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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 4
TAVES 2016 Show Report By Rick Becker

 

 

 

 

At the end of the lower floor, before exiting into the shopping mall was the Ballantrae room where, once again, I found the Muraudio Domain Omni speakers with their omni-directional electrostatic array atop a sealed aluminum enclosure with tri-axial mounted aluminum coned woofers ($79,500). (All items here in US$). I've raved about this speaker since it first came out, shown in a way-too-small room. Over the past few years they have become increasingly adept at system building and room set-up. Here, partnered with Simaudio Moon 750 DAC ($14,000), 820S power supply ($8000), 850P preamp ($30,000) and 870A monoblocks ($44,000pr.) the Muraudio sounded the better than I recalled from last year in this same room. When I mentioned this to Murray, he was surprised because this was basically the same set-up he used before. He thought for a moment, and then added, the only thing that has changed is the Shunyata Research cables. Ah-Ha! Funny what $21,000 worth of premium cables will do for a system approaching $200,000. Most of it was their ETRON series, with balanced interconnects.

The speakers were bi-wired (and hence bi-amped, most likely with the 870A amps left in stereo mode), thus indicating this was the passive (PX) design, rather than the active (DA) version of the speaker. But as I write this, things begin to unravel a bit. The spec sheet identified the speakers as the PX2 model and the price was $10,000 higher than the price of the PX1 on their website. Had Murray neglected to tell me this was a new model? I should have investigated more thoroughly when I was there, but I was so enthralled by the music that I became complacent. In a handful of years Muraudio has become one of the upper echelon speaker manufacturers in the world today, occupying a very narrow niche with just two variations of a single design passive and active.

As much as I normally love tube gear, I can't say I missed it with the Moon electronics driving the Muraudio. And if it is indeed the same speaker I heard last year in this room, then kudos certainly fall upon the Shunyata cables. I walked about the room to experience the stability of the image this omni-directional speaker creates. With the classical music playing the instruments were properly sized and there was excellent sense of depth in the orchestra. I stumbled upon Simon Au (Vice President of TAVES) with his wife soaking up the music. And that would be Mario from Atoll Electronique Canada accidentally photo-bombing them. Presenters from other companies love to break out of their rooms to visit others in the industry and the word about the excellence of this room had obviously spread. I'll have to call it one of the Best Rooms, too.

 

 

 

Moving on to the Stouffville room I encountered Hoo Kong Njoo, the head man at Venture Audio from Belgium. They were showing their new Quantum 8 active speaker ($74,000 USD) that had an unusual footprint with the front baffle being narrower than the back panel. The side-firing woofers then were both slightly visible from the listening position. It was shown here in Piano Black and it is also available in Sapele Pomele and in Elm Burl for people who love wood. A Beryllium 2" tweeter is said to be available soon. The Venture VP200D preamp with build in DAC ($60,000 USD) which can accept DSD up to 256 through its USB input, drove the speakers directly. Yet another Triangle Art turntable fed into the Venture VP100Pphono stage which can handle both mm and mc cartridges on totally separate circuits with separate connectors to prevent interaction, so it is essentially two phono stages in a single chassis. Venture's own cables were used throughout. Eric Clapton Unplugged sounded exceptionally fine on this rig, even from the back of the room, earning another Best Room recommendation. It was notably better than last year when they presented a much larger speaker that did not couple with the room as well as their new Quantum 8.

 

 

 

Yamaha took the Markham B suite next door and gave us a decidedly retro looking rig with a large stand mounted speaker of rather boxy proportions, the NS 5000 ($15,000 USD). The notable feature of this ported design is that all three drivers, including the large dome midrange are made from Zylon, a new space age fiber created in Japan, similar to Kevlar that is extremely strong and rigid, allowing for precise pistonic movement. As you would expect from a company that makes pianos, the NS 5000 comes with a durable piano black finish that contributes to the rigidity of the cabinet. The speakers were powered by an A-S3000 "natural sound" integrated amp. That's a term Yamaha has used with their components since at least the 1970s. In fact, I have a vintage receiver in house that draws on their clean, classic design that would be hard to distinguish from their integrated amps, save for the FM tuner band. The silver A-S1100 integrated amp shown here with 160 Wpc into 4 Ohms sells for $2500 USD on their website. Yamaha's history practically goes back to the tribal drum era, but they are also on the cutting edge of technology with this electric violin design, not seen at the show, but maybe someday on Austin City Limits? Stephane Grappelli would have loved it!

 

 

 

 

Moving next door again into Markham A there was a familiar looking (and familiar sounding, with Stevie Ray Vaughan) all-Bryston rig. They were tri-amping the floorstanding speakers with a 7B monoblock on the bass and a 3B stereo amp with one channel serving the midrange and the other serving the treble. At the bottom of their rack was the Bryston Isolation Transformer (about $3000 CDN) that was reading   volts incoming and 122 Volts outgoing to the other components in the rig. No soggy music here! The third silver box from the top of the rack was a digital domain crossover unit and the fourth box down was the DAC, and below that was the power supply for the preamp. The cables in the rig were all generic cables and all the software was just ripped CDs as James Tanner's philosophy is that doing so, if you like the music you hear, you have to give credit to the Bryston products in the room and if you want to enhance it further with exotic cables or audiophile approved software, it will only get better. The music here (both sound and software) was very consistent with what I've heard in Bryston rooms before, which is to say very, very good. The decay of electric guitar notes belied the fact that it was solid state gear. Setting up the rig on the long wall produced an enveloping sound stage that allowed me to kick back and enjoy the music without feeling compelled to shift into critical listening mode.

 

 

Out in the hall I ran into Trevor Doyle and Angela Bradfield who are looking a lot like a couple this year. Trevor's company, Massif Audio Design, didn't have their own space in the hall this year, but their Massif equipment racks made from solid wood with technology Trevor learned in the manufacturing of pool tables, were seen in a substantial number of rooms. Comprised of a wide variety of wood species, but not endangered ones, the racks bring an awareness of organic nature to a hobby that is heavily dependent on perfectly machined metal. I picked up a set of beautiful cable risers for my own rig, and Trevor tells me he is working on a series of footers specifically for use with speakers. Other than that, we lapsed into conversation of High End bicycling, a hobby all three of us share.

 

 

Woo Audio prefers to hunker down in their own room at shows where they can offer a wide variety of their tube headphone amps and an array of fine headphones for people to sample. They always draw a substantial crowd and often I've had to wait for someone to surrender their amp in order to get a listen. The listening quality with their amps is highly addictive. Now in its final form, the portable, battery powered WA8 headphone amp ($1799 USD) is offered in black and a champagne gold finish. Jack Woo helped me find some music to listen to, and then returned to helping his customers. I listened to the WA8 through the new Focal Utopia headphones ($4000 USD) which I thought were a little bright at the top end, but maybe they were not completely broken in. I also tried the new Sony Z1R ($2300 USD) over the ear design which I liked, too. I listened to "Brothers in Arms" on both phones and the Z1R was warmer with a more boxy sound but that's just a quick take. With the end of the show rapidly approaching, I couldn't stay long, much as I would have liked to.

 

 

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