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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 1
Report By Rick Becker


  With my audio buddy still high from his annual pilgrimage to RMAF and busy evolving into a college professor, I left Rochester alone on Friday night after a long day at work. Taking the back roads through the land of Dollar General is a humbling experience that heightens awareness of the privilege of my being reasonably well educated and having the good fortune of discovering high end audio. The brightly lit interiors of old village homes proclaim the cultural preference for the big screen through windows covered with sheer drapery. That's not what was waiting for me in Toronto. Even home theater was taking a back row seat as the pendulum swings back to two-channel audio.

Using the GPS system between my ears, refined by decades of hitchhiking and motorized travel, I followed the QEW along the big lake through downtown Toronto and left, up the Don River valley, expecting to be in wide open suburbia by the time I reached Highway 7. The traffic at midnight in Toronto was like rush hour traffic in Rochester and the Richmond Hill area was far more metropolitan than anything near my ‘hood. It was all quite different than the early years of TAVES at the King Eddie Hotel with the arts festival running through the night on the streets of downtown Toronto.

News that there was no room reserved for me at the Sheraton was met with calm, reassured by the vintage Sierra Designs sleeping bag that has been a shadow of my life, tucked behind the driver seat of my Hotel Tracker. It turned out the show was spread over two adjacent hotels — the Sheraton and the Best Western — intimately connected by hallways on both levels. My room was waiting for me next door.

It was 12:30am but I was still buzzing from the coffee that brought me safely to Toronto. I walked the halls of the Best Western, noting the brands and vendors I would visit later in the morning. Over on the Sheraton side my scouting trip was halted by the security guard who protected the open exhibitor tables. I chanced upon a program for the show and returned to my room to study it. I put a drop of medicine in my right eye and finally retired at 1:30am which is not an unusual hour for me.


After a hearty buffet breakfast at the Sheraton, I returned to the upper hall at the Best Western. First room on the left (7204) I was struck with the smooth, breathy voice of a female vocalist recreated with a rack of Audio Alchemy components. Peter Madnick, president of the company, has revived the brand after a 15 year hiatus, during which he created the ultra-high end brand, Constellation. His Audio Alchemy components were very reasonably priced for the quality of music I was hearing and became even more affordable when I realized they were priced in Canadian dollars, which are taking a bit of a hit lately, in relation to the U.S. dollar. This was also my first exposure to the relatively new KEF Blade Two, a slightly smaller and more affordable ($29,000 CAD) version of the original Blade. I'm not normally a fan of Class D amplifiers or the Kef Blade, but I liked what I heard in this room a lot. The Blades were being driven by a pair of DPA-1M hybrid Class A/Class D monoblocks ($2899 CAD, each) capable of delivering 325 watts. The DDP-1 Digital Decoding Preamp ($2899 CAD) will probably grace the cover a magazine someday. It has 3 analog and 7 digital inputs for just about anything. The internal DAC upsamples from 16 to 24-bit and from 24 to 32-bit. There's a build in headphone amp and an available PS-5 power supply to upgrade the preamp's performance ($899 CAD). The whole ensemble had a very clean look and the chassis were scaled down in size — something that seems to be a growing trend these day in an effort to keep the products more affordable and suitable for the smaller living spaces of young and old alike. A digital music player and a phono preamp are in the works to broaden the appeal of the brand. Having met Peter and heard the Constellation line in Montreal, it seems he has hit the ground running with a heavy dose of trickle down sound in the Audio Alchemy line. Kudos also goes to XLO Cables who are making a return to the Canadian market with the Reference 3 series heard in this system.


Speaking of Kudos, across the hall in the Crown Mountain Imports room (7203) I met Alex Tiefenboeck who was proudly displaying Kudos Audio Cardea Super 20 speakers ($9495 CAD) driven by Norma Audio electronics from Cremona, Italy in an inverted array with the PA 150 stereo amp ($8900) on top, DS-1 DAC & CD player ($6600 CAD) in the middle and SC-2 preamp ($8900 CAD) on the bottom. Cabling was Albedo from Poland, a company that has been in the European market since 1996, which uses square and rectangular pure silver mono-crystals in their top four models in an air dielectric at what were said to be relatively affordable prices — "relatively" being the operative word, here. Interconnects are $1800; speaker cables, $7200. The music came alive when Alex turned the volume up for me. I've heard Kudos speakers sound better at other shows, probably driven by tube amps from Mastersound (Italy) which Crown Mountain also imports — but then, I'm a tube guy at heard, so take what I say with a milliVolt of distortion.


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