TAVES — Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show 2013

by Audiophilia on October 31, 2013 · 23 comments

in Audiophilia Visits/Show Reports

A little later this year, but another strong TAVES show. The third annual. Held at a venerable Toronto hotel, The King Edward, the show was well attended by local audiophiles and major manufacturers, distributors and dealers, many of them Canadian. I’ve attended shows in cities where a dealer from down the road didn’t show up. And, one show where some major players didn’t know a show was on in their town!

As usual, TAVES’ organization was superb. Easy access, well signed directions, smiling faces, plentiful elevators, good food in and around the hotel — all the requirements for an enjoyable audio show experience. Adding great sound was the cherry. There was lots of great sound to be heard. However, there were quite a few room setups playing subpar repertoire, far too loudly, on equipment that seemed poorly matched. The ‘audio show hotel sound’ caveat cannot apply because several rooms of different sizes got it so right. In fact, one of the finest digital setups I’ve heard at any show was in one of the smallest rooms. Interestingly, several pieces of kit that sounded very good at the recent Denver show were matched here with different anciliaries and sounded even better. More about these later.

For the most part, room demos were ready for the Friday 10:00 a.m. start to the show. The sound may not be the best first thing on Friday morning, but the crowds are quite sparse so it’s easy to navigate. As the day progesses, the hallways populate and stay busy ’till football kickoff on Sunday.

The Focal - JM Lab Utopia III ‘Grande Utopia EM’ Loudspeaker stands sentry in the hotel lobby ($195,000/pair).

The Focal - JM Lab Utopia III ‘Grande Utopia EM’ Loudspeaker stands sentry in the hotel lobby ($195,000/pair)

Three major Canadian distributors that carry the majority of important US, Canadian and European brands had seventeen rooms out of the hundred plus between them! Way to support high end audio, Audiopathways, Tricell Enterprises and Plurison. In fact they each had their own ‘zones’.

Plurison had some exceptional (and inexpensive) Focal speakers on display including the Focal Aria 926 ($3,000/pair) and the sexy Easya Loudspeakers in white ($2,799/pair). Both had Focal’s rich, detailed house sound, a sound that follows the genealogy right up to the magnificent Focal Grande Utopias ($195,000/pair). For less than the inexpensive Focals, were the Cambridge Audio Aero 2 Loudspeakers ($599/pair). Well made and filling a medium sized room, the Cambridge Audio Streamer Minx Xi ($1,000) and the Aero 2 speakers were giving hopeful audiophiles an honourable way in to the high end. Sure, you can spend megabucks, but the Cambridge Audio systems and the Rega kit in the next room opens the window and lets the good sound in.

Focal Aria 926 ($2,999/pair).

Focal Easya ($2799/pair).

Cambridge Audio Aero 2 Loudspeaker ($599/pair).

One of the most remarkable sounds for the price point I’ve heard at any show was Magnepan’s 1.7 Loudspeaker. At only $2,000/pair, I would say one of the very best deals in high end audio. They were blowing minds with gorgeously detailed sounds and fantastic imaging. Two caveats before you run for the credit card. The ‘Maggies’ were hooked up to about 100K worth of McIntosh kit — they like a lot of very clean power and the sweet spot is very sweet and also very small, But, if you can find a good, inexpensive front end that can drive these monoliths and have a dedicated room, you could probably buy them unheard and still begin a passionate love affair. I don’t usually recommend high end blind dates.

Magnificent Maggie. She's a cheap date, too!

Magnificent Maggie. She was a cheap date, but a keeper.

Garth Leerer from Musical Surroundings was up from Oakland, CA and had a very musical setup. He was using Mike Yee’s classic Nova II Phono Stage ($1200) with an AMG Viella 12 turntable ($17,500) and Marten Design Django XL Loudspeakers ($15,950/pair). The vinyl rig was first class. Leerer had the famously audiophile Kojian/Utah Symphonie Fantastique LP playing. The sound (and performance) was so good, it inspired us to talk about love affairs with actresses, opium addiction, hallucinations, beheadings and obsession. Fun! I heard a smaller version of the Martens last month at the Denver show. Really good sound from this Swedish company.

AMG Viella 12 Turntable ($17,500) with Benz Micro SLR cartridge ($3,000).

Marten Design Django XL Loudspeaker ($15,950/pair).

