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Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show (TAVES 2011) Report
Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show (TAVES 2011)
Part 4 Show Report By Rick Becker

He roller-coaster he got early warning
He got muddy water he one mojo filter
He say "One and one and one is three"   ---  "Come Together" The Beatles

…And who might that be? Why, Vince Bruzzese, of course, with his new Totem Element Series. That was also the music playing when I entered the Chelsea room and I immediately fell into the groove. It's usually that way with Totem, but even more so with the increased clarity and transparency afforded by the new larger version of his Torrent driver design in the Element Series. I was worried that they might not be as spectacular as I remembered them from Montreal, but fear not. The crowd seemed to think they were pretty special too, paying rapt attention. An Arcam DVD player was used along with Bryston electronics to drive the floor standers with aplomb. And the selection of music heard here pushed all the right emotional buttons. No "show special" pricing was needed for these loudspeakers which come in large, medium and stand mounted monitor sizes. The CNC machines at Totem are working at full capacity cranking out the Torrent drivers…and for good reason.

I dropped into a dimly lit Hyde Park room with Monitor Audio floor standers driven by Sim Audio Moon electronics. Jazz with a female vocalist was holding a small crowd in their seats. There was not much of an opportunity for information gathering in this setting so I moved on without interrupting the performance with the flash on my camera.

 

Moving along to the Belgravia room where Paradigm featured one of the few home theater/surround sound demonstrations, the picture taking didn't get any easier. The sound track was pretty spectacular, though, coming from their new S7 Signature series, along with a pair of subwoofers that I was told cost $10,000 each. I summoned enough courage to take a flash photo of the Anthem M1 Monoblock Class D amplifier that puts out a kilowatt into 8 Ohms and two kilowatts into 4 Ohms. You read that right. At one Ohm it will probably throw lightning bolts. It's also only one rack unit high and runs so cool that it is a fan less design that can be stacked. How cool is that? Very cool, I'd say. And I'll bet with power like that this amp will attract lots of fans. It might even become a roadie's best friend, provided the band can pony up $3800 for each monoblock.

On a table outside the Paradigm home theater demo, was this lovely couple giving demo and answering questions about Paradigm's new A2 powered two-way monitor with a 50 watt amp for the tweeter and a 50 watt amp for the mid-woofer. It has both mini-jack inputs and rca inputs. I believe he said you could put a dongle into the mini-jack and run them wirelessly. Standing back to create an equilateral triangle between the speakers and myself, they sounded quite good. I can see them attracting new blood to this thirsty hobby as well as in second systems or for vacation homes, priced at $299 to $349 each, depending on finish.

 

Steven Huang of Audio Sensibility who makes high value, reasonably priced cables and power cords was premiering his new distribution box which he offers with a variety of high quality outlets. It features star wiring with heavy gauge Ohno single crystal copper wiring, as well as numerous other features I will mention in my upcoming review. A pair of his Statement balanced interconnects and a digital cable currently grace my main rig.

 

By now it was well past lunch time so you can imagine my delight when I stumbled upon the table featuring Black Ravioli. Unfortunately, they turned out to be vibration absorbing footers, not Italian designer pasta. They come in a variety of sizes that range in price from $38 each to sets running up to $399.

My friend Tom is a headphone fan, using them to listen to music at his day job as a software engineer.  I was really wishing he was with me when I came upon the Woo Audio table. These substantial dedicated headphone amplifiers were some of the most serious I've seen with tube amplification and balanced headphone inputs for the true believers. One unit that seemed to be using a Sophia Electric TJ 247B rectifier tube from China was especially fine sounding, as it should be for $1900. Another model, the WA6-SE had a separate power supply with what looked like a 300B tube and a dedicated dc cable connecting to the Single-ended, Class A amplifier module. At only $1050, it didn't give up much quality to the one I tried above, although it did not have the balanced headphone inputs. These puppies hail from Queens, New York. Like the wide receiver who takes his eye off the ball just before it reaches him, I missed the photo-op. Fortunately, Enjoy the Music.com's coverage of the RMAF 2011 has a photo of their new statement 234 8 watt monoblocks with balanced headphone inputs and sculptured aluminum chassis coming in at $10,000.

