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TAVES Consumer Electronics Show 2014 (Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show) Report
TAVES Consumer Electronics Show 2014 Show Report (Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show)
Part 4: Report By Rick Becker

A week later we discovered we must have been sitting at the same table as a reporter from 6moons as this photo looks almost the same as his—except he photo shopped a moon into the sky, I suspect. The Indian food was so hot it melted our ear wax--but the food was delicious! It was amazing how good the rooms sounded on Sunday. On the way back to the Hilton we passed this Condom Shack, which I thought would be bustling with business on a Saturday night until I read the fine print in the window: Shop Online Anytime. Back in the 1960s we had Head Shops. Not the same thing. I guess it's like Mr. Dylan sings today: Times have changed.


Back at the lobby of the Hotel we happened upon a bunch of Ninja Turtles about to commandeer the tricked out Mercedes. No messing with these guys. Looks like the perfect get-up for concealed carry.


Sunday Morning On The 4th Floor
With no McDonalds in sight or even the near vicinity, we settled for slow service and healthy food at a trendy eatery a couple blocks away and then downloaded our non-essential gear into Tom's car. Sunday was another workday.


The 4th Floor was basically "L"-shaped with larger rooms along the first hallway after exiting the elevator. The large Davenport room occupied by Wynn Audio looked barren when I entered, but this visual desert came to life with music courtesy of the Canadian premiere of the Tidal Audio Contriva G2 speakers from Germany driven by a complete Reimyo rig. It took a minute to recognize the room was totally tricked out with Harmonix footers, tuning tips, Room Tuning Devices and Enacom AC and line level filters. The front wall was covered with a distribution tuning dots and tiny metal bowls on wooden blocks. Tuning dots were on the other walls as well. Laugh if you will, but this was one of the very Best Rooms at the show from any perspective except cost. It's expensive, though far less than a private jet. The speakers list for $65,000. Reimyo electronics totaled almost $85,000 and the Harmonix tuning gear and stands and ASI Resonators on the walls probably bring it up tens of thousands more. A little round spool about the size of a Tinker Toy connector sitting on the front edge of each monoblock caught my attention. It was comprised of two thick layers of maple wood of differing density separated by a thin layer of Indian rosewood comprising a constrained layer damping system. We ran a brief sighted A/B comparison with and without and they did seem to smooth out the treble with some classical music featuring violins. The excellence of a system can be the accumulation many such small improvements. The price was "only" $110, possibly for a pair. At the back of the room was a small single driver acoustic suspension monitor, the Encore, adorned with Harmonix tuning devices which replaces the Bravo speaker I saw at Brooklyn. At $9000/pair it would have to be pretty special and it might well be. I've learned not to underestimate the Reimyo/Harmonix room. Unfortunately, it was on silent display.


Across the hall in the Kensington room was another presentation by Audio Excellence who also appeared on the second floor, in the Headphone Zone, and further down the hall here on the 4th floor in a smaller room. Their big guns were here with Wilson Audio Sasha II speakers driven by even more beautiful D'Agostino preamp and monoblocks with gleaming copper sided chassis. MSB Technology Platinum Diamond DAC IV and separate universal transport along with a separate power base which powered both pieces formed the front end while Nordost cabling brought it all together—all except the aluminum shipping cases for the D'Agostino gear which were placed on chairs at the back of the room with their tops open to act as room treatment. Clever, but you'll probably want something in your home that integrates more elegantly with the rest of your décor. The MSB DAC and Transport featured sculptural heat sinks along the sides and the two units had very compliant built-in suspensions to reduce structural and airborne vibrations. It wouldn't surprise me to find some ERS paper or vibration absorbing materials to handle the EMI/RFI and vibrations generated inside the chassis, too. This particular front end was configured with all the whistles and bells MSB offers and was about $45,000US, but it can be scaled back to only suit your current needs at a lower price. Here again was another of the very Best Rooms at the show. I was captivated both in the mid-field seating position in the front row as well as standing near the back of the room where the music took on the guise of being presented in a large venue. Equally engaging. Compared to the previous room, the music had a little more body and was a little warmer, but it was different music in a different room. The host, Adrian Low, explained that they almost locked the door and went home when they couldn't solve a boomy bass issue during set-up. I recall that it was Vince Galbo from MSB who came to their rescue by pulling the speakers further forward so the side waves did not reverberate in a small alcove off to one side. This solution allowed good sound throughout the plentiful seating area, though if I were using this room for my personal listening room I would have oriented the speakers on the long wall, slightly offset from the center line to give me an even wider sound stage with diminished side reflections. But I'm sure they delighted more people set up the way it was. This is not the first time I've heard D'Agostino drive Wilson speakers with such aplomb and here again, I was not the least bit bothered by the absence of tubes in the system.


Just to break things up, the Forest Hill room sponsored by EluneVision featured a complete surround sound home theater experience with a JVC X500 projector ($5000) throwing light at the 130" EluneVision Purebright projection screen. The new (to me at least) Atmos audio format with Onkyo Atmos speakers designed to sit atop the left and right R900 Kef tower speakers were supposed to bounce sound off the ceiling to create a greater sense of height in the sound scape. Not being particularly well versed in home theater, or familiar with the music video complete with dancing babes (what isn't these days?) I didn't notice anything particularly special here, but maybe that's the same response home theater and DWTS fans had when visiting the two previous high end audio rooms. The 130" screen certainly does recreate the cinema situation in a moderate size room, though. The heart of the audio rig here was a Denon receiver, about $2400.


It was good to see Jay Rein of Bluebird Music again, particularly because, along with Soundstage Fine Audio in Waterloo, Ontario, he treated us to yet another of the very Best Rooms at the show with the gorgeous Estelon speakers driven by Ayre preamp and monoblocks. There was a Brinkman Balance turntable with a 10.5 tonearm and a Benz Ruby Z cartridge sitting on an HRS base with a black anodized surround and black granite-looking vibration absorbing material to complement the black turntable. The tube power supply for the turntable was on a shelf below. I heard Allison Kraus and Union Station from their 2LP Live album singing "The Boy Who Wouldn't Hoe Corn" sound very live while sitting in the chair next to the left speaker, far off-axis from the usual sweet spot dead center between the speakers. How cool is that?! Music from the right speaker was attenuated as it would be in a live performance but the incredible transparency, focus, dynamics and "they are here" music was just as believable far off axis as it was front and center. That doesn't happen very often. What else doesn't happen very often is to walk into a room that looks like it could be a dedicated listening room in a real home, not a hotel. And this one was decked out to the nines with classic mid-century modern chairs that could have been the real thing, cowhide and faux fur black rugs, and classic photos of music icons including early Bob Dylan in the Columbia Studios, John Lennon & Yoko Ono, Amy Winehouse and Pete Townshend. And a jungle's worth of green plants that looked like they could have come from, well... my listening room. Yes, plants are good for more than just gobbling up carbon dioxide. The digital front end was an Accuphase Precision MDSD SA-CD Player DP 720 ($27,000) that also accepted files from a computer on the shelf above it. Also on the rack was a Chord Hugo portable DAC/headphone amp that is a very popular item for people with a home rig that are also on the go a lot. I've heard earlier versions of the Ayre preamp and monoblocks along with some very highly regarded speakers and not been very impressed with them. It was probably a case of the vendor not achieving the system synergy with cables and tweaks that was accomplished here. The room set-up, no doubt, has a lot to do with it, too. And $77,000 speakers be damned, they got this room really, really right.

Just thinking about these three super-rooms on the 4th floor has worn me out. I'll get back to you with more in a few days with a lot more.


---> Rick Becker's TAVES 2014 show report part 5.













































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