Much like some very good local dealers who supported the Denver show, a few excellent dealers from Toronto and Montreal had very good setups. It’s interesting that the DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/93 Loudspeakers ($8,500/pair) sounded very fine in Denver under the auspices of their designer, but here in Toronto, as setup by Montreal dealer Coup de Foudre, sounded even better. There was no clutter in the room — the setup was Bauhaus in spirit and looked very elegant. The O/93s were about eight feet apart and toed in 10 degrees (very similar to the designer’s setup), but here were hooked up to a couple of tube beauties, the Shindo Monbrison Preamplifier ($10,000), Shindo Montille CV391 Amplifier ($7,000) and the wonderful Luxman PO - 171 turntable with arm ($6400) and EMT TSD 15 SF cartridge ($1950). The sound of Glenn Gould’s later CBS Goldberg Variations recording was absolutely superb — musical, detailed with Gould’s ‘difficult’ playing captured perfectly to my liking. At $8500, the Devores should be on anybody’s audition list.

Exposition de Coup de Foudre et superbe!

Another relatively inexpensive speaker was the Kudos Super 20 ($8,000/pair) powered by the Mimetism 15.2 ($8,000). These speakers sounded a little more ‘box like’ than the wider and thinner DeVores, but they were very dynamic and portrayed a small jazz combo with wonderful musicality. The fleshed out instruments and seemingly unlimited power through two drivers was in no doubt helped by the Mimetism amplification. A very good, inexpensive English speaker.

Sitting next to the Kudos but powered by the Mastersound Evolution 845 ($16,540), was Ron Harper’s newest version of his The Reference One Loudspeaker ($21,900/pair). It sounded very refined and had a very transparent, airy sound. The craftsmanship of these Canadian speakers is exceptional. They look as good as they sound. Look for a review of these and the Kudos soon. Both speakers are represented by Crown Mountain Imports.

Ron Harper's redesigned RJH Audio The New Reference One Loudspeaker ($21,900/pair) stands next to the slightly smaller Kudos Super 20 Loudspeaker ($8,000/pair)

CDs were again in hiding, but lots of good digital/file solutions and turntables were playing. Clearaudio had a turntables few on static display (the Emotion is coming for review this year) and Brinkmann’s Oasis showed that red could be rad. A stunning looking piece of kit. And, rooms such as the Muraudio showed that LEDs and purple lights can never go wrong at an audio show. The Domain loudspeakers ($48,000/pair) sounded musical with a very pleasant sound signature.

Muraudio Domain Loudspeakers ($48,000/pair)

A few grumbles. Each room should have a detailed equipment/price list, Some did, many did not. It saves a lot of questions and keeps the chatting down. A short musical setlist would be great, too. Preferably, one without La Krall. I guess the Torontonians didn’t get the same memo that the Rocky Mountain gang received. in Denver, she was nowhere to be found. In her homeland, she was not to be denied! That said, the show organizers thought of everything concerning administration of a successful show. It was a pleasure to attend. From the scuttlebutt, attendance was up over the past two shows but the show felt a little smaller — three floors instead of four. No matter, as audiophiles could hear many of our avocation’s major players. I hope the exhibitors can turn listeners into customers.

Clearaudio Ovation Turntable ($5,990).

Clearaudio Ovation Turntable ($5,990).

Brinkmann Oasis Turntable ($12,500) with Tri-Planar arm ($5,700).

Brinkmann Oasis Turntable ($12,500) with Tri-Planar arm ($5,700).

Best Sound of Show

This is my favourite part of any show report. Sometimes, clear choices, sometimes, much more difficult. TAVES 2013 highlighted a few great sounding rooms, some of which improved as the show went on. We attended all three days. The following choices, however, were evident from Day One.

Best Sound of Show — Digital

bel canto/Vienna Acoustics/Transparent. An easy first choice. Listening to Glenn Gould and Rimsky Korsakov orchestral music was a humbling experience. The new bel canto ‘Black’ is a complete digital/amplification system ($55,000) and was heard at length through the marvellous Vienna Acoustics ‘The Kiss’ Loudspeakers ($18,500/pair). The ‘Black’ system includes three boxes — the C1 Controller and the PMD1 Power DAC monoblock (x2). We’ll be getting the bel canto system for review soon.

