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TAVES Consumer Electronics Show 2016 (Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show) Report
TAVES Consumer Electronics Show 2016 Show Report 
Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show Part 3
TAVES 2016 Show Report By Rick Becker




  Crossing the hall again I entered another very interesting room (7129) featuring ANKits Canada, Audio Sensibility and Mundorf. Powering the rig here was the ANK EL34 Mono Block Amplifier with its lid off so visitors could see the construction and design. You can buy just the kit, or have them build it for you by a guy who really knows what he's doing for a 15% surcharge. They're talking 70 wpc from a quad set of EL34 tubes in push-pull mode with a high biased Class AB ($4200/pr as a kit). These had C-core transformers but you can get the kit with EI cores. Music was sounding very good here through the Mundorf kit speakers shown here in white. Next to them were the Audio Sensibility Statement level speaker which basically changes everything except the wonderful Mundorf crossover and the drivers. Notice the tweeter is recessed and somewhat horn loaded with the new aluminum front baffle on the somewhat larger chassis of the Audio Sensibility speaker. Wiring, binding posts, cabinet dimensions and construction are all improved. Just as I finished up with Jeff Dimock of ANKits, the three principals of the companies walked in: Brian Smith of ANKits, Steven Huang of Audio Sensibility and Simon Au of AuDIYo.com, who distributes Mundorf in addition to being vice president of TAVES. It looked like a photo-op to me! And they insisted that I stay while they hooked up the Audio Sensibility speaker for a demo.

I'm partial to tube gear and the ANKit gear delivered, easily revealing the difference between the original Mundorf and the Audio Sensibility make-over. Over the course of the past year Steven has shared with me the evolutionary process of the changes he has made with his design and I can assure you he is nothing short of meticulous. These are both good speakers, but for someone willing to pay the premium for the Audio Sensibility Statement, they will be rewarded with a product in the highest league. From by brief audition, there is not a lot of room for additional improvements short of adding another digit to the price. Price, btw, as a "show special" is $5300 CDN or just below $4000 USD. It's a very special speaker and a prime candidate for someone looking for a stand mounted monitor to mate with a pair of first class subwoofers. If you can live without the bottom octave, this may be your End Game. If I give it any more praise than that, I'll never see a review sample.






Moving on to one more Tri-Cell room (7133) I came upon one of the most unusual looking speakers I've seen in a while. It was the new Unison Research Max 2 ($11,000 CDN) with a horn loaded compression driver and a huge 15" woofer, both made by 18 Sound in Italy, as are Unison Research products. The crossover is 800Hz and the speaker is slot loaded at the bottom of the front baffle. It was shown in a beautiful high gloss mahogany finish, but cherry is an option. The black leather is a rich complement to the wrap around wood sides. Unison Research is often associated with Opera speakers, but the Max 2 was left under the Unison moniker because it sounds quite different than the Operas as Marc Phillips, the U.S. distributor of Unison Research and Opera Loudspeakers, explained. I left the photo angle wide on the Unison Research Sinfonia Anniversary integrated amplifier ($7000 CDN) with a copper top plate to show how gracefully it related to the curved lines on the component rack.

This amp, powered by parallel 6550/KT88 tubes actually puts out 30 Wpc single ended ultralinear class A power, according to Marc. This isn't a new design, but it is always beautiful to look at. And at 55 pounds it is a serious amp that should be able to handle far more speakers than you might imagine. It was practically a muscle amp for the Max 2 with 96dB/W/m efficiency. Plus, it includes left and right subwoofer outputs for those who need to go really deep. Below it on the rack was a Unico Due CD player and DAC that also handles DSD ($4850 CDN) and below that on silent display was the new Unico 150 dual mono hybrid integrated amp ($6250 CDN) with a zero feedback design that puts out 150 Wpc into 8 Ohms, 220 Wpc into 4 Ohms., which was introduced at CES in January. On an adjacent rack was a Gold Note Mediterraneo turntable which is available with a lot of different options. The one here was about $8000 with the tonearm and was also a very attractive and non-intimidating design from Italy. It was equipped with a Hana SH high output moving magnet cartridge ($800 CDN). A Simply Phono tube powered phono stage ($2450) also from Unison boosted the signal from the turntable. Beautiful equipment and a dynamic sound in this room.


Time Out Special Announcement
I need to say that the overall level of the audio rooms I heard prior to this point, and those yet to come, seemed very high this year. There were a lot of rooms which, in a previous year, might have been singled out as a Best Room, but the overall level of the industry seems to have risen considerably in the past year. Or maybe the presenters have simply been more astute in their product matching and more adept at setting up their rooms. The other observation, which you've probably already realized, is that there was a very heavy presence of turntables, not just on silent display, but as the active front end. And maybe the second observation had a lot to do with the first one. Let's move on.


Sliding into the Sheraton
Samsung had a large and conspicuous curved TV set up in the hallway as you left the reception area of the Sheraton and entered the open table displays. It was their latest SUHD Super Ultra High Definition Quantum Dot technology and in a room nearby there was a very convincing display set up with a rack of colorful athletic jerseys in front of a serious looking 4k video camera. To the left was a Quantum Dot Samsung screen mounted above a conventional 4k screen and the difference in color saturation, three-dimensionality and depth was obvious. To those of you who know film, it was kind of like the difference between Fuji film and Kodak Ektachrome, but even more pronounced. Samsung has developed a series of red, blue and green nano particles that are applied to the filter layer of the screen and permit the screen to be a lot more transparent than the previous technology which most of us probably have. At face value, it was a pretty convincing demo, but if you think about it, who is to say the lower screen was not tuned with the chroma set low?




To answer that question, I went to Best Buy earlier this week and checked out their display, where they are selling competing brands that are presumably set optimally to sell the product. Sure, some customer might come along and screw up the settings, but hey, I was just trying to get a general comparison. Sure enough, the SUHD Samsungs were better than the typical LED screens I saw there. They had some expensive ones with curved screens, but they also had a 50" SUHD flat screen for $1000 and a 65" one for $1500. Not that you probably need one for watching YouTube, but this new technology seems to be driving conventional model prices really low. I later learned that LG OLED screens are king of the mountain, so back to Best Buy I went. The LG were in a different part of the TV area and not easily compared with the SUHD Samsung as they were feeding it different video loops. The answer is "yes" the OLED screen is better, but it is significantly more expensive.  As with buying mattresses, I suggest you spend a good half hour watching each of these to be sure you think it is worth the extra money to become an early adopter. So much for my video testimonial.



There were a lot of open tables in the hallway en route to the larger rooms and I was running behind time. When it looked like I couldn't get a quick story from the vendor, I simply snapped a photo and moved on. Such was the case with Brainwavz, a vendor of headphones, earphones and accessories such as replacement foam pads with high grade memory foam and coverings made with polyurethane, velour and sheepskin leather in a variety of shapes and colors. Google them.



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