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TAVES 2013 (Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show) Report Coverage
TAVES 2013 (Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show) Report
Part 3 By Rick Becker

  Executive Stereo presented a Moon Neo 380D DAC/preamp/streamer ranging in price from $4350 to $6050 depending on options, and a Neo 350P preamp priced from $3600 to $4400, again depending on options. The speakers were Vandersteen Treo in wood veneer for $6600, though other finishes are available. They were driven by Moon Neo 400M monoblocks putting out — you guessed it, 400 watts, at $4300 each. A Moon 810LP reference phono stage ($12,000) handled the signal from a Clearaudio Ovation turntable ($5990, without cartridge). I recognized that I liked the Moon Neo series electronics far more than previous efforts from Moon, which is saying a lot since I am pretty much a tube guy. And it was a real treat to hear the Vandersteen Treo, too. In general, the rooms presented more affordable speakers at this show, rather than flagship, cost-no-problem designs.

Moving in an even more affordable direction, Mike Manousselis of Dynaudio played 96kHz/24-bit high rez files from iTunes through a Moon Neo 260D for $3000 as configured with a DAC and four digital inputs. It also plays 192kHz/24-bit files and starts at $2000 as a CD transport. Power was supplied by the Neo 250i integrated putting out 50 wpc for $2300 which drove a pair of Dynaudio Excite 14 stand mounted monitors (I believe $1400 for the speakers and $250 for the stands). Nordost cables and Sort Kones no doubt made serious contributions to the fine sound that was transparent, focused and dynamic all for a price under $10,000. Very nice, but I'm going to be in trouble with Mike for missing the photo op here, too. It was getting late in the afternoon at this point, but I kept pushing onward.


The last room of the afternoon was a delightful surprise as my reference speakers are vintage Kharma that keep getting better as I upgrade everything upstream from them. But Kharma has new models which abandon the ceramic drivers and carry forward with drivers of their own design. The cabinets are virtually the same, save for the nameplate bling on the sides and the newly remodeled spikes and stand. Shown here was their entry level Elegance series S7 with a beryllium tweeter and 7" mid-woofer driver with their own composite cone. Frequency range is 29 Hz to 30 kHz and it was evident that the music was more refined and went deeper that my older Ceramique model. The price however, is higher — up around $29,000 in the US, I'm told. Efficiency has dropped to 86dB/W/m and maximum and SPL is rated at 106dB. I thought the bass was a little boomy in the lowest octave, but that may have been the room and/or the classical music recording. Overall, I'd say this new design puts them back at the world class level they occupied before they exited the US market a few years ago. Each of several times I stopped back at this room they were playing classical music, but at the end of the day on Sunday the room was empty and they let me rock with my compilation CD, proving that the bass is satisfyingly tight. With the right gear, these speakers will play in a much larger room than you would expect, and if they are like their predecessors, they will sound even better with tubes. Here at the show, they were driven by what looked to be higher line Moon monoblocks, and a complete Moon rig upstream from that including an 850P preamp with separate power supply. The turntable in residence was a Brinkman and a Torus power conditioner was also clearly in evidence as it was in many other rooms at the show. Canadian loyalty, perhaps.


Down in the lobby, a biker babe was familiarizing her children with the largest Harley Davidson. I made my way to the industry party in the Sovereign Ballroom and quickly traded my ticket for a Sleeman cream ale, something that is not readily available at my local Wegmans grocery store. Tasty, after a long day on the audio trail. It was a welcome opportunity to chat with manufacturers without having to gather data for the show report. Nonetheless I couldn't help but snap a few photos.


Tweaker extraordinaire Mike Tang couldn't resist amusing me with the iSeismometer app on their smart phone. Note how the needle jumped when I slammed my beer bottle down on the table.

Another app records my subsequent belch.

George Papadimitriou of DaGoGo puts his move on a young lady while I capture a photo of her hot pants to see if my new camera gives an accurate rendition of pink.


Mike Latvis of HRS and Jeff Joseph of Joseph Audio discover they are long lost twins, separated at birth.

Listening in to their conversation enhanced my deep respect for Mike's scientific knowledge of resonance control. It was interesting to learn of his consulting work with speaker manufacturers. And of course, I've revered Joseph's speakers since like, forever. Unfortunately, his speakers are so good that he rarely comes out with new models; hence opportunities for reviews are seldom available.


