rooms on the 6th floor and for me at least, to tackle the 2nd floor.

 

Ovation Audio was running a show special with Thiel speakers at 20% off MSRP. I listened to the standard 2.4 model being driven by some very upstream components from Electrocompaniet of Norway. It was not the SE version of the 2.4 which has upgraded parts in the crossover, but it still sounded very nice being driven by these premium electronics. Analog was playing and the Electrocompaniet phono stage reportedly adjusts itself for MM or MC, and features 72- 73dB gain for MC which is unusually high for a one piece unit. It retails for about $1500. Rickey Yan was the gracious and informative host, here.

 

Divergent Technologies is the umbrella for a number of audio brands imported by Tosh Goka. Their Antique Sound Lab has introduced a number of new remote controlled amplifiers and I heard their famed Hurricane MK II DT monoblocks (200 watts ultralinear, $6500/pr.) drive their even more famous Reference 3A Grand Veena speakers ($7995) with excellent results using the Copeland CDA 825 top loading CD player ($6500). But what stole the show for me in this room was the new turntable they have developed using mostly acrylic with some layers of viscoelastic polymer for damping, and magnetic footers which they now manufacture for themselves. The platter has strobe markings and a protractor etched into the bottom and can be flipped over to check the speed or align a new cartridge. Very clever. The tonearm mount slides toward and away from the platter to allow for mounting tonearms of various lengths. The turntable goes for around $3000 including the 12" Consonance unipivot tonearm which is also available separately for $750. The cartridge was a Van den Hul Frog. Tosh indulged me by playing a $0.25 garage sale copy (cleaned, of course) of Jackson Browne singing "The Load Out" and "Stay" medley from Running on Empty, which was a classic demo LP in its day. Listening to analog here was one of the most enjoyable moments at the show. I really got the chills.

When I walked into the Positive Marketing A/V room they were playing some music that was pretty dreadful which surprised me given that the speakers were the Atlantic Technology AT-1 ($3060) that have recently received a rave review. Fortunately the host reeled me in before I could leave and put on a new CD after returning the previous CD to another visitor. (It is always a risk to play music from attendees who might have poor recordings or very esoteric musical taste). With a pair of 5.25" mid woofers and a silk dome tweeter, these guys sing from 29Hz to 20 kHz. And did I say they can sing? With a little help from their friends, who happened to be a Parasound Halo CD-1 ($4999), a JC-2 Halo preamp ($4529), and Parasound Halo A21 250 watt stereo amplifier ($2599), and WireWorld cables. At over $16,000 this room was not inexpensive, but the (well recorded) music here revealed excellent value. It sure jolted my stereotyped impression of Atlantic Technology. They have always been a decent brand, but they have clearly jumped up a league with this speaker which should probably play very well even in more modest systems.

As my biggest faux pas of the show report I now bring you to the AudiyO.com room without any photos. Simon Au has been tireless in the preparation and smooth running of this show as well as securing accommodations and an extra ticket for a second Carlsberg beer at the Presenters and Press reception. I beg forgiveness. But I did take lots of video notes in his room, so I'm here to tell you they have a very nifty looking two-way monitor speaker kit dressed in bamboo. There was lots of Furutech gear on hand including the nifty Flow-28 power cord filter that plugs in between the power cord and the component itself. While it seemed a bit pricy at $400, I have word that the filter end will be available in kit form to install on the end of whatever power cord you already own. That would be special and especially useful for distant components in an audio or video rig that might be located too far from a centralized power conditioner. AudiyO also showed an amplifier kit which you can build to accept a variety of power tubes, as well as install an attenuator to make it an integrated amp.