Best Sound of Show — Analogue

Bergmann Audio/Raidho Acoustics/Audia Flight/Sutherland Engineering/Transparent. Walking into this room was like an audiophile oasis. A Gene Ammons LP was on the the Danish-made Bergmann Magne Turntable ($12,999 incl. air bearing arm). Ammons’ breathy tenor sax was in the room sounding like live music. Beautiful, balanced, defined, rich, present. And, when listening to the incredible Esoteric LP reissue of Kertesz/Vienna New World, the tingle meter jumped through the roof. It was so refined. Sitting next to Audiophilia writer James Norris (another conductor and a brilliant violist) was instructive. We just kept smiling at specific moments where the sound reproduction transported us from hotel room to concert hall. World class. The sound had the power and the might, but with a velvet glove. I’m already planning negotiations with my wife after the upcoming review.

The Magne Turntable (and the more expensive Sindre and Sleipner turntables) are modern, Danish designs of simplicity and sophistication. A difficult achievement, but it’s what great designers do. The Bergmann Audio air bearing, tangential tracking arm (included with the ‘table) is a big cherry on the cake. It looks and feels amazing. Tolerances are microscopic and, when sliding the arm’s tube over the air stream, feels perfect. Complementing the Bergmann were the Sutherland Engineering Power Block phono stage ($11,000), Raidho Acoustics D-1 Loudspeakers and the Audia Flight Strumento pre/power combination. The Raidhos and AF kit are very well known to me. You can find our recent, very positive reviews of both Raidho Acoustics and Audia Flight in a quick search on Audiophilia. All the manufacturers make excellent musical bedfellows with the sexy Bergmann.

The Bergmann Magne 'table is fantastic, the arm even better. If that's possible?

Best Sound of Show — Budget

Magnepan. Another easy choice. The Magnepan 1.7 Loudspeakers. We’ve already mentioned the idiosyncrasies, but at $2,000/pair, a steal.

The Maggies sang beautifully, but hooked up to a very expensive stack-o-Mac.

Best Sound of Show — Honourable Mentions

A couple of rooms stood out.

Marten/AMG/Luxman. I very much enjoyed listening to the Marten Django loudspeaker/AMG Viella turntable/Luxman amplification combination imported into Canada by The Gramophone, assisted at TAVES by US distributor, Garth Leerer of Musical Surroundings. The pictures of the speakers and turntable appear earlier in the show report. Germany and Sweden matching perfectly for really dynamic and musical sound.

Acoustic Zen/Accustic Arts. A loudspeaker that sounded very good in Denver but quite wonderful here in Toronto was the Acoustic Zen Crescendo ($14,000/pair) driven by Accustic Arts electronics. The music — I did not recognize the track, but it was gentle Electronica recorded beautifully — sounded tactile and completely resolved. I’m a big fan of Germany’s Accustic Arts and they paired brilliantly with the AZs. Acoustic Zen and Accustic Arts are imported into Canada by Tricell Enterprises.

Acoustic Zen Crescendos ($14,000/pr.). From the design bench of Robert Lee.

Whether you had $500 or $195K to spend or attending just for the love of audio, there was something special for you to enjoy and audition at TAVES. I was surprised that some of the very successful ‘corporate’ Canadian high end companies did not support the show. However, seeing smiling, happy audiophiles, passionate dealers, distributors and manufacturers, in sunny weather, and hearing some very fine sound was a wonderful way to spend a weekend up in the Great White North.

Anthony Kershaw

Photo Gallery

Canadian distributor Tricell Enterprises had a good headphone room. Woo Audio held court along with Sennheiser and Audeze headphones.

Acapella High Violoncello MK II Loudspeaker ($59,999/pair)

Well Tempered Amadeus Turntable ($3135 incl. arm).

Charisma Audio's new moving coil cartridge. Nicely done! ($995).

Audio Space WE 918 300B Amplifier. Those tubes are glorious! ($5600)

Lots of choice each day.

Bryston's Model T Signature Loudspeaker ($7500/pair).

Gershman Black Swan Loudspeakers ($45,000/pr.).

Adsum Audio's Detonator speaker in carbonfibre ($1100/pair).

Kharma Elegance S7 Loudspeakers ($20,000/pair).

System Audio Pandion 2 Loudspeaker ($5500/pair) with Kimber Kable Select KS 6063 Speaker Cable ($5,000/eight foot pair).

Coda 155 Class A Amplifier ($10,000).

Line-o-Duals.

Nottingham Space 294 ($3979) and Ace Space 12" Tonearm ($2249).

Wynn 'The Magic Flute' Loudspeaker ($85,000/pair).

Italy's Pathos Acoustics T.T. Amplifier ($7995).

