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TAVES 2013 (Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show) Report Coverage
TAVES 2013 (Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show) Report
Part 2 By Rick Becker



  Cambridge Audio put on a show with their small lifestyle Minx digital music system in gloss black atop a gloss black table straddling a Union Jack. Jerome Fragman explained this small box houses the 40 wpc amplifier from their 351A, the DAC from the 351C CD player, and internet radio and streamer from their NP30 network player. They were streaming music off an iPad, but it could also be done through Bluetooth although it is a bit more compressed. List price was $999, but they felt most dealers would give it a street price of $899. The speakers used with the Minx were the new Cambridge Aero 2 two-way monitors ($599/pr.) using their Balanced Mode Radiator technology with a very wide response flat 2.25" tweeter permitting a very low crossover at 250 Hz that allows them to use the 6" woofer basically as a subwoofer, thus removing the crossover from the critical midrange. This has become something of a trend in recent years and the Aero 2 brings it to a new, very affordable price. On silent display was the big brother, the floorstanding Aero 6 ($1199) with obviously greater bass capability. And last, but certainly not least in this room was a Rega P3 decked out with a Union Jack plinth for audiophiles still loyal to the Queen.


Moving on to the Naim room where everything is black with green lettering, I saw their new SuperNait 2 ($6000) integrated amplifier putting out 80 wpc continuing an industry trend to top-shelf integrated units in an uncertain world economy. Gone are the days when Naim exclusively used the funky DIN jacks; now you have a choice of DIN or RCA which opens the sport up to include cables as components. Nonetheless, an iPad was being used as a control point for the NDX Network Player (seen here below the SuperNait 2) and a server, which fed the SuperNait 2. It appears that their two more affordable integrated amplifiers, the Nait XS 2 and 5si have also been upgraded recently. The speakers were the Naim Ovator which now includes the new S-400 and larger S-800 in addition to the original S-600 model. These speakers, like the Cambridge models mentioned above, use the Balanced Mode Radiator driver which in this case, crosses over to the woofers at 380 Hz. And they are noted for sounding very fine when placed fairly close to the front wall of the listening room. Naim captured the "Best Floral Arrangement" award at the show this year, but unfortunately, I missed the photo-op.


In a side room somewhere was a tent set up as a Stax headphone listening room. There were four different models of their electrostatic headphones set up with four different headphone amps designed to power the difficult loads. They ranged in price from expensive to very expensive, but provided an open, airy listening experience. Although there was not one large enclave for headphone aficionados, there was plenty of opportunity to sample them at TAVES.


Devialet, inventor of the uber-high-end lifestyle player now has three models in their line-up: the D-110 at $6495, D-170 at $9495 and the D-240 at $17,495, evidence of genius trickling down toward the masses, but still not quite reaching them. Turning knobs is definitely Old School for this company who has targeted a computer savvy audience bent on instant gratification. All you have to do is hang this thing on the wall and add speakers, which in this case were a fine sounding pair of Focal Aria 926 ($2999). The Devialet was the 170, and presumably you already own a laptop full of downloads. For someone who doesn't want to play the audiophile upgrade game, the Devialet can be a "one and done" solution. During the demonstration of the system the cone materials used in the Focal bass drivers were passed around in the crowd. It's hard to believe how little the cones actually weigh. Handling them changed my entire perspective on dynamic drivers... almost like tasting the forbidden fruit.


In a smaller adjacent room was a Focal Hub wireless transmitter playing music over a pair of Focal Easya white floorstanding speakers ($2799). You still need a power cord to plug in the speakers, so it isn't completely wireless, yet it sure cleans up cable clutter to a large degree. This is an idea that seems to be gaining ground in recent years, probably with apartment dwellers and students.



