Toronto Audiofest 2019 Show Report
Next, in 354, was another of the stunning veneers at the show on Monitor Audio Gold 300 speakers ($9k) powered by Michi 1080 Watt monoblocks($18k/pr).
Michi is the continuation of Rotel's reference series from the 1990's. The turntable here was a quasi-suspended Roksan Xerxes 20 Plus ($5299) equipped with their Sara tonearm ($3699) fitted with a Shiraz cartridge ($5300). There were also three pedestals topped off with Rotel's much more affordable, but high value gear. Kevro was the distributor here and prices are $CDN.
Frank Fazzalari of Coherent Speakers showed his Model 15 Platinum Neo Be speaker ($14,900) which features a 15" woofer with a coincident 3" Be compression driver and a small super tweeter mounted just above it. Again, pretty stunning veneers on the front baffles here. Frank always has fine craftsmanship. With 100dB sensitivity, these speakers can be driven with flea-power tube amps (Think 2A3 from Triode Lab), but here he was using the much more powerful (and expensive) Allnic tube gear. Frank eschews the use of internal damping material in favor of internal resonance slats. The result is a very transparent and dynamic sound. I was hoping to get another listen to Coherent's Model 12 GR speaker ($4395) which is his most popular model, probably because of the smaller size and more reasonable price. With 96dB sensitivity, it too is very tube friendly.
The grey turntable from China (on the left) was a clone of the Micro Seiki RX5000, second from the top of the Micro Seiki line. It is then sent to Germany for re-working of the 24V DC power supply and the addition of a second Delrin layer to the platter before being imported and sold for $11,600 USD. The spindle and ceramic bearing are said to be a clone of a Clearaudio design. There is also a speed adjustment that has been improved, which reads a single sensor on the bottom of the platter. It was fitted with the highly regarded Kuzma 4Point tonearm. You can also see one of the DS Audio Ionizers tucked behind the platter. Frank shared the room with Corby's Audio who carries the turntable.
Also at Corby's Audio I spotted the Glanz tonearm from Japan, seen here without its counterbalance weight. While it looked fairly simple to me, I was told it cost in the neighborhood of $12k CDN. This is the first it has been available in North America for a while. It was totally new to me.
As I left the Corby's Audio room, I spotted a poster for Analog Magik's All In One Cartridge Setup Software & Test LPs. For$900 you get software for your computer, two test LPs and an ADC (analog to digital converter) to connect your cartridge output to your computer. It enables you to get readouts that help you adjust azimuth, anti-skating, wow & flutter, speed, VTA, VTF. I'm told it takes a couple of hours to go through the entire regimen, but for those seeking the optimum performance of their expensive gear, this might be something to consider.
I spoke with Matt Thomas of Hearken Audio in Kitchener, Ontario, who pointed out the Nasotec headshell ($495 CDN) from South Korea which has a standard bayonet mount. It has a horizontal swing motion that is said to keep the cartridge tangentially aligned regardless of where on the LP the tonearm is positioned. It is spring loaded and the springs are adjustable. The walls of the groove are said to keep the cartridge aligned. And there is also an SPU version!
Unfortunately, I neglected to take a photo. Nasotec also had a unique VEM record clamp that incorporated some kind of viscoelastic material or silicone that absorbs vibrations. The top of the clamp has some flexibility, kind of like a bobblehead toy, though not that loose. It just slips over the spindle and does not thread or otherwise clamp down.
The rig in the Hearken Audio room was compose of some rather rare pieces such as the Rethm speaker, John Nantais turntable — yes, two of them! — along with some Thoress and Yamamoto amplifiers and an Aqua La Scala DAC ($10k CDN). The wood racks by Massif were very sturdy, but don't be afraid to turn Trevor loose with multiple stains on different species if you want something really eye-catching. Matt is obviously very selective about the gear he offers and the efficient Rethm speakers allow for some fine low-power tube gear to drive them.
Room 347 was the home of Atelier Audio where I heard the JMR (Jean Marie Reynaud) Abscisse Jubile floorstanding speaker (one of three models on display.) I've heard JMR speakers before at Bob Niell's Amherst Audio in Massachusetts and really loved them there with Blue Circle electronics. I believe JMR's son, who apprenticed with his father, has now taken over the business, and from what I heard here in Toronto, the proverbial acorn didn't fall far from the oak. These are very musical speakers you can listen to for hours and forever. Unfortunately, they don't have the distribution they deserve.
The source was another Aqua Acoustic, this time the Formula xHD rev2 Optologic DAC ($20k CDN). Phew! These come from Italy and the company offers upgraded boards on a yearly basis that allow you to keep current with improvements without having to buy an entirely new DAC. The Aqua was followed by a passive volume control and a Yamamoto amp with Tung-Sol 6550 tubes. (There was also a Sugden Masterclass Anv-50(?) integrated amp on the racks.) They were playing high-rez files off a computer and the sound was really lovely. Forgive the lack of photo of this room... I was enthralled with the music.
The Audio Note UK room was once again featuring a comparison of live with recorded music provided by their company-sponsored cellist, Vincent Belanger. The stand mounted speakers were drawn out from the corners with this particular model, in contrast with other models where they are best placed deep into the corner. The recorded music is remarkably close to the live presentation. It was also noticeable in the rooms along this corridor that the exposed wooden floor contributed a bit of liveliness to the sound of the rigs, even though most presenters brought area rugs of various sizes along to dampen the rooms a bit.
The next room, around the corner was 345, was the home of Acora Acoustics, which was the first and only room on the 3rd floor that I covered in Part 1 before my camera battery died on Friday night. They were the large granite floorstanders powered by Audio Research with an Esoteric digital front end. They sounded just as good, if not better here in Toronto than they did at RMAF 2019, perhaps due to the gorgeous chrome turntable in use when I visited. As fine as this room sounded with the large Audio Research monoblocks, Valerio Cora informed me that they can easily be driven by a less powerful amp... and don't be intimidated by the granite. The center of gravity of these speakers is low and it is said to be relatively easy to walk them around in a room.
Toronto Home of Audiophile in 343 presented the new GoldenEar Triton One.R ($6600 USD/pr), a narrower, scaled down version of the Reference model with a lot of trickle down technology, updated drivers and upgraded cosmetic in the form of piano gloss black on the side panels. Internally powered subwoofers with DSP — all the good stuff Sandy Gross could stuff into the smaller cabinet. It certainly plays larger than it looks and it was sounding very good here with more upscale electronics than I've typically seen with GoldenEar speakers. Here we heard Lumin streamer, Pass Labs amps and Gutwire and Siltech cables.
They were not holding back and the sound payed off. It is quite likely the unfortunate truth that the high value (low price) of GoldenEar speakers results in them being paired with gear that is below their quality level. Conversely, you can buy them and then proceed to upgrade everything else in your rig. And that would likely apply to virtually every model in their line. Also of note in this rig a Lumin server fed music a Mutec Ref 10 Master Clock ($5495 CDN, on left) which then fed the Mutec MC3+ USB Re-clocker ($1649 CDN, on right) and then on to the DAC. Thanks go to Chris Volk of GoldenEar Technology for the rundown, here.