Tom Lathrop would have recognized the DACmini from CEntrance at the next table, since he uses one, but here I saw the powered PX version ($1475) in black and the non-powered CX (Classic) version in silver ($795). Of course both versions allow you to listen with headphones, but the powered version will drive the external CEntrance single driver desktop speakers, among others. The CX version was just reviewed by our Tom Lyle.

Having just switched from a desktop to a laptop computer, I have recently been on the market for an HDMI cable to connect to my 22" Samsung HDTV/monitor in my home office. I settled for a basic Radio Shack cable, but when I saw a banner in the hallway for Ultralink HDMI cables, I began to wonder how the other 1% lives. Strangely, all I saw was just the banner…no table, no products? Guess I'll have to check out ultralinkproducts.com.

My next encounter was in the large Park Lane room where I met Robert Neill of Worldwide Wholesales, Canadian distributor of Zu Audio, Volent speakers and Kubala-Sosna cables. I've been fascinated with Zu speakers since they first hit the scene, but my few encounters with them have had mixed results. Their Omen Def model for $3400 (Show special, $2900) caught my ear as well as my eye. It uses a pair of full-range Eminence drivers supplemented with a tweeter that comes in at 12 kHz and goes up to 24 kHz. The practice of using a full-range driver supplemented with a tweeter up very high, and/or a woofer down very low, has become something of a mini-trend in recent years. As I walked up to them, I noticed the Ocellia Quaero 300B SET monoblocks as well as the Ocellia Quaero Phono stage and Quaero tube preamplifier (which was not in use). The turntable being played was the Rossner & Sohn table that I had mentioned very favorably in the Audiyo.com room at the Montreal show a couple of turns ago. The wood "TSUGE" headshell on the tonearm was from Yamamoto of Japan. I met Samuel Furon of Atelier-Audio once again, maker of the Ocellia gear I've raved about at Montreal in the past. Samuel explained that they wind their own transformers, and since the Zu is a crossover less design as is their own speaker, the Ocellia power amp is an optimized match for this Zu. He also explained that he will make a transformer designed for a specific loudspeaker when a customer buys their amplifier. The transformer/speaker interface is one of those important factors you hear very little about, but which can be important when shooting for maximum performance. You certainly won't get this level of customization from any of the Big Dogs. The fact that there was no preamp in the system, and hence fewer cables also helped maximize the transparency and dynamics of this rig. Robert explained that the Def Omen model is more like sitting in the first few rows at a concert, while the more expensive Essence model sitting off to the side in Ferrari Red sounds more like sitting 20 rows back in the theater with its single full range driver and the ribbon tweeter that runs from 10 kHz to 20 kHz. From what I heard in this wonderful presentation, I think I'm a Def Omen kind of guy. I left the room felling kind of breathless as my impression of Zu loudspeakers soared.

In the Westminster room Micromega went minimal with their AS-400 integrated amplifier with Apple AirPlay technology featuring 4 analog inputs, a phono input, Subwoofer output and 400 wpc, Class D, for $4595. It easily handled the Martin Logan floor standing speakers. The interesting speaker was the new Martin Logan Motion LX16 stand mounted monitor that was on silent display. A two-way, ported design with a ribbon tweeter, 92dB/W/m efficiency and 5 Ohm rating, it requires power from 20-200 watts and it was listed as $895. Maybe next time.

Having covered pretty much everything at this first TAVES show, I met up with Tom near the registration desk and we gathered up some review samples to keep me busy as winter sets in. We were so shocked to be charged only $5.00 for parking over the weekend that we decided not to argue with the attendant. But I tell you this, before I head to Montreal next year, I'm going to have Tom scout out a parking garage for me!

I've asked my editor to post my summary remarks at the beginning of my report, so please revisit the first page. But the bottom line here is, from my perspective, it was a wonderful show.

 

Click here for main TAVES 2011 page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

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