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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

Reev Designs introduced their elegant two-way Aatma monitor ($6950) in a system featuring both analog and digital front ends with a Bryston BCD-1 CD Player and B100-SST integrated amplifier. Jugveer Randhawa of Reev Designs explained the Aatma features a ScanSpeak tweeter and modified woofer that goes down to 56Hz flat with a -3dB point of 44Hz. The fins on the side are solid cherry and are lock-mitered into the side for resonance control. Front and rear baffles are 1.5" mdf. The cabinet is covered in synthetic veneer and is gel-coated, then sprayed. The photo belies the relatively small size of these monitors which filled the decent sized room without strain. In spite of their size the unique contemporary styling ensures they will not go unnoticed.


Monarchy Audio is a name I recognized from my earliest days in High End audio back in the early 1990s, and the name C.C. Poon also rang a bell. To my recollection, this was my first encounter with the gentleman. Their gear was known to be high value entry level components and what I saw here looked to be the same styling I knew from yesteryear. I cannot say his gear has been top of mind in recent years, but from what I heard hear, it should be. Using only a modest Samsung DVD player the digital output was sent to an NM24 preamplifier ($1590) that included a tube DAC (24/96), a solid state DAC (24/96), a tube headphone amp and a tube line amp. This DAC/line stage in turn drove the solid state SE-100 monoblocks ($2358/pr.) that powered the Lenehan Audio S2 speakers from Australia. The prototype Lenehan speakers are very tube friendly in spite of their moderate 87.5dB sensitivity. The SE-100 with 100w/8 Ohm, 180 w/4 Ohm, drove them with ease and the sonic quality of this rig shattered my antiquated stereotype of the Monarchy brand Not only was it a terrific value at list price, but Ching Poon was offering incredible Show Special prices through the end of October. I didn't catch the price of the Lenehan S2, but I can tell you an S1 mini monitor and S3 floor stander are coming soon, as is a dedicated stand for the S2. East Coast distribution of the speakers is through Swap Meet Audio in New York City.


Atoll Electronique presented a very modest rig with their $799 integrated amplifier and $899 CD player driving a modest ELAC floor standing speaker. This is a very good way to get started when you're young or when money is tight.


I heard some nice music coming from Ayra C-1 monitors from Raidho of Denmark, but the demonstration of Nordost's QRT Qv2 line purifier was disappointing. I failed to notice much of a difference when first one, then two units were plugged into the power strip, and again when both were simultaneously removed. A second demonstration was no different. At $375 each, I would expect a more pronounced effect, but such devices are often very system dependent. Or perhaps the ambient noise in the room masked the effect. 



Back in the open vendors area I was quite willingly sucked in by Nick, Jonathan and Ed of Sonic Artistry who treated me to a real clinic on their analog products. My eye was first caught by the Keith Monks record cleaner mat which had hundreds of little pyramids which allow minimal contact with the surface of the record, so when you flip it over, you will not be placing the recently cleaned side of the LP on a dirty mat, such as the flat cork surface of my VPI cleaning machine. That was just the first solution. Next, they showed me the Keith Monks discOvery 33/45 natural precision record cleaning fluid and the discovery Break The Mold fluid antifungal mold releasing agent for pre-cleaning vinyl and shellac records. I didn't catch the prices of these fluids, but I can assure you that you can spend a lot more on a bottle of wine. Next up was a demonstration of how the Keith Monks record cleaning machine actually works. This was the first time I'd ever seen one, though it is legendary in the upper echelon of High End analog circles. Its price of about $6000 ensures that it will stay in the upper echelon. For that kind of money I could hire a maid to hand wash my LPs, but the beauty of this machine is the sublime noise level of the vacuum. My VPI, on the other hand, makes me feel like I'm the maid. The vacuum action is concentrated at the end of what looks like a tonearm that starts at the inside of the playing surface and gradually works its way to the outer edges of the record. Rather than sucking across the entire width of the grooved part of the record, the vacuum is concentrated on a small area and sucks both liquid and debris much more effectively, they claim. The guys graciously cleaned one side of my Running on Empty LP which I will dutifully compare with the side that has merely been cleaned with my VPI — once I finish this report, that is. They lifted the hood on this machine to show me the complexity of the interior with separate containers for the cleaning fluid and the pure water rinse that follows the actual cleaning process. Each fluid has its own separate arm for distributing it on the record. I was impressed.


I also took note of the Simon Yorke S-9 turntable at the Sonic Artistry display with its dedicated S-9 tonearm ($12,000) which had a Transfiuration Axia cartridge ($2000) mounted on it. The table had a removable graphite mat on the aluminum platter, not unlike the Boston Audio Mat 1 I use. A proprietary substrate is used as a platform for mounting the tonearm and non-magnetic stainless steel base resides below that and rests on another composite non-resonant platform. The belt rides in a groove on the outer edge of the platter. The S-9 is seemingly simple and a very elegant design.


The bazaar was full of tables of LPs, CDs and a wide variety of tools and tweaks of the trade. I noted the fellow in the background mentoring his children. In another part of the open area was a rig comprised of Roksan electronics, Mastersound, Sonneteer, Gutwire cables, Revolver, and Audes speakers playing music that made me feel like I was walking through the streets of New Orleans.


In one of the larger conference rooms off the bazaar was a most simple exhibition. A Devialet D Premier mounted on the wall was the electronics and Focal Stella loudspeakers completed the system. Let's see…$16,000 for the Devialet and $90,000 for the speakers…$106,000, plus a few for cables and you're done. End of audiophile hobby…beginning of music appreciation hobby. An interactive exploded view of the Devialet about the size of a ping-pong table was very interesting and convinced me to recommend that you buy the completed version, not the kit.


In the large Hampstead room Larry Denham of TTweights held court demonstrating his two turntables that are both rim and belt-drive capable. As you might expect from their name, TTweights began making gorgeous record weights of a wide variety of styles and weight. Those were supplemented with LP outer rings to flatten warped records and included a very clever centering device. But Larry ultimately had even larger dreams which have materialized in these two ultra-engineered turntables that allow the user to switch from rim drive to belt drive to suit their pleasure. His main chore is aerospace engineering and he has just landed a large contract for parts for Boeing 737 planes. Hopefully it will not curtail production of these very fine turntables which exhibited one of the very finest LP playback experiences I've ever had. Had it been after hours without other people milling about, it might have been even better than that. The other end of the rig was a prototype floorstanding speaker from Euphoria Speaker Design and I met Bill Laleff who has an extraordinary speaker in progress from what I heard. It looked like carbon fiber on the outer skin and the complex crossover was fully exposed on the back of the speaker. There was an Allnic phono stage and preamp on the rack leading to large Atmosphere tube monoblocks. Cabling was by Audio Sensibility whose product s I encountered shortly hereafter out in the bazaar. The Tomo racks also held the separate power supplies for the turntable. Larry gave me a complete clinic on his turntables, demonstrating both the rim and belt drives, and how he learned that three belts were far superior to just one or two. The larger Momentus Duo Drive table starts at $14,900 (for the turntable only) and culminates in the Momentus Supreme, POR (around $25,000, I think). The arm on the Momentus was a $8500 Talea. The smaller GEM DuoDrive model starts at $4400 and seems like a very good value. It looked like a Jelco tonearm with the GEM. Sensing the passion and dedication devoted to these tables, it takes little imagination to envision TTweights as a major player in the mid and upper end of turntable manufacturers in the very near future.


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