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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 2
Report By Rick Becker

 

 

  Coherent Audio in room 7231 was a room I had been looking forward to hearing. Frank Fazzalari works very closely with his customers to fulfill their needs and expectations, even to the point of designing a speaker around those needs. Yes, this is a boutique builder, but one who has been around and has a proven track record. I've raved about his rooms before. The Coherent Model 15 Neo Be shown here has a sensitivity of 100dB/W/m and can be set up with an impedance of 8 or 16 Ohms. We're talking 2A3 SET amp territory here but the speaker can handle up to 650 watts if you're already invested in that direction. The driver uses a 15" cone and a 3" Beryllium horn loaded driver, coincidentally mounted and said to give a frequency response of 25Hz to 22 kHz. Internal wiring is by Nordost. The source was a Baetisripper/server which he has used before and is finally getting the attention it deserves by the mainstream press. The amp, finished in red metal flake paint was an Elekit TU-8300R costing about $1000. This was a limited edition kit with 300B tubes included in the price. The tubes in the amp at the show were Shuguang 300B, but it was not clear that this is the tube shipped with the kit. I wasn't very impressed with its fit and finish and the rig didn't sound anywhere near what it sounded like last year, but I ran into Elekit elsewhere at the show and had an entirely different experience — stay tuned. It may be that the kit was assembled by an inexperienced builder, or simply that it needed more play-time to break in. Since the room was practically across the hall from the room in which I was staying, I stopped back in later in the day.

There was an impressive improvement in dynamics and transparency as the amp was clearly improving, but the sound was still not up to my previous experience. At the end of the show, when most everybody was packing up, including Frank, I stopped by and suggested he look into the Triode Lab/Finale amps and perhaps team up with them in a room together next year. He shared with me that several of his customers were already using those amps with his speakers. Both companies share a willingness to work closely with their customers, and my past experience with Triode/Finale amps suggests this would be an incredible pairing, particularly with a 2A3 based amp. Frank also shared some photos of the internal construction of his speakers which are made with 3/8" walls. Rows of thin slats are attached to the walls to reduce vibration of the walls and disburse internal reflections. No damping material is used inside which results in the speakers being extremely lively, not unlike a musical instrument itself. On a table in the room was a display of various Shuguang Electric vacuum tubes from China, one of the better brands coming from there. Some of the tubes had accordion pleated wire mesh damping devices wrapped around them from a company called Kryna, Inc. in Japan. The prices (in US$) for small ($45), large ($77) and X-Large ($100) were probably for each tube damper. A technical sheet with color photos using thermography revealed the cooling and heat dispersion effects of the wire mesh devices. A couple of charts showing vibration levels of the plate inside the tubes, made with a laser velocity meter, was less easily understood, but purported to show an improvement in the signal/noise ratio. I've had audible success with other technology, so it would be interesting to have someone review the Kryna mesh dampers.

 

Goldmund has been seldom seen on this side of the Atlantic in recent years, so it was a bit of a surprise to see that they have kept up with the times with their Mimesis II Wireless Hub and their Eidos l7 Universal Player, about $5000 each which were transmitting music to the larger set of their wireless floorstanding speakers ($30,000). This, like many Swiss companies, is a luxury brand, so it was not surprising that the metal top plates of both the Metis tower and Logos Tower speakers were plated in gold, replete with the Goldmund logo engraved. Wireless speakers have had a growing presence in recent years but they've always been just a curiosity for me. The Goldmund wireless system really grabbed my attention. Using power cords that looked quite ordinary and taking electricity straight out of the wall, these speakers put forth smooth, airy female vocal music that was not just the best I've heard from a wireless rig, but among the Best Rooms at the show. On a side table was their Nanometis wireless small monitors and Talisman wireless hub. The speakers boast 140 watts of Telos amplification and the fit and finish was outstanding, as it should be for the $4000-$5000 price for the speakers. The three piece ensemble goes for about $7,000 USD. As I said, this is a luxury brand, and you have to buy into their products as this gear requires the use of the proprietary Goldmund dongle. It comes in four finishes, one of which is likely to match at least one of your cars.

 

There was something suspicious looking in the hallway leading to the DVL Audio room (7239). I was told they needed to bring in a 30 Amp line from the breaker box in the basement to power the huge Viola Bravo Mk II Reference Power Amps ($59,000 USD). They can put out 350 watts into 8 Ohms and were tripping the circuit breakers when they tried to pull the juice from the wall. Nothing like a dedicated line, I always say, yet this beneficial component is often overlooked by audiophiles. Perhaps this is why the Kharma dB9-S speakers sounded the best I've ever heard them. This was my third opportunity to hear them and the music here was extraordinary. If you're spending $38,000 USD on a pair of speakers (not to overlook the rest of the rig), you need to have a dedicated line to achieve the full potential of the system. And the rest of the rig? How about a CH C1 Digital to Analog Controller ($33,000 USD, base) fed by a CH D1 SACD/CD Transport/Player ($38,000 USD, base), and a Viola Sonata Preamplifier ($35,000 USD) driving the aforementioned Bravo Mk II monoblocks. Be sure the price includes delivery and set-up when you order these amps; you won't be lifting them by yourself. I forgot to note the cables in use here, but you can assume they cost more than string. The music got completely out of the box in this rig and it was totally effortless. The sense of air and space revealed by the micro-dynamics allowed the music to completely envelop me. This was one of those rare (and usually very expensive) rooms where it didn't matter whether the gear was tube or solid state. It was simply one of the Very Best Rooms of this, or any other show I've been to. On a technical note, I noticed the new series from Kharma has a cabinet construction that allows access to the crossover from the back side, unlike the previous generation. Hopefully this will not set a precedent for demanding dedicated lines at future shows or the hallways could become cluttered with yellow and black duct tape, making it difficult to roller blade from one room to the next.