{ 2 trackbacks }

Bergman magne
11.22.13 at 10:21 am
Krolo Design Tomo Audio Racks and ‘Enhansers’ — Audiophilia
12.20.13 at 11:26 am

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Ron 11.04.13 at 12:51 pm

Hello Anthony,
Thank you for stopping by our room and for including us in your report.
It was a pleasure seeing you again and meeting your lovely wife, perhaps even the high light of the show for me.
I am glad that there are people like you with such great passion for music that are continually driving our industry forward.
I would also like to thank you for your kind words.
I hope to see you again very soon.
Thanks again,

Ron.

admin 11.04.13 at 1:12 pm

Thank you so much for the very kind words, Ron. Great job on the new speakers. Looking forward to reviewing them. Talk soon.

Cheers, a

sean 11.04.13 at 2:53 pm

I too was surprised by the lack of a couple major Canadian players not attending - namely PSB and Paradigm. As a PSB owner myself I was looking forward to seeing some of the offerings from them - ie comparing my Image speakers to the Imagine and Synchrony speakers, and trying out their much lauded MRU 2 headphones. Seeing as Paul Barton himself managed to attend CEDIA in the states I would have thought they’d at least have a dedicated room - nope. I did content myself though with finding some great headphones by Focal - in particular their ” Spirit Ones “. I must also give thanks to MY personal favorite room - the SVS set up. Nice to see an American company that has such outstanding customer service set up a Display for us Canadians. Other sub manufacturers such as HSU, PSA, and Rythmik were no where to be found, and leads me to believe they could care less about the Canadian Market. I was blown away by the SVS Ultra speakers on display - and thought their home theater demo was the best in show.
Hopefully next year we’ll see some more dedicated rooms from our Canadian manufacturers from PSB - Paradigm - Axiom - Totem … HELLO? Where were you??? Missed opportunity!

davidBRUCE 11.04.13 at 3:07 pm

Still missing seeing Verity in Toronto show. They always are brilliant in Montreal show. Seminars were great. Dealers are getting friendlier.

Don 11.04.13 at 10:43 pm

Hi Anthony,
Thanks for coming by the Kimber/System Audio room. I would just like to clarify that the Kimber Select used with the System Audio Pamdion 2 Speakers actually were the KS 6063’s that have a Canadian ,retail price of $5000.
Sorry for the confusion.

Regards
Don

admin 11.05.13 at 7:19 am

Great to see you, Don. Laughs! Wonderful sound in your room, too. Congrats. The changes have been made. Thanks for the heads up.

Cheers, a

Lars Kristensen 11.05.13 at 11:37 am

Dear Anthony,

Thank you very much for the nice comments about our products, We do appreciate it a lot. Also thank you for the great review you did on our Raidho D-3…

Kind regards
Lars

admin 11.05.13 at 11:41 am

You are most welcome, Lars. You have created remarkable loudspeakers.

Cheers, a

Rob 11.05.13 at 12:43 pm

Thanks Anthony for including us in your report and for the positive words. The Muraudio Domain Omni ESLs are not only an entirely new product but a new class of loudspeaker - the world’s first 360 degree point source, omni-directional continuous curve high output electrostat. Comments from hundreds who auditioned them could be summed up to say that the clarity, presence and response of the Domains opened up the sound stage to accurately recreate the original performance with ease.

I’d also like to mention our partners Nordost and Simaudio. The fidelity of Simaudio’s Moon Evolution Series 750D DAC and 74oP pre-amp, paired with the transparency of Nordost Tyr2 reference cables, delivered a memorable high end audio experience to our visitors.

We hope you will have the opportunity to hear the Domain Omni ESLs again soon. LED lighting optional ;)

Cheers,

Rob

…and for Sean, we are a Canadian company - each pair of Domains are hand made at our facility in Ottawa. Hope to see you at the next show.

Mike 11.05.13 at 2:02 pm

Thought the Bryston room was best in show. The giant killer Model Ts are a truly amazing louspeaker. Had a great time in Toronto!

Bryan Taylor 11.05.13 at 10:55 pm

Thanks for the kind words about our system and the outstanding sound in Room 945 - The Gramophone Distribution Company. The Marten Django XL, Luxman amplification, Luxman DAC along with AMG Viella Turntable and Benz Cartridge. Just to be clear, The Gramophone is the distributor for Marten in Canada these past 6 years and all the electronics, cables from Audioquest and sources were from our store in Edmonton Alberta. We were very pleased to have Garth’s participation and we hope to participate in future shows together.
Nice Report - Bryan Taylor, The Gramophone

admin 11.06.13 at 5:01 am

Thanks, Rob. I heard lots of good things ablaut the Muraudio speakers from other show goers, too. Nicely done.