The Wynn Audio room (881) was a combination of the very traditional and finely crafted Reimyo electronics with their Zen-like obsession with perfection, Harmonix cables, tuning feet and other devices, and the bizarre four-way speaker, The Magic Flute, from SW Speakers in Sweden. Looking like the vertical wing of a carbon fiber airplane, the four drivers mimicked turbo jet engines. It seemed prone to vibration, but the sound was actually quite good, as well is should be for $85,000 per pair. Add another $100,000 for everything else. In the presence of such an unusual speaker, I never really settled into the music in this room.


exaSound (room 882)presented their two dsd DACs, the e20 DAC MK III stereo model ($2899/show special $2464), which they say was the first DAC capable of playing DSD256 at 11.28 MHz and 12.28 MHz, and the e28 multi-channel ($3299/ show special $2804), also claimed to be first on the market. Both have been critically acclaimed. Below them, on the right, is a prototype power supply that is expected to go for about $1000. With DSD and 4K UHDTV hitting the market at the same time, it will be interesting to watch the adoption rates of both. The music here came from an Apple laptop which fed the DACs directly. Since the DACs include volume control (and headphone listening) they functioned as a preamp and fed the high resolution signal to an Emotiva power amp which drove Marten Django speakers. The electronics were supported on a Krolo Design rack with acrylic shelves. The music I heard here was merely acceptable, not living up to the excellence others have found with these DACs. Since I've heard Marten speakers sound very good elsewhere, and use speakers with ceramic drivers in my reference rig, I'd be inclined to suggest the demo rig could have been more finely selected and tuned. Then again, I'm a tube guy at heart. I spoke with George Klissarov of exaSound Audio Design who explained that Sony had agreed to supply a set of their $10,000 speakers for the show, but backed out at the last minute. The center channel monitor was pulled from George's home system at the last minute. I certainly look forward to another opportunity to hear their DACs in a system more capable of showing what DSD can do.


The SVS room was set up as a darkened surround sound home theater presentation to showcase their speakers which are sold internet direct. Each time I passed the room it was pretty much jammed, and since I'm more of a two-channel guy, I figured I wouldn't have much to say about this room. A lot of other attendees certainly felt otherwise. In fact, this was only one of many rooms that pulled in lots of people with video presentations at TAVES. Some of them, which I'll come to, were premiering 4K video. These guys can be explored further on the SVS Sound website.


The Coherent Speakers room was a musical oasis at the show featuring their Model 15 Neo Be with 100dB/W/m sensitivity at either 8 or 16 Ohms and a frequency response of 25 Hz to 22 kHz. As little as 2.5 watts can drive this coincident speaker with a 15" composite cone and 3" Beryllium horn loaded high frequency driver. I believe a single Mundorf Supreme silver/oil capacitor is the entire crossover and internal wiring is by Nordost. While large in size and sound, they weigh only 90 pounds and convey transparency and dynamics with a warmth that was intimately inviting  It didn't hurt that they were playing Neil Young, either. It looked like a Primare DAC, McAlister Audio MA-12 tube preamp and a McAlister SE-44J tube power amp, both made here in Ontario, Canada. The power amp uses a television horizontal sweep tube (not specified) and produces 22 watts per channel, single ended. Not your typical tube amp, for sure. I also noted the very handsome wood surround on the chassis. Cabling was by Nordost and I noted the clever wood cable risers used to keep the Valhalla speaker cables off the carpet. Sweet and tidy. Give a guy a tool and some time and this is what he can come up with. The woodwork was the equal of the sound from the speakers with the edges of the cabinet highlighted with inlaid dark walnut. The 15Neo Be goes for $13,900 depending on options and other Coherent speakers begin as low as $3800/pr for their Model 10. I should also mention the "sleeper" product in the room — the Baetis Revolution R1server that stored all the music. Frank Fazzalari and his wife Shelley were very hospitable each of several times I visited this room. I had to tear myself away to answer the call of duty.


System Audio showed an elegant monitor, the Pandion 2 ($5500) on a stand that gave evidence of engineering forethought. That is the reflection of the lamp in the piano gloss black finish you see, not engraved ridges designed to break up resonance points. They were powered by massive ModWright KWA 150 monoblocks fed from a ModWright LS 100 preamp. A Marantz CD player appeared to be the front end, but there was also the Mass Fidelity Relay hi-fi Bluetooth DAC and a laptop on top of the rack. While there was confusion about what the connections actually were, there was no doubt that the music was rock solid in this room. In fact, the best I've heard from System Audio speakers.

So that's a wrap on Part 2. In Part 3 you will see some extraordinary loudspeakers and a lot more.


---> Part 3 of our TAVES 2013 show report page.












































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