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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 6: Report By Rick Becker

Spinning out into the hall once again I noticed Rega has still not modified the painted mannequin legs to accommodate an operating turntable. (They're missing the boat on this one.) But they did incorporate a Roy Lichtenstein-like graphic along with a clear platter on an RP3 turntable equipped with an Elys 2 cartridge entitled "Spin Baby 3" for $1529, which puts "museum quality" industrial design into a lot more hands than the Naim amplifiers above.


Plurison countered the Naim Statement exhibit with an affordable presentation next door in the Pine East room. Of particular interest to me was the Focal Aria 905 monitor with the flax cone mid/woofer, a new two-way, front ported model for $1099 in this series that I've thought was such a great value since it was first introduced a year or so ago. The front half of the system was the Cocktail Audio X40 ($2795CDN) which I mentioned earlier in the report. This unit can act as a preamp in a conventional system with both RCA and balanced outputs, both fixed and variable which were selectable on the internal menu. It can rip CDs to whatever size hard drive you care to install, or you can feed it with whatever digital or analog source you care to connect, including a turntable. It does require a power amp (or powered speakers) to complete the system. In this case, the X40 was used as a source component fed into a Cambridge Audio Azur 851A Class XD integrated amplifier ($2199CDN). Their earlier models, the X12 and X30 ($1895CDN) had PCM DACs and were designed to be all-in-one systems. The X40 in operation here had a Sabre DAC chipset. Overall, this was a very nice sounding and certainly more affordable system than most at the show. My thanks to Eric of Plurison for sorting this out for me.


Off to the side, in silent mode, was the Rega RS-10 speaker which breaks new price barriers for Rega at $14,499CDN. Not only was the fit and finish superb as you expect in this price range, but there was the obviously unusual side-firing woofer and a flat (not conical) midrange driver mounted above the domed tweeter. Maybe we will hear it at Montreal?


And who could ignore the driving simulation display? Certainly not my editor! As I watched the young man careen his vehicle off the walls of the race course I understood why the computer was encased in the red tubular roll cage. Someday, in the not too distant future, perhaps, actual personal navigation of your own vehicle will be a luxury sport and not a common conveyance. That said, on the drive home, and for weeks following, I processed the impact of this new approach TAVES has taken. Certainly, doing shows the same old way will produce the same old results. This multiple interest approach mixes up the audience exposing non-audiophiles to something they probably didn't know existed. Maybe something of a voting system where attendees could vote for their favorite rooms in different categories would get people more involved and entice them to visit more rooms. A lot of people really enjoy music—it is part of our cultural DNA—so there should be a lot of interest in people coming to a show like this. Particularly since we are at an explosive point where high resolution music is becoming increasingly more affordable. (Think: portable DAC/amplifiers the size of a thumb drive.) It is easier than ever for young people to get on board and experience high quality music reproduction with just such a device and a decent set of headphones. The sky is the limit in High End audio, but is astronomically priced equipment necessary? I think not. The "absolute sound" is as elusive as the perfect wine. But does that mean we should not enjoy wine or enjoy recorded music?

A visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum at Thanksgiving was enlightening. My emotional buttons were pushed at every turn. They really get it right. They keep the focus on the music and the musicians. I have to wonder if the electronics industry doesn't lose a generation every time it switches to a new technology. My generation gave up on LPs, and many, but not all moved on to CDs. And now we're moving into an era of invisible media downloads, leaving the metal discs behind. But we are also re-discovering LPs, and CDs are sounding better than ever with new technology. Moreover, as I said above, the cost of high quality music reproduction is plummeting, even as statement hardware addresses the tiniest percent of our population. Certainly, the very high end needs to extend their exposure beyond audio shows to elite venues that cater to the very wealthy. And the other side of that coin is for very high value manufacturers at entry level prices to extend their exposure to more populist events. There are precious few such companies that could support an entry in NASCAR racing, but you get the idea. Sony has made a big effort in promoting "Hi-Res Audio" for example. Perhaps their effort, along with Apple/Beats, Neil Young/Pono and a bunch of companies doing crowdfunding for entry level products will shine enough light on the relatively small companies in our industry that we might fold up our umbrellas for a few years.

From my experience at the Montreal, Brooklyn and Toronto shows in the past year, it seems like the proliferation of audio shows is working to expose more people to better listening experiences. They don't all have to be big shows, and manufacturers don't need to put their weight behind all of them. As one distributor I spoke with told me, it is more effective for him to support local dealers to show his goods than to sponsor a room at every show himself. Supporting the brick and mortar guys is a good thing, too, as they're still around after the circus has left town.

The tent has come down at the Sheraton Centre Hotel in Toronto and those Ninja Turtles have probably driven off with that camouflaged Mercedes. TAVES was a bold experiment this year and I enjoyed it immensely. (I hope my coverage conveyed that enthusiasm.) It was not perfect, and there are some glitches that need to be addressed, but it seems to have brought a lot of people together to see a lot of interesting products that can enrich their lives. Let's hope consumer confidence will rise with the occasion and people will recognize the importance of music to their enjoyment of life.

Till we meet again in Montreal... Happy Holidays and Rock On!


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