Likewise, I've had a very favorable reaction to the new tube electronics of George Counnas of Zesto. It was not surprising to learn that his wife, Carolyn, who has a background in architecture and interior design, is responsible for the physical design of their products. In reviewing the photo of their phono stage, preamp and power amp in Part 1, it occurred to me what a crime it is to stack them in a rack. Ideally they should be placed side by side on a unique wood table to offset the play of light and metal, and allow the sculptural wave forms to carry over from one piece to the next.


Gracious words of appreciation for support for TAVES were spoken by Suave Kajko, President of the show, and heartfelt applause for their hard work was returned to Suave, Simon Au and Raymond Li who brought it all together for the third year in a row.


The party after the party was even more relaxing as Bruno, the local Nordost rep also with Rutherford Audio whom I had been talking with earlier, got up on stage to play drums with the duo GIVE with singer Carol and guitarist Stephan who have appeared at this show (and Montreal) in previous years. A very nice treat, for sure.


Sunday, November 3rd
The harsh light of day was a welcome sight after the previous day of clouds and rain. I packed my bags, hurried through banana, granola bar, V8 juice and a couple of French Roast Keurig cups before downloading my gear to the Tracker and returning to the show.


Up on the 9th floor again, in the Crown Mountain Imports room (907) files from a laptop were fed into a Rowland Aeris DAC running proprietary algorithms then up to a Mimetism 15.2 amplifier driving the Kudos Super 20 speaker dressed in a gorgeous flat Tineo wood veneer that is a 10% upcharge over the $8500 base price. It is seen here next to an RJH speaker with concentric drivers and a super tweeter on top, also featuring beautiful woodwork. Everything was connected with Kimber Select cables and the sound confirmed the rave review of the Kudos speaker in the current issue. I've heard both these speakers in the past, and loved them each time. Note the speaker footers and speaker stand beneath the Kudos. Ron Harper and Alex Tiefenboeck were on hand to show me these sharps from Track Audio ($160 for 8) as well as the more massive coupling and de-coupling footers in stainless steel with a variety of threads that go for $800/4 or $600/3. A Mastersound Evolution 845 integrated amp ($8000) on silent display.


Moving on to the ANKits room (911) I met Brian Smith who ran me through their rig of completed kits, all on display with open chassis so you can see the complexity and quality of the parts. My friend Tom had expressed an interest in their DAC 2.1 kit that goes for $1525. I was personally interested in their Inter-Stage monoblock kit with parallel 300B tubes with C-core transformers as shown for $6850 or for $4500 for the EI-core version. The wiring is all pre-constructed to make it easy for the first time builder and everything is grounded. Just before I left, Kit Fung of ANKits entered and he explained that he had designed all the C-core transformers in their transformer shop in Ottawa. This brings me back to the note of caution expressed during my visit to the Audio Note room earlier. The ANKits seem to be using the basic Audio Note designs, but evolving them with their own expertise. I know from my own transformation of the Linn LP12 that this can sometimes be a very good thing, but it is then no longer possible to equate the two as they are no longer both apples. And likewise, you may well prefer one over the other. Personally, I think it is really healthy for the industry to have such kit manufacturers for those people who want a higher degree of involvement than merely paying for a finished product. Like the sign my wife has in the kitchen for all the grandpups to read: Play in the Dirt.


This year I had a chance to make amends to the McIntosh folks, whose room was on a hallway that I totally missed at last year's show. Here I had a chance to listen to a Mac rig driving Magnapan's 1.7 speakers and it was an absolutely delightful experience. I didn't realize how tall the 1.7 was; somehow thinking it was only slightly larger than their MMG. Coupled with Nordost cable, it was a very satisfying combination with transparency and delicacy, yet without any grossly tube coloration. In speaking with Jack Bakerjian of Audio Excellence, the hosts, I was introduced to the new Ayre KX-5 preamp priced at $8500, way below their reference model. A new Ayre KV5 (?) putting out 180 wpc into 8 Ohms, 360 wpc into 4 Ohms is a fully balanced design also $8500. In reviewing my notes now, I'm not sure just what was driving the Maggie 1.7s. Regardless, the confusion was a delightful experience. On a return visit to the room near the end of the show I had a rare opportunity to hear a McIntosh stand mounted monitor that was equally fine sounding, yet less prominent size-wise, but equally imposing, visually, with its aluminum surround of the two small midrange drivers and the tweeter. I've said it before — McIntosh speakers deserve much greater exposure than the company and retailers give them.

With a little luck I should be able to finish up in Part 4 reveal my list of the rooms and gear that left me with the greatest impressions. Stay tuned!


---> Click here for part 4 of our TAVES 2013 report.












































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