TAVES — Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show 2012

by Audiophilia on October 1, 2012 · 14 comments

in Audiophilia Visits/Show Reports

by Anthony Kershaw

Photography by Rick Nickel

After last year’s exceptional debut of the Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show (TAVES), my expectations for another great show was typical of most selfish, fixated audiophiles. Once again, southern Ontario audiophiles were treated to the very best in high fidelity — the show was extremely well organized and attended by manufacturers of some of the best equipment now in front of our listening chairs. Thankfully, for this attendee, surround sound and TV were in short supply. And, courtesy of Apple and its new iPhone 5 ‘Lightning’ charging port/connector, sound docks were at home getting rejigged from the long standard thirty pin connector. These two major absentees left us with lots of gorgeous, two channel goodies upon which to feast our ears and eyes.

A few trends this year, and some quite positive. First, prices have come down on top quality kit. Sure, there are lots of sub $500 complete mini systems, but, at least here in Toronto (we’ll find out in the daddy of shows in Denver in two weeks) prices on gear from famous manufacturers seem to have dropped. Let’s call it ‘value added’.

Another continuing trend is the $1000 — $2000 mini system. It’s a good thing for budget conscious audiophiles. I heard fine mini systems from Cabasse, Quad, Epsilon, and NuForce. All these systems looked as good as they sounded. They do not replicate or come close to a fine home system in your major listening room, but sound a hell of a lot better that most headphones and box store speakers.

I’ll mention some of the better value added kit as we continue, but I should mention a little of the location and general sound/rooms. The King Eddy is a fine, dowager duchess of a hotel, with solid rooms and a stately demeanour. Rooms were comfortable and ranged from ‘big enough’ to large suites to conference sized areas for the seminars and trade floor. The trade floor product stands ranged from iPhone 5 and iPad covers to Audio Note kits! Yes, a wide range. And, some healthy LP and CD sales among the punters, from what I observed. LP prices were low, low, low. Quality pressing second hand box sets for $10 and lots of good quality labels from $5. I expect to see ‘audiophile’ CD prices drop in the coming years. I like a demo CD as much as the next guy, but $70! We understand ‘R&D’ and limited pressings, but c’mon!

We attended the first two days. Audiophilia’s traditional show report deadline of Monday 9 a.m. after the show precluded Sunday attendance. We got to hear everything at the show, with some rooms in depth and a few great ones at length.

Sound in general? Friday morning was bad. I mean, execrably bad. Bright, harsh, overblown, beamy, boomy, some speakers out of phase. Yup! Bad! Happily, things got better as they day wore on. Or, was that my ears attuning? Seriously, folks rebalanced the room, turned the bloody things down, shifted gear, something. Whatever they did it worked. Sadly, some just let it sit there and smell (to quote my flute Prof. regarding one of my bad intonation days at the office!).

Usher Audio CP-8571 DIAMOND DMD Loudspeaker ($11K).

Usher Audio CP-8571 Diamond Loudspeaker ($11K). Talk about value added. An excellent speaker.

Saturday, the sound in many rooms was much better than the noted improvement from Friday afternoon. Warm, detailed, and appropriate volumes. But, repertoire was similar. I think one of my daily TAVES tweets was ‘OMG, if I hear one more Diana Krall track, I’m gonna freak!’. With a knee bend to her amazing engineers and fantastic musicians, I’m not a fan. C’mon trade, there are other artists to play. In fact, I say let’s have a moratorium on all female jazz singers at shows, at least for a while, unless requested. Many are average and their mediocrity is only highlighted by fantastic, audiophile sound. Denver gang, you reading this? If you must, there is this gal called Ella who sounds great on CD and vinyl.

One of my friends at the show commented how much ambient noise there was this year and it did seem to be noisier in each room. Lots of excited audiophiles talking and asking questions while others tried to listen. A risk at shows. That said, we must emphasize that our dear readers take all our comments with that in mind. I heard two speakers that I truly love sound pretty average in noisy, smaller rooms. As always, shows are for looking as much as hearing. Find what you like then go to your local dealer and hear the equipment properly under much better conditions. You’ll be much happier with your purchase. I did see lots of ’show prices’ on quality gear. Sure, it’s tempting (for both audiophile and manufacturer), but do you really want to risk your hard earned dollars to save a few bucks. Take your time. Your (quality) dealer is your friend.

Ron Sutherland of Sutherland Engineering holding his new 20/20 phono preamp. ($2.5K)

Ron Sutherland of Sutherland Engineering holding his new 20/20 phono preamp. ($2.5K)

Like all the shows I’ve attended over the years, audiophiles are a passionate, friendly bunch. Whether a dealer, distributor, manufacturer or even press, we love to share our passion with others. And it showed here in Toronto. I spoke to lots of folks, many non trade. What a great group of people. Music lovers, all. Where can you discuss the merits of the Amadeus Quartet in comparison with the Aeolian Quartet other than on a couch with a stranger at an audio show listening to said groups on a 100K system? Wonderful!

