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TAVES 2012 (Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show) Report Coverage
TAVES 2012 (Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show) Report
Part 1 Report By Rick Becker

Encore! Encore

The bar was set pretty high at the inaugural TAVES show last year and I thought it would be tough for Suave Kajko and Simon Au to raise it higher in 2012. How wrong I was. My mind and body are held captive at my computer to write this report while my soul is tugging me towards my listening room to explore some of the tweaks I learned in the seminar presented by Roy Gregory, one of the handful of top reviewers in this industry. I heard from more than a few people that the seminar was quite good and I was fortunate to get a ticket from Simon for the last presentation. Consequently, you will have to read through my endless babble about countless rooms and products until I get to the seminar in an installation of this report that may be weeks away. Stay tuned.

Let's see...
Rochester to Toronto in my humble Tracker, 2h58min.

Toronto to Rochester in the Carrera S, 1h58min, if they wave us through Customs.

The "us" in the above fantasy is Linda and me, as my wife enjoys attending an occasional show, particularly if there are fine European chocolatiers nearby. As we entered our room I scanned the walls for a sign reading "The King slept here", but no such luck. After a large black coffee from Tim Horton's across the street to ensure my senses were fully awake we hit the halls running…right into this dude from Chicago, an obvious fan of one of my favorite musicians. Clearly, he has his priorities straight.



In the Vmax Services room we met a friend of many years, Richard Kohlruss, who ran down the system comprised of gear that was entirely new to me. The handsome French Atohm GT 3.0floorstanders ($10,900) in gloss piano rosewood sported knobs at the crossover to dial in the tweeter and midrange drivers to your room or your liking. It was powered by a sleek Norma integrated amplifier ($6000) with 140 wpc (that doubles down to 4 ohms) that looks like it came from northern Europe rather than Italy. The Norma CD player ($3900) was correspondingly sleek. An Orender server ($7000) from South Korea was the source, and is a very highly rated unit according to Richard. Next he showed us a couple of tube amps from Italy, a 25 wpc Synthesis ($2300) with a lovely wood chassis, and a beefy A50T integrated ($5500) also from Synthesis with KT88 tubes putting out 50 wpc as well as having a built in Wolfson DAC and a remote control. Next he showed us a Hegel H300 ($5500) from Oslo, Norway which he will be showing at the Rocky Mountain show later in October with 250 wpc and 5 digital inputs. Next up was an Audio Analogue Verdi Cento Special Edition ($3600) made in Tuscany, Italy, a 100 wpc hybrid integrated with MM and MC phono stage in a silver chassis, which he compared to their Fortissimo solid state integrated ($2595) in a black chassis with 100 wpc, MM and MC phono stage, headphone output, a battery of digital inputs and a digital out should you wish to digitize your LPs and send the signal to your computer. There is also a balanced input. Most uncommonly, the volume control could be set for three different slopes to give you maximum control whether you had very efficient or very inefficient speakers. The icing on the cake was a back-light remote that comes on when you touch it. If this sounds as good as other Audio Analogue gear I've heard in the past, this should be a real winner. Also intriguing, as well as cute, was a small Enigma, a 50 wpc box with CD player, headphone output, and AM/FM tuner for $2199. Coming from Audio Analogue, this should be far more than your basic stereo receiver. The large number of integrated amplifiers here in this room and in the show in general is probably the consequence of the weak and uncertain economy in Europe. Good sound is usually a lot more affordable with an integrated amplifier than with separates. There was a lot of gear I wish I had time to listen to in this room.


One of the most stunning pieces of gear at the show was this Tri-Art Audio turntable made mostly of bamboo. The underside of the platter and the plinth is a frosting of crushed stone bonded together with an acrylic polymer. The black ring of the record clamp is designed to not touch the spindle while the copper ribbed weight fits very snugly over the spindle. The long bearing was fitted with a ceramic ball and a lot of brass was used throughout. Unfortunately, one of the tonearm cables was damaged in shipping and they were not playing this belt-drive table at the show. What a pity as a lot of materials engineering was evident on close inspection. They expect it will hit the market between $2000 to $2500 with the arm, but without a cartridge. Their new bamboo theme carries over to their other components seen last year with the concrete chassis. Seen here with coordinating bamboo footers, the new wood chassis give their components a welcome facelift. Being in the furniture business, I really appreciated the handsome woodwork. I noticed the monoblocks with separate power supplies raised up on very sturdy welded stands. The preamp comes in two versions as seen on the middle shelves with either top or front mounted controls.


We've heard and seen the AMR CD player they had in the rig in the past, but also from this United Kingdom company is their new ifi series of mini components. Starting from the right we see first the iUSB ($225) which acts as a power filter for the USB line which comes with its own separate power supply (just visible on the floor). It drops the noise floor from 80dB in the computer to 140dB which is basically inaudible. The USB from the computer plugs into the back end and there are two USB outputs on the other end. One is power only, and the other USB is power and audio. Moving to the left is their iDAC ($375) with trickle down technology from their $5000 DAC with 24/192 asynchronous buss technology along with 24mil clocking frequency global master timing technology from their $5000 DAC. Inside is the ESS Sabre chip with all Class A circuitry for which they are getting a patent. On the front is a volume control for the 3.5mm headphone jack and an RCA line output which is separate from the volume and headphone circuit. Stepping to the left again is their iCan ($300) which is a true headphone amp that can power any headphone, including Stax. Out back are the rca inputs and on the front are an analog based volume control and switches for analog 3d spatial surround and analog bass enhancement modes with a 3-position switch for each for selectable levels of each effect, plus they can be disengaged completely if you drink your music straight up. The headphone jack is full size for serious cans. Whew! And on the far left is the iPhono ($450) with MM and MC inputs out back and RCA single ended outputs on the front end. On the bottom of the unit are settings for loading, gain, equalization for six stereo EQ curves, including their own proprietary curve. The iPhono provides 66dB of gain with a 90 dB s/n ratio, all with Class A circuitry.


