The Home Entertainment Show 2001
Show Report By Neil Walker
(NOTE: All prices are conversions from Canadian currency
and therefore may not be accurate.)
What luck! First stop at the show and vinyl is playing! It was a good omen. The Toronto show is not terribly large, unlike the
Montréal show. It did indeed have many
two-channel setups to keep one occupied for a weekend. And there was more than one room playing vinyl and displaying turntables and phono
Anyway, about the vinyl intro to the show. Rega was a fine room from which to begin a tour. As usual, the Rega room featured a complete system running all Rega gear. This one consisted of the Rega P25 turntable with RB 600 tone arm
($1,150, pictured right) and Super Elys cartridge ($325) feeding a Rega Cursa pre-amplifier with phono stage
($900). This prompted the Rega Exon monoblocks
($1,750) to power a fine set of motors into action. The Rega Ela transmission
line speakers at $1,200 the pair revealed that this system is beautifully integrated.
After enjoying the vinyl for awhile, I asked Scott, the wandering marketing guy to dial in the Rega Jupiter
($1,650). The clear, musical bass and detailed mids and highs which the vinyl produced was not limited to the turntable. Saxophonist James Carter
Chasin' the Gipsy [Atlantic CD83304] aided by great percussion, bass and accordion blew a hole through the back wall -- with grace, assurance and a level of musical control which reminded me of why we selected the Rega room as one of the outstanding ones in Montréal. All of this for about $7,000. Rega just knows how to do it.
One of the enjoyable things about this show was that it seemed to draw a lot of two-channel freaks. The
Toronto Audiophile Group
was alive with members querying each other about going to the show the week before it opened. Since then, there has been a plethora of messages of liked this, hated that, great show, terrible show, and did you catch the little speaker mod based on a rare gum found only in Tasmania? I looked into a display of Wharfedales and found the Diamond
8.1 (pictured right), a
$200 per pair speaker which promises to challenge the Paradigm Atom's dominance of the budget audiophile market. At the other end of the room was the Pacific P.I. 40, a three-way costing a little over $1,100 with a
swiveling tweeter offering a new angle (sorry for the pun) on room tuning.
Monitor Audio and Musical Fidelity had an impressive display, with the NuVista 3D CD player ($4,995) and its companion piece, the NuVista M3 amplifier ($4,995). NuVista features nuvistors, tiny tubes invented during the cold war years. Musical Fidelity cornered enough of the NOS market in these devices to use them. Given the long life of these devices and the Musical Fidelity stock,
no one at the show would ever outlive their NuVista nuvistor gear. In the same display was the Monitor Audio Gold Reference 60 speaker
($4,000, pictured right). This three-way uses QED silver wiring throughout and C-CAM, an alloy of aluminum and magnesium for its cone material. RST (Rigid Surface Technology) sets the drivers apart. It is the use of golf ball dimpling to add strength to the cone material. The result is a much lighter, stronger cone. And great sound, if my quick listen tells me anything.
Polk Audio was showing off its new series of speakers with Musical Fidelity gear driving its LSi15 speaker ($1,600). An interesting Polk feature is the ring radiator tweeter. It has a solid
center and two concentric radiators - its major effect is to cut out a lot of the harshness which can be part of the dome tweeter.
Just down the hall was an unusual grouping of components. B&W Signature 800 speakers are a special version of the Nautilus 800. They use a grey bird's eye maple to wrap the woofer section of the cabinet and very high grade leather to wrap the mid range cabinet. A little ostentatious, but if you can afford the 800s, ostentation is not one of the problems which concerns you. The 800s sell ordinarily for $16,000. Done up in wood and leather, they are $20,000. In this show, they were running off about $3,000 worth of Rotel gear, an unlikely combination. An unusual sound, too, although the power of the Rotel amps (two 1090s, 380 watts per channel, passively
bi-amplifying the B&Ws) moved a lot of sound through these gorgeous speakers.
Finally, I found another star of the show! The new Gershman speaker. Designer Eli Gershman had spent two years developing the new
Caméléon, an entry level speaker "which would maintain the company's reputation for quality," Ofra Gershman told me. Running off the Pass Labs X2.5 pre-amplifier and X150
amplifier, they were a treat! Nothing Gershman creates looks like anything anyone else does. These speakers are no different, although at first glance they are
almost conventional. The you notice that these columns are not square or rectangular, they are almost equilateral triangles. As a result, there are both left and right versions, since the terminals have to go on one side or the other.
Did I say star? Well, how about musicality, plus 25 Hz bass extension (25 kHz at the other end), an attractive oak veneer, regulation line design and the price of $1,700 a pair as a beginning attempt to enter the league of speaker stars. Look for a review of this in the not too distant future. Ofra Gershman says that they are beginning delivery of this speaker as of early November.
The Monitor Gold 60 was getting another workout with the Cary V-12 power amp upstairs - the Monitor man suggested I hear it there, too, just to get a better idea of how it works with good tube amplification. It was quite a treat. Whether you love Cary or not, it is gorgeous looking gear. The V-12 ($4,000) looks as if it would melt the neighborhood hydro transformer with its banks of tubes. Feeding it were the Cary Vacuum Tube Preamplifier ($3,000) and the Cary CD 306/200
24-bit/192 kHz HDCD CD player ($5,000). Was it worth the trip to hear the Gold Reference 60s? Sure, but they sounded excellent in both places, the big meeting room display or the hotel room.
The new ProAc speaker was drawing a crowd when I arrived. The Future .5
($6,000, pictured right) looks unusual, but attractive. It was the final part of a system to die for. Playing vinyl through the .5 started with a new German turntable, En Vogue at $10,000. A platter which was actually a drum about a foot tall, spun the plastic. Its impressive motor got its power from a power supply which was an
object d'art in itself, with its gold label and polished wood case. A Kuzma Stogi S arm ($1,000) held a Benz-Micro Ace ($400) in the groove and the Ace then fed an Audio Aero pre-amp sporting a Lukaschek ($1,400) phono stage. Last stop before the ProAc was the Audio Aero Capitole Class A 50 watt amplifier ($8,200). Did it sound great? Yes - and what was greatest about it was the job the lowly Ace did in feeding all the prestige gear around it. I begged for a review sample and will get one when they come back in stock.
Next door, a pair of Blue Circle BC8 power amplifiers ($6950 the pair) were doing their usually fine job of powering the sound motor. In Montréal, they were running an anonymous speaker (just so the Blue Circle owner Gilbert Yeung could reinforce his lesson for listeners about the importance of electronics. At this show, they were making a pair of Opera SP-2 speakers sing most beautifully.
Last stop on a whirlwind afternoon? A great leave-taking - Hovland Sapphire amplifier ($6,500) and a Hovland HP 100 pre-amp with phono section ($6,300) and a pair of Meadowlark Blue Heron speakers.
The Toronto Home Entertainment Show had other rooms I could not get to, and a number of home theater displays which I somehow missed. It was a great little show. Not nearly as big as the
Montréal or New York shows, but a treat for the two-channel crowd. It was my first time to visit this show, but I will be back. Every year has looked a little better. Moving from the northern fringe of the city to a downtown location was a great idea. And best of all, where vinyl was almost hidden in Montréal, in
Toronto it was blessedly right up front.