A very popular lady. Dynaudio offered quality espresso.

A very popular lady. A local dealer offered quality espresso.

I had very interesting conversations about the business in general, music and equipment heard with folks from bel canto, Transparent, Dynaudio (a very interesting wireless full system called Xeo), Cabasse, Ceol (a new Canadian electronics company with very clean, detailed sounding electronics), and local dealers and distributors like Audio Excellence (highlighting outstanding sound from Cary Audio electronics and KEF speakers), Charisma Audio (some fantastic kit I’ll mention later) and two heavy hitters in Ontario/Canada, Audio Pathways and Tri-Cell Enterprises [Disclosure - both long time Audiophilia advertisers - Ed]. The latter two companies had four rooms each and truly promote high end audio in our province and across Canada. I still can’t believe some major Ontario manufacturers and dealers/distributors don’t attend. It’s the one place other than the dealer you should be on show.

Of course, we can’t report on everything. As such, lots of great kit will be missed. Apologies for that, especially to the hard working manufacturers. Hopefully your fine company appears in print or in a photo. There are many photos added at the end of the review. And we’ll be adding new photos every day this week.

We’ll continue with RJH Audio’s The Reference One loudspeakers ($8K). Pinpoint accuracy from an Alnico driver housed in the most exquisite cabinet. Artisanal cabinet making and Alnico. Review pair on their way!

RJH Audio’s The Reference One loudspeakers ($7K).

The Capriccio Continuo ATD Ad/Submonitor loudspeaker ($25K) are below. Clean and refined sound from the Italian manufacturer. Expensive, yes, wonderful, for sure.

PenAudio Ceyna loudspeakers. This beautifully finished mini monitor has the very best that monitors offer but some oomph with it. I heard them last year at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest and was intrigued then. Even better here in Toronto.

I’ve always loved the look of McIntosh Labs if not the price. The complete system shown here was dynamic and very musical. I have not heard McIntosh speakers before, but the whole McIntosh ecosystem sounded like it had complete control over the music.

Casta Audio had its Model C three way loudspeaker on show. Not usually a fan of horns, mainly because of the look, but Casta’s sound was wonderful. Very sophisticated with accurate timbres and lots of power. Beautiful Italian craftsmanship, too.

Cables? The major players were around, some static, but the rooms I liked were using either Nordost, Transparent, Cardas or Kubala-Sosna. All four make top kit. If you’re a ‘cable guy’, wait for the upcoming Rocky Mountain Audio Fest report in a fortnight. I’ve never seen so many obscure, boutique cables as I did last year. Toronto was plain vanilla, but it was the best vanilla.

We come to what we considered the best sound of the show. Interestingly, the three rooms we chose were crammed with people for most of our visits and it seems many visitors agreed with Audiophilia’s choices, if not our particular order. I heard lots of comments suggesting’ ‘best sound’. In fact, all three rooms jockeyed for Audiophilia’s top position over the two days.

Friday, I was sure. Clear as a bell. Then another room introduced a to die for vinyl set up and the game changed all the while some German electrostatics cruised steadily with the most musical sounds, and from computer files! So, until late Saturday, or, possibly as I type today (as the sound still resonates), the position of 1, 2 and 3 was not in stone.

All this is audiophile fun, and the three rooms did offer fantastic sound, but if you attended the show, your mileage probably varied. Please post up your favorites in the comments section.

With all this in mind, here are our suggestions for the Best Sound of Show.

In third place: ASW Magadis Loudspeaker, Accustic Arts Amp II power amplifier, Zesto Audio pre/phono stage, Kronos turntable, Cardas cables.

Listening to a clean pressing of a DGG/Beethoven/Amadeus Quartet was one of the highlights of the show. Germany’s ASW has made its statement speaker. The 28K Magadis is gorgeous with a full range that focuses on musicality rather than ‘hi-fi’. The speakers were accompanied by the 28K Kronos turntable. Massive and massively expensive (without arm, cart or stand), the turntable offered massive detail via the new and very exciting products from Zesto Audio. A wonderful room that was large enough to accommodate the powerful sound from the gorgeous speakers.

In second place: Vienna Acoustics, bel canto, Audia Flight, Sutherland Engineering, Basis Audio, Transparent Audio.

This system had the synergy both from digital and analogue that makes for great listening. Once again, the room was large enough to appreciate the grandness of the presentation. Vienna Acoustics’ ‘The Music’ loudspeakers (28K) are tunable from the top module housing midrange and tweeter which enables pinpoint imaging and separation — and easily heard in the interesting demos (cartridge loading, too — an eye opening demonstration of how it effects sound). The superb bel canto gear sounded great, as usual — such good value from beautifully made products.

Later, when AJ Conti’s Basis Audio 2500 turntable with the Basis Audio Vector arm was introduced via the 45 reissue of La Fille Mal Gardee, the place fell silent. The sound was exquisite. Detailed, powerful, yet so perfectly analogue — cymbal timbre, instrumental separation and ambiance all to the fore. And the strings. So sweet. And real.