 

The Second Floor

Living Sound Stereo held court in two rooms. The first was an all Naim system featuring their 600 loudspeaker where I heard Nora Jones singing "I've Got to See You Again" and I could hear every breath she took. Their second room featured a conglomerate of other brands they carry. The Linn LP12 turntable was one of several brands they specialize in and it was amplified by a new Linn phono stage that fed a new Conrad Johnson ET5 preamp and LP124M monoblocks that put out 125 watts ultralinear with 6550 tubes at an astonishing (for tubes) 102dB S/N ratio. The speakers were the new Focus FP88 SE floorstanders ($6800) from their Prestige Series. As loud as the presenters and visitors were in this room, I still was able to enjoy and appreciate the fine music coming from this rig. Sometimes I just want to morph my camcorder into a gun and invite everyone to leave the room. The speaker was a little bright on top, probably because I couldn't take a seat and had to stand…but nothing serious.

 

I drifted into a room with a lifestyle surround sound home theater rig comprised of a Cambridge Audio Azur 751BD disc player ($1250,with Blue Ray, of course), Cambridge Azur surround receiver and these cute-cube speakers. This is truly a rig for audiophiles like myself who watch very little video and want a completely separate rig in another room for college bowl games and the Big Dance. If your room is a little larger you can opt for the dual cube version of this speaker, and of course a subwoofer to match.

Grant Fidelity, whose motto is "High end, not high priced," is a direct marketer of mostly gear from China. Showing here was a $3000 system that included the ShuGuang S8MK Tube integrated amplifier with a show special price of $800 with the standard set of tubes — so presumably there is an upgrade available. The speaker was this very nice looking two-way monitor on a stand which I've seen somewhere else. The front end of the system was your basic laptop with a Consonance transmitter dongle that wirelessly sends the digital signal to Consonance D-Linear 8 HD DAC which then feeds the integrated tube amp. The DAC has a list price of $1050 USD, but was on sale for $850 Canadian. It was certainly an interesting mix of new tech feeding old tech. This being an un-tested show, they did not bring as much gear as they typically display at Montreal.

In Room 212 I found an interesting mix of components in an analog rig with an Acoustic Signature turntable that featured an S-shaped arm that looked very similar to my Sumiko MMT arm. I was told the arm is from Jelco, a Japanese company that made the MMT arm for Sumiko. Trigon electronics from Germany powered the rig with their Dialog phono stage, Chronolog music server and large Monolog monoblocks with a dark glass window on the front with system read-outs and the voltage prominently displayed. This heavyweight puts out 400 watts into 8 ohms, 650 into 4. The speakers were Audio Physics Avantera ($26,000) with their logo "No loss of fine detail" etched on the nameplate, which pretty much characterizes the sound of this rig — it was very detailed, and not particularly warm in spite of the analog front end. Once again, I missed the photo op, sorry.

Tri-Art Audio from Kingston, Ontarioliterally breaks the mold for High End electronics with their "The Block" modular components. Stephen Ginsburg gave me the brick & mortar story of how they imbed the electronics in a custom concrete block and use sheep's wool to damp the high ringing that the concrete transmits. As seen here, the units are encased in a bamboo wood chassis primarily for cosmetic purposes. A hardwood and a copper chassis are available for a modest upcharge.  The block in the background is the passive preamp ($2295), with six single ended inputs which took the signal from the AMR (Audio Music Research) CD 777 ($4995) and fed it to their stereo 25 wpc Class D amplifier. While it looks like a pair of monoblocks on a stand in the foreground, the unit on the right is actually a battery power supply option ($990) and the voltage gauge on top indicates battery supply level. The block on the left is the amp itself ($1995) which can be run off the accompanying power supply that doubles as a battery charger. The speakers were rosso fiorentino Fiesole ($5995) from Firenze, Italy which not only looked expensive, but sounded exceptional. The interesting stands were sold separately for $1800, but the intriguing wooden bun footers were another separate item used to decouple the stand from the concrete floor. Acoustic System International power cords were in use, as well as what looked like Teo Audio liquid cables for interconnects and speaker cables. The AMR unit deserves mention that it can serve as either a transport, a DAC or a CD player with SP/DIF inputs and outputs, plus USB inputs. It uses a NOS Philips multi-bit chip. Both up-sampling and over-sampling rates can be changed on the fly via the remote control. The output stage uses NOS 6N1P tubes. All this and it is just their "entry level" CD player! There was cause for a lot of conversation in this room, but I was able to sit down and get a good handle on this delicious system.

 

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