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TAVES Consumer Electronics Show 2014 (Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show) Report
TAVES Consumer Electronics Show 2014 Show Report (Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show)
Part 6: Report By Rick Becker

Continuing On The Ground Floor

  

No sooner had I stood up from the Vmax table in the Headphone/Personal Audio Zone when I was besieged by another factory rep eager to show me something special before the show shut down and packed up. After a fast paced walk, zig-zaging past slow people, we entered the largest of Angie's Audio Corner rooms in Maple West. This was a room I had wanted to visit, for sure, knowing the breadth and excellence of product carried by Angie Lisi from previous shows and from the two rooms on the third floor I visited on Saturday. The rep who had dragged me into this room wanted me to hear a Questyle wireless rig, set up off to the side in a corner, but the big rig in the room was playing so I took a seat to relish the fine music it was making. The Raidho D2 floorstanding speakers were being driven by a Jeff Rowland Continuum integrated amp. This is the new floorstander placed between the acclaimed D-1 stand mounted monitor and the very tall D-3 model I heard last year. I didn't catch the prices or the details of most of this rig, but suffice it to say the D-2 is expensive at $49,000CDN with its diamond impregnated speaker cones. The Rowland Continuum, which has been around for quite a while, is a jewel in its own right. The source was an Audia Flight top loading CD One M player from Italy. The cables were most likely from Siltech, something very special, too. The combination easily ranked as one of the Best Rooms at the show. And it probably would have sounded nearly as good with any of a host of other top shelf products spread around the room, including a Sutherland (USA) phono stage, a Bergmann Audio Magne turntable from Denmark with air bearing tangential tonearm, a rack full of Bel Canto gear, some VAC amplifiers sitting on the floor along the wall and a set of similarly sized Vienna Acoustic speakers from Austria.

At the end of the song we turned our attention to the Questyle wireless rig. Digital signal was sent from a computer to a T-2 digital wireless transmitter that operates at 5.2 GHz and sends the signal to a pair of 200 watt Class D monoblocks with built-in DACs that upsample to 24-bit/192kHz. The T-2 transmitter has inputs for USB, S/PDIF, Toslink and analog along with a button to select among them. There are also two buttons on the front for volume control, and a sensor for the remote control commands. The transmitter and monoblocks come in an aluminum flight case about the size of a briefcase and the set is priced at $3000. Of course you will still need a computer, digital cable, power cords, speaker cables and speakers, which in this set-up were a very fine sounding pair Focal Diablo Utopia monitors on dedicated stands from their flagship series. At the show, the computer and transmitter were only a few feet above the monoblocks that were sitting atop the aluminum flight case on the floor—no special footers involved with these small, lightweight components—but the transmission range is said to be 150 feet. A significant advantage of this combo is the DAC/power amps can be placed very close to the speaker, minimizing the length of speaker cable needed and thereby improving the sound. Unfortunately, I was so overwhelmed by the rig that I forgot to take still photos. The transmitter is about 7" square and 1.25" thick, and the monoblocks are each about 4" wide by 10" deep and about 1.25" thick. Given that these were primo speakers, and being in Angie's Audio Corner there were undoubtedly fine cables in use, nonetheless, this rig impressed me as being not only the finest wireless presentation I've ever heard, but also one of the Best Rooms at the show. All the usual superlatives applied. Just keep in mind these were expensive speakers and there was probably some expensive cabling involved, too, but it would certainly be interesting to see what this Questyle wireless rig could do with commensurately priced speakers and cables. With 200 watts per side, there wouldn't be much of a limitation in speaker selection. With hardly any time left in the show, I left the room feeling kind of breathless.

 

  

I sped back down the hall past the wire winding machine Kimber Kable had on display and plunged into the darkness of the Pine West room where Plurison had the Naim Statement rig that I had missed at the Brooklyn show on display. Massive Focal Stella Utopia speakers flanked the trio of Naim preamp and monoblocks. Offset, behind the amplifiers was a rack containing a Naim streamer and server. Beneath these were separate power supplies for the digital and analog stages of the streamer. The monoblocks on either side of the preamp each produce 746 watts, the equivalent of one horsepower. On a recent bicycle ride, my audio buddy Art Shapiro, who is a strong rider for a guy our age, generated 160 to 220 watts over the first half of his club ride recently—just in case you were thinking of going off-grid to power your stereo with your bicycle. It wouldn't cut it with these Naim monoblocks. Not by a long shot. And when called upon, they can put out 9000 watts into 1 Ohm. (You read that correctly.) The price for the kit of preamp and monoblocks is $240,000US, which makes the Focal Stella Utopia speakers, at $100,000, seem like a bargain. The amplifiers are actually comprised of six chassis with the power supplies located in the bottom units, each containing a huge toroidal transformer. An acrylic layer, glowing white, separated the top and bottom chassis and provided isolation, though each tower is a single unit requiring three strong men to position it. The entire package weighs 600 pounds. My host spun around an open amplifier module to reveal the four separate amps in each tower and the intricate channeling for the cabling inside. The Naim transistors were each hand numbered, indicating precise matching. The sculptured heat sink fins on the monoblocks put this amplifier in that rarified sector of industrial design we call "museum quality" and the overall presentation screams to be mated with the equally magnificent KEF Muon loudspeaker, should they still be available. The music here was easily among the Best Rooms at the show with Paul Simon's "Graceland" foreshadowing my Thanksgiving visit to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame where "Paul Simon: Words and Music" is the featured exhibit, at least for a while.

 

Adult Content Warning
Below are some images that show more than the usual bit of of the female human body. Should you be adverse to artists expressing their freedom of creativity with such artwork, then please click here to go directly to page 2 of Rick Becker's part 6 TAVES 2014 report.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the steam whistle signaled the end of the show I took a quick glance at the artwork in the two Jolt! Art Gallery rooms. Large paintings can act as diffusors/absorbers, made even more effective with fiberglass batting tucked behind the canvas. The small light composition with polar bears would create just enough light for safety when listening in the dark. The tall hanging ladies could very well damp reflections in the corners of your room. And the leaf table, in a sturdier implementation would make an interesting contrast to electronic components placed on top. There was a lot of food for thought among the work presented here.  

 

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