 

 

Dropping down to the lower floor of the Best Western I found Vladimir Benkhan in 7138 at the end of the hall. With a master degree in experimental physics and a bachelor degree in software engineering, Vladimir is something of a wildcat in high end audio. Set up on a table was a basic system with an inexpensive disc player, a home-made integrated amplifier and home-made speakers utilizing carpet covered boxes of the kind you typically see in car audio. Oh, and his invention, which was housed in the little white box seen in the photo. It's well known that the interface of the speaker and the amplifier driving it is very important. Music presents a wildly varying signal which alters the impedance of the speaker which in turn affects the amplifier. Vladimir's white box, which is active (i.e, plugged in), is wired between the speaker outputs of the amplifier and the speakers. It counteracts the swings in impedance by somehow providing a boost to the signal. When impedance goes up the white box provides a boost to the signal. When impedance goes down, it depresses the signal. Between my very limited engineering knowledge and Vladimir's thick accent (He's from Russia), verbal communication was not 100%. He spoke a lot about inductance and boost. What did communicate 100% was the little switch on the front of the white box. When Vladimir engaged his circuit the music dramatically increased in transparency and dynamics and the tonal response was much more even from bass to treble. When he hit the switch and took his circuit out of the signal path the music became dull, recessed in the midrange and lacked dynamics. His speakers were simple two-way speakers with only a single capacitor to protect the tweeter (shades of Reference 3A, here?). It wasn't clear whether the large driver was a full-range driver or just a woofer. If it is just a woofer, that would explain the midrange suck out I heard when his circuit was disabled. I have to wonder if his box is little more than an active crossover. It would really be fun to try his white box in a system with speakers that have a refined crossover that already compensates for much of the shortcoming of his home-built speakers. Oh, I should mention that all the wondrous music was achieved with generic clear plastic covered copper speaker wire with bare ends. Everything in this rig was dirt cheap — the speakers were set on kitchen stools, yet it sounded pretty incredible. Go figure.

 

Divine Audio is a speaker manufacturer in Brantford, Ontario where Rohan Amarasinghe sells his rather unique Sound Stage III speaker. The tweeter is a forward facing ribbon, the midrange is a di-pole ribbon driver with a chamber on the rear side. The woofer is a paper cone design with cloth surround that is pretty close to Eminence, he told me. It sells for $6000 CAD and with 98 dB efficiency, it is very tube friendly. It was driven by a Mastersound amp with parallel 300B tubes from Italy and sounded pretty good.

 

A few steps down the hall in 7133 was one of the few home theater rooms at the show. This one was sponsored by EluneVision who makes projection screens. The one shown here had built-in LED back lighting which could be changed to different primary colors with a remote control to suit the movie or your mood. The show special included the screen for $3500 with free installation, which is normally $800. A JVC projector was…well, projecting the movie.

 

Tash Goka of Reference 3A has been making outstanding speakers for as long as I've been involved in covering shows. Here in room 7129 he was playing his new Special Edition stand mounted monitor ($10,000 CAD) with Willie Nelson sounding very good coming from a computer sourced file run through an exaSounde20 DAC into a Copland CTA 305 preamp ($3995 CAD). I tried to capture some of the details including the countersunk screws holding the tweeter in the waveform guide, the engraved 3A logo and the constrained layer glass damping applied to the side and top panels that visually added a touch of class and probably added to the transparency of the music. Tosh talked about his "anti-bracing" technology that keeps the walls of the speaker from either expanding or contracting with the build-up and release of pressure as the driver cones vibrate. Most of the music comes from the full range driver that is run without a crossover while the treble is augmented with a Beryllium tweeter protected with a single high-pass capacitor. The gray Nextel finish contributes to the sound and has become a signature finish for the brand. On silent display at the moment were the new Taksim two-way floorstanders ($6990 CAD). All of the 3A speakers are tube friendly designs, usually with about 92dB/W/m efficiency and benign 8 Ohm loads. Tosh also markets Copland and Antique Sound Lab gear, both of which have a long history in the High End. He is seen here playing his acoustic air guitar along with Willie Nelson.

I'll break now and send this off to my editor who is setting up housekeeping in Florida this week. Hopefully his electricity has been turned on and he is connected to the internet. Lots more coming in the week ahead, so keep checking back.

 

---> TAVES show report part 3 by Rick Becker.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

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