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TAVES Consumer Electronics Show 2014 (Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show) Report
TAVES Consumer Electronics Show 2014 Show Report (Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show)
Part 5: Report By Rick Becker

Bernard Poulin of Simaudio helped me out with their rig on yet another Krolo Design rack. Top left was the Moon 310LP phono preamp and power supply. To the right was a Clearaudio Ovation turntable. But I heard only digital source through the 380D DAC, which is DSD capable and serves as a network player and digital preamplifier. Utilizing Joseph Audio stand mounted Pulsar monitors, this was the finest I've heard a Moon rig sound under show conditions. The Pulsars added some warmth and palpability to what I am more accustomed to hearing with the Moon gear. Bernard was also delighted to show me their new 430 HA headphone amp with readout indicating the input source of the optional DSD256 and 32-bit PCM capable DAC that can be fed from computer, Blu-Ray player or satellite TV receiver. The fully balanced analog circuitry can drive virtually any headphone from a variety of headphone inputs. An indication of the high tech inside the box is the claimed 120dB S/N ratio and 110dB channel separation. My eye also caught the custom painted top with an homage to Rush—a wonderful way to personalize your treasured gear.


A Unison Research integrated amp with USB input and internal DAC was driving a pair of small floor standing ASW speakers at the time I visited. It was fed from a Unison Unico CD primo CD player. More intriguing was the Unison Research Giro turntable, sans cartridge resting on yet another HRS turntable shelf. The turntable goes for $3100 CDN with arm, or $3400 including an mm cartridge. It's a very handsome table, not seen every at every show. A ModWright phono stage on the bottom shelf was likewise going to waste.


In the next Tri-Cell room, a similar looking Unison Research Triode 25 integrated amp ($4000CDN), this time with a tube cage in place, was driving Lawrence speakers. A Thoress phono stage with lots of EQ capability was fed from a turntable that was experiencing difficulty from a combination of feedback from being mounted on a glass shelf and a warped record. The turntable was the new Brinkmann Spyder which will take up to four arms and sells for $18,000 with one arm. I can assure you the problem was not with the Brinkman. A Unison Research cartridge was in the arm at the time. The Lawrence Cello shaped speaker sounded better than my previous encounter when it was driven with solid state gear, but I'm still not hearing music commensurate with its price. After the show I noticed what looked like a stand mounted tweeter in the back corner in the photo, but I'll have to check that out next time.


Drifting Down To The Ground Floor

Steven Huang of Audio Sensibility was keeping up with the explosive growth in the headphone arena by offering conversion cables to adapt your headphones to various inputs offered on high end headphone amps. The adapters shown here use OCC copper cable from the Impact SE series and Steven explained the additional benefit of the adapters in taking the wear and tear off of the headphone plug itself. The interconnect from this series were used in my Entry Level Project and they performed astonishingly well. His Testament speaker cable and power cord were also remarkable in the Entry Level Project. Steven also makes replacement headphone cables for higher end models with detachable cables as well as a variety of power distribution and cable related products. As a sideline, he had a long table filled with used LPs for sale at the show, but my wife has forbidden me to look at them until I listen to at least a thousand more in my own collection that I haven't yet heard. Oh, well.


Across the hallway in another table space was Todd Garfinkle, renowned for his two-microphone purist approach to recording stereo in exotic acoustic spaces around the world. Todd had his MA Recordings CDs spread across several tables, but what was new this time was a couple of LPs he had pressed of two of his most popular albums. I guess if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Also remarkable was the spun fiber LP sleeves from Japan that he claims are practically unobtanium. They have a very soft texture and are breathable. That sounds like an import opportunity to me. Go for it, Todd!


I reconnected with Tom who proceeded to drag me to the Headphone/Personal Audio Zone where he had located the Mr. Speakers Alpha Dog for me to finally experience. (That's Tom in the photo.) It sounded really good, but so had an unspecified Fostex model from which it was derived when I heard it earlier at the show. Unfortunately, there was not opportunity for direct comparison. And now the new Alpha Prime is on the market in the USA, but was not yet available in Canada at the time of the show. I can't seem to catch up. I also had an opportunity to listen to the HiFi Man HE-560, but preferred the Alpha Dog in direct comparison. Likewise, in direct comparison, the Alpha Dogs seemed well worth the extra $$ over the less expensive Mad Dog Pro, as you would expect.

At the Headfoneshop table Charles Park told me Fostex was coming out with the TH500RP, an open-back design to be priced about $800. His shop is both a brick and mortar store where you can compare a huge assortment of better headphones and amps and a hugely informative website where you can compare an enormous selection of product. Look for it on Yonge Street in Toronto.

Somewhere in the Personal Audio Zone I discovered the new Unison Research SH class A tube headphone amplifier ($2200CDN), their first. Next to it was a solid state competitor from Naim. Talk of Nordost Heimdahl, Cardas and Siltech headphone cables was in the air.


In their new venture, Audio Group, I found Sarah Tremblay, director of the Montreal show, and Stephan Ritch, who is also a musician and involved with the Montreal show as well. They are now the wholesale distributors of the Grado line of headphones, phono cartridges and other products for Canada and had a very convenient display to compare the various models ranging from the affordable Prestige Series on up to the Professional Series of headphones. I tried half a dozen different models, and couldn't decide which one I liked best. It comes down to "What's in your wallet?" I'm really enjoying borrowing Tom's vintage SR-80 phones to write this report and the newest generation I heard was much better. I'm looking forward to solidifying my opinion at the Montreal show next spring.


Nearby was a display of the Acoustic System room tweaks from France that adorned the Reimyo / Tidal room seen earlier that morning.


And across the aisle from the Acoustic System display was the Questyle table with DAC and headphone amp manufactured in China. Their amps use current mode modulation rather than voltage regulation to produce faster transients that are said to eliminate TIM distortion. The current mode modulation is used primarily in microwave broadcast. The $2000 DAC supported DSD and featured both single ended and balanced outputs. The chipset was top of the line from Wolfson. The gear looked very well made and sounded great with a pair of headphone amps running in mono mode for improved stereo separation in balanced mode. Little did I know what I would be hearing from them in an upcoming room.


Richard Kohlruss, of Vmax caught up with me and dragged me over to his table to see and hear a couple of terrific headphone amps. The first was the Roma 41, a two-watt Class A SET amp from Synthesis in Italy in piano black finish ($2500 USD) that is also available with a DSD DAC (about $3200 to $3300). It has speaker binding posts to use with very high sensitivity speakers if you wish, or use it simply as a headphone amp. There is an impedance adjustment on the face to accommodate different headphones. Next was the Hegel H160 ($3500 USD) which should be available in December, with an internal DAC, headphone output and a power amp putting out 150 Wpc into 8 Ohms, and over 250 Wpc into 4 Ohms. The amp runs in their patented SoundEngine technology that they claim uses 60% less power than ordinary amplifiers. It accepts both single ended and balanced inputs as well as wireless streaming from Apple AirPlay or DLNA and the usual digital inputs. Richard always has something intriguing at the Vmax table.

I'll be back after Thanksgiving with one of the most exciting rooms of the show and a wrap-up in Part 6. Please check in again.


---> Rick Becker's part 6 TAVES 2014 report.













































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