Two doors down (7220) I ran into Danny Labrecque of Luna Cables (a manufacturer) and Phonographe, a retail store in Quebec which he runs with his partner Erik Fortier. They pride themselves on matching components and building systems using carefully curated product lines. It would have been easy to walk into this room, take a quick look around and walk out. The visual appearance was modest and mostly subtle. Sure, there was the Kuzma Stabi S 12" turntable ($2699 CAD) [They're from Quebec, remember?], fondly called the "pipe-bomb turntable" with its Kuzma Stogi S 12" tonearm (2199$ CAD). And the unique parquet wooden TT Plate from Luna that was a one-off custom project that became a product-by-demand ($795 CAD). But the Falcon LS3/5a BBC monitors ($3995 CAD) from England and Line Magnetic 216 IA integrated tube amp ($2600 CAD) from China, the Leben RS30EQ Phono stage ($3600 CAD) and even the rather plain looking Luna Cables were rather, well, plain. The problem begins when you sit down and actually hear the music. You begin to ask yourself "Why do I need anything more than this?"
Even these small speakers produced very engaging stand-up bass. There were also some outstanding products that were easily overlooked like the EMT TSD75 cartridge ($2600 CAD) and the requisite Auditorium 23 103 Step-up transformer ($1325 CAD), but geeze, this room sounded a whole lot better than it looked like it should. Danny was quick to point out that his Luna Cables use a lot of natural materials in the dielectric in particular and they pay a lot of attention to tension to keep things from vibrating within the cables. The speaker cables used here were 2.5m Mauve model (1800$ CAD) and interconnects from the step-up transformer were 0.5m Rouge model ($1920 CAD. When all was added up, this deceptively modest looking room came close to 25,000$ CAD, which goes a long way in explaining why it sounded as natural and engaging as it did. Unless you really need to impress the Jones', you probably don't need anything more than this to enjoy the music. I grooved to Somethin' Else with Cannonball Adderley along with Miles Davis, Hank Jones, Sam Jones (neither of whom you should be trying to impress) and the great Art Blakey.
Zagging across the hall into the Toronto Home of Audiophile Ltd (7221) I found Ofra and Eli Gershman hanging out listening to Louis Armstrong coming through their Gershman Acoustics Grande Avant Garde loudspeakers ($13,000 per pair). No major changes have been made to the speaker this year and it sounded as good as I remember from past shows. Consequently, the room was packed. There was a lot of gear on the racks here so it was difficult to figure out what was actually playing. What really caught my eye was the Clearaudio Innovation Basic turntable in black lacquer ($6995) equipped with a TT-5 tangential tonearm ($3799) equipped with a Clearaudio MC Essence MC cartridge ($1595). The table will even play 78's. I saw this table later on at the show and was told it is a mechanically driven tonearm. (I'll come back to it again, later, near the end of my report). Also noted here was the HRS record clamp. The amps were a pair of stereo First Watt SIT 2 ($6999 each) one black, one silver, putting out 10 Wpc, bi-amplifying the Grande Avant Garde speakers that are 88dB/W/m efficient with a benign impedance curve.
I also heard some classical orchestral music and the speakers did not seem to want for more power in this smallish room. An acapella male choir singing "Silent Night" in a church-like venue was very nicely recreated by this rig. Visitors at other times might have heard these speakers driven by much more powerful Pass Labs XA100.8 monoblocks ($28,450 per pair) that were also on display along with the Pass XP 30 preamp ($22,990). Seen but not heard were the PS Audio Perfect Wave Transport ($5399) and their P10 Power Plant ($6650) that undoubtedly made a significant contribution to the music here. The racks were Solid Tech three-shelved Hybrid ($4800 each) An Audio Note (UK) CDT Two CD transport ($9700) and DAC 3.1x/II Balanced Tube ($11,990) were also noted. David Cope, who devotedly promoted the Audio Note UK gear at the Toronto and Montreal shows for years has retired so it is nice to see at least parts of the Audio Note line represented here this year... and what better piece that their tube powered DAC?
I will miss his laid-back presentations and his friendship. It was hard to enjoy the music here due to a loud conversation at the back of the room. As I left I discovered the voice belonged to none other than the venerable Ernie Fisher of The Inner Ear Magazine fame. If I had had my whip with 280 strands of 24 gauge Ohno continuous cast Six9's copper, I would have given him the flogging he deserves. He's old enough to know better and I'm old enough to give it to him. Otherwise, it was great to see he is still vertical.
Moving down the hall to 7225 I encountered Atoll Electronique gear driving a Davis Acoustics MV One speaker. In the past I've had a hard time warming up to this French solid state manufacturer, but as time goes on the contemporary chassis seen here has become a signature silhouette in the audio world and the room was sounding quite decent with Davis MV One loudspeakers ($8900 CDN), also from France. With 93.5dB/W/m efficiency and an 8 Ohm minimum, this fine speaker could easily be driven by a tube amp. Seen here were the top-loading CD400 CD player and the IN400 integrated amp. I was told Davis makes drivers for Goldmund and mbl among others and this model with a front facing slot at floor level was doing justice to the transparency and dynamics of Hugh Masekela's "Stimela". Cabling in this rig was by Nordost, which undoubtedly helped, too. The simplicity of this system and the small round pedestal table upon which the Atoll gear was placed belied the quality of the presentation. I didn't peek under the electronics, but it might have concealed some of the SSC (String Suspension Company?) footers that were on display at a side table. They feature a variety of technologies in the different models and these looked to be reasonably priced, worthy of further investigation.