Cheers, a

admin 11.06.13 at 5:02 am

Thanks for your input, Mike. It was lots of fun. Will you be getting the Brystons?

All the best, a

admin 11.06.13 at 5:10 am

Hi Bryan:

In the hurly burly of covering a show in a short amount of time, I assumed ‘Gramophone’ was the venerable British magazine and that Musical Surroundings, the US distributor was the main player in the room. Glad to see another Canadian distributor supporting the show. And, with such excellent products.

Thanks for clarifying. I’ll also add a note in the body of the show report. All the very best.

Cheers, a

David Cope 11.06.13 at 5:07 pm

Best budget sound to a system over $100k? Novel, at best.

Rooms should supply a short playlist? What if the playlist is scores of cuts long? How will that help? What’s wrong with conversation? The exhibitor can identify gear used, music just, or about to be, played AND answer a question or two between cuts.

admin 11.06.13 at 5:19 pm

“Best budget sound to a system over $100k?” No.

“Rooms should supply a short playlist?” Yes.

“What if the playlist is scores of cuts long?” Like Mahler 9? That would be long.

“How will that help?” New repertoire suggestions for room visitors is always fun.

“What’s wrong with conversation?” Nothing. Love it. Especially at audio shows.

“The exhibitor can identify gear used, music just, or about to be, played AND answer a question or two between cuts.”

Sure can. Some can do four or five tasks.

Anything else? Hope you enjoyed the show.

David Cope 11.06.13 at 6:32 pm

Really? I could swear I just read the following:

“One of the most remarkable sounds for the price point I’ve heard at any show was Magnepan’s 1.7 Loudspeaker. At only $2,000/pair, I would say one of the very best deals in high end audio. They were blowing minds with gorgeously detailed sounds and fantastic imaging. Two caveats before you run for the credit card. The ‘Maggies’ were hooked up to about 100K worth of McIntosh kit . . .”

Best Sound of Show - Budget
“Magnepan. Another easy choice. The Magnepan 1.7 Loudspeakers. We’ve already mentioned the idiosyncrasies, but at $2,000/pair, a steal.”

How, exactly, do the speakers sound without the $100k of gear in front of them?Pretty darn quiet, I’ll warrant. A component can only be assessed as part of a system. This system is scarcely budget, which point I’m sure you recognize, but hope to avoid through snarky, purposefully dim rejoinders.

admin 11.06.13 at 8:23 pm

Don’t be silly. Even through my clunky prose, you know exactly what I mean.If not, no worries. Best to move on and not worry about my choice. And, once again, I hope you enjoyed the show.

Mark 11.07.13 at 6:50 pm

Great write up Antony, thank you! This was my third year at TAVES. Yes it did seem smaller, but just as busy. I managed a wonderful four hours on Sunday and took some video.

The Magnepan sounded detailed but somewhat anemic, but then I wasn’t in the sweet spot. I really enjoyed the Muraudio and Joseph Audio rooms, among others that you mentioned. The Legacy room left me wondering what they did wrong. The red horned Acapella with plasma tweeter sounded very sweet indeed with the right music. Bryston was in the same beautiful large room again on the second floor, and their new Model T speakers filled it admirably with authoritative midbass Leonard Cohen goodness again. I rather liked the Focus room.

There are just so many variables involved in any room, but I guess that’s what’s makes it so fun and each room rather unpredictable.

I posted my very amateur video to bring back memories for those who visited, and give those who didn’t just a slight taste of what they missed. :)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Akrkwoa5s2k

Mark

Angie 11.11.13 at 10:30 pm

Hi All, I see Seans point- where were all the major manufactures of our industry. It has fallen on the dealers to support this show as if they didn’t do enough in this audio trade with everyday catering to customers who love audio. Manufacturers need to step up as they did years ago and make the show more of an event for those who pay and take the time to come to see products. Times have changed but customers need to touch and feel the product and dealers can only do so much. Manufactures need to step up and support the industry more and allow the dealers to take a look at what manufactures have to offer so the industry can grow. This is coming from someone who has done many shows and listen to paying vistors-Hope you step up next year.

Joseph Crowe 11.27.13 at 1:00 pm

I thought in general the rooms were sounding a lot better than the previous year. I think everybody up’d their game for sure as far as how to present in a difficult environment such as a hotel room. One thing I’d like to see is showcasing more Canadian Artist’s music. I think this will help both industries.

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