The speakers in the room were very handsome new model dressed in black leather called the Certaldo ($6000) from Rosso Fiorentino in Florence, iTaly. Unseen technology includes internal steel tension rods, marble chip filling in the side panels and a 5mm thick aluminum front baffle. It also comes as a monitor, the Pienza, with just the top two drivers, a matching center channel and a subwoofer. It is also available in lacquer if you can't handle the leather. The noise level from visitors was high and the music was limited but I was very favorably impressed with the Tri-Art Audio room.


In the Crown Mountain Imports room I encountered Mimetism Audio (from France/Switzerland) but I was told these units were about to be replaced by a new preamp and new monoblocks. (Do I smell a bargain, here?) The small Kudos Audio Cardea Super 10 Anniversary Edition stand mounted monitors ($7190) from Great Britain were gorgeous in what looked like a clear flat finish on the walnut veneer. The sound here was pristine, though on the dry side. The Cardea, with Seas drivers, Mundorf Silver/Gold/Oil caps, 8 ohm resistance and 87dB/W/m efficiency might sound completely different is a small room with warmer tube electronics. The Mastersound Dueventi SE integrated amplifier on silent display here ($3500, $4000 with remote) could be an excellent choice with 20 wpc, Class A, from 4 EL34 tubes. This elegant beast from Vicenza, Italy weighs over 50 pounds.

In the TTW Audio room (Formerly TTWeights) I was delighted to chat fervently with Larry Denham again as he has loaned me one of his periphery rings for review. He tells me they have sold out again, for good reasons which I can verify. His big gun on display here was the Momentus V2 Rim Drive turntable with MegaRing and TTSuperWeight (2.8lb) ($20,999). It sported a TTW modified Graham Phantom Supreme II tonearm with the TTWSRA 10 inch arm pod and an Ortofon Cadenza cartridge for an additional $8400. Actually there were two Graham tonearms set up with the turntable; one with an Ortofon Cadenza Black and one with a Cadenza Red cartridge. At 150 pounds total weight you will need a substantial rack, but no part of the modular design of this table weighs more than 40 pounds for ease of set-up. The electronics included an Allnic H-3000 phono stage, BAT VK-55SE II preamp and McCormack DNA 750 monoblocks driving Reference 3A Grand Veena speakers upgraded with TTSoundPoints. The cabling in the system was from Audio Sensibility, whose products I have sampled before and found to be excellent. The music here came out of nowhere and was as smooth as a baby's skin, probably smoother, but I needed to talk with Larry so we left the room and unfortunately the game ended on Sunday before I was able to make it back to play one of my LPs on his rig. Maybe Montreal in the spring?

Also in the TTW room, and perhaps heard by others during the show, was the much more affordable Gem Evolution Rim Drive turntable with TTSuperWeight ($5500) with a TTW Graham Phantom Supreme II on an SRA arm pod with an Ortofon Cadenza Bronze cartridge ($7810). And let me not forget the world premiere of their Momentus Select Digi-Servo 24K Controller for both belt or rim drive. The 24K in the model name is for 24,000 pulses counted and controlled per platter rotation. This motor controller has an output error of less than 50 parts per million, which claims to be twenty times greater pitch speed resolution than their previous system. Smoother than a baby's skin, like I said. After all, in aerospace, you don't want to send your ship to the wrong planet by mistake. You're going to hear lots more about this company in the future.

Moving along to the Audioscaperoom I had a chance to hear a Jackson Browne cut on a Nottingham Space 294 turntable ($3599) with a 12" Ace Space tonearm ($2039) and a mid-line Boheme cartridge from Soundsmith that sported large white plastic headshell screws to facilitate cartridge swapping, also from Soundsmith, I believe. The 294 sports a 14", 20 pound alloy platter which is belt driven with a low-torque, low noise, synchronous motor. The other end of the chain was an Usher Dancer CP 8571 II DMD Diamond ($13,800) with their well-known 1.25 diamond tweeter. This handsome 3-way floorstander weighs a hefty 192 pounds and has a definite presence in the room. The phono preamp was a Soundsmith MMP3 which fed into the PrimaLuna Dialogue THREE preamp ($3239), a dual-mono design from China with premium parts. PrimaLuna DiaLogue SEVEN monoblocks ($3299 each) with KT88 tubes powered the Ushers.


New from Usher was the Mini X Bookshelf DMD Diamond monitor ($3995), a step-up from the Mini Dancer. I also liked a modest PrimaLuna Prologue ONE in silver faceplate, regularly $1920 that was being offered as a show special for only $999 in limited quantity. With 35 wpc from EL34 tubes and a very fine paint job, I expect they sold out with this offer. Snapping up a deal like this can really make a trip to an audio show worthwhile, but you have to be able to make quick decisions. Also eye-catching was a Miniwatt N3 integrated tube amp sporting Class A SET design and putting out 3.5 wpc for desktop or nearfield listening situations, regularly $500, on Show Special for $399.

Much, much more to come over the next two weeks. I'm just getting started. Please check back.


---> Click here for Part 2 of Rick's TAVES 2012 report.













































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