Reading the previous paragraphs, you can imagine my difficulty for top choice. Both those systems on another day would have won the day, but this day goes to another.

Best Sound of Show: Audio Exklusiv, Calyx Audio.

Charisma Audio is the local distributor of German company Audio Exklusiv, maker of the P 3.1 Elektrostatic Loudspeaker ($16K) , P 7 tube preamp ($8K) and P 14 mono hybrid power amps ($18.5K) and South Korean company, Calyx Audio, represented in this room by the Femto Reference DAC ($7.2K), stars all. The brilliant DAC was sorting out files from a MAC Mini most splendidly. I loved this sound. Refined and so immediate. The connection to this listener was very emotional and consistent each time I heard it. The speaker is a full range electrostatic. Thank God! I truly dislike a dynamic woofer thrown in for good measure. They never work, with the possible exception of the Sanders Model 10s. Maybe.

Charisma’s room looked as good as it sounded as did the large Tri-Cell and Audio Pathways rooms. All three rooms and others mentioned in the report got the synergy, presentation, room treatment, electrics and musical repertoire right. Congratulations.

And a special congratulations to the organizers of TAVES. A wonderful show. Please come back next year. Your support of high end audio in Ontario is a blessing for all of us who love the avocation.

Now, lots more photos by our amazing photographer, Rick Nickel. More will added each day this week.

The turntable from a Best Sound in Show room. AJ Conti's amazing Basis Audio 2500 turntable with Basis' Vector arm.

The turntable from a Best Sound in Show room. AJ Conti's Basis Audio 2500 with Basis

Naim Audio.

Naim Audio.

Cary Audio's Classic Series driving Maggies. Delicious!

Cary Audio's Classic Series driving Maggies. Delicious.

Kronos turntable from Montreal.

Kronos turntable from Montreal.

Dynaudio's Xeo wireless speakers. The accompanying module and concomitant technology was most impressive. Mussorgsky's Pictures had slam and accurate CSO/Reiner timbres. Impressed. Now, how do we get rid of the other wires?

Dynaudio Xeo wireless speakers. The control module and its concomitant technology was very impressive. Mussorgsky's Pictures had lots of slam and accurate timbres from Reiner's CSO. Now, how do we get rid of those other wires?

Old Irish for 'music', CEOL has debuted with some impressive electronics. More information will appear in these pages from this Canadian startup.

Old Irish for 'music', CEOL debuted some impressive electronic components. Watch this space for more information on this Canadian startup.

Vicoustic acoustical treatment panels from Portugal.

Vicoustic acoustical treatment panels from Portugal.

Great sound and French style. Cabasse.

Great sound and French style. Cabasse.

Tri Art's new turntable. Sadly, static only. It looks amazing.

Tri Art's new turntable. Static, only. I'd love to hear how this sounds.

Kudos Audio Super 10s. Beautiful monitors from England.

Kudos Audio Super 10s. Beautiful monitors from England.

Tuesday Oct 2 photo update

Swiss precision from Mimetism.

Swiss precision from Mimetism.

These new 3K floorstanders from Gershman Acoustics sounded powerful and lively. Big sound from a small footprint.

These new 3K floorstanders from Gershman Acoustics sounded powerful and lively. Big sound from a small footprint.

Seen but not heard. Revox coolness.

Seen but not heard. Revox coolness.

Tube loveliness made in the USA.

Tube loveliness made in the USA.

Elegant precision from Zesto Audio.

Elegant precision from Zesto Audio.

Blueberries in the wild.

Blueberries in the wild.

Ron Harper standing next to his RJH Audio The Reference One loudspeakers ($8K).

Ron Harper standing next to his RJH Audio The Reference One loudspeakers ($8K).

Mastersound Duetrenta S.E.integrated. Made in Italy.

Mastersound Duetrenta S.E.integrated. Made in Italy.

A very well run show. Even TAVES stickers on the correct floor buttons in the elevators.

A very well run show. Even TAVES stickers on the correct floor buttons in the elevators.

Cool, yes, great sounding, well, no. I mean, the room's seriously cool, but way too small and then there's the road noise:)

Cool, yes, great sounding, well, no. I mean, the room

Wednesday Oct 3 photo update

Tenor Audio. All those heat sinks on the carpet!

Tenor Audio. All those heat sinks on the carpet!

Oracle. Digital.

Oracle. Digital.

Oracle. Analogue.

Oracle. Analogue.

Germany's Accustic Arts. Jewel-like precision and superb solid state sound.

Germany

Elegant seminar space.

Elegant seminar space.

Trade floor was hopping. Love our avocation! Where else can you get kits the quality of Audio Note?

Trade floor was hopping. Love our avocation! Where else can you get kits the quality of Audio Note?

LP prices good, CDs, not so good! But, that didn't stop folks from buying. Busy space.

LP prices good, CDs, not so good! But, that didn

Monitor Audio. The English company is still making gorgeous looking speakers. Remember the company's speakers from 25 years ago? They were benchmarks in the business.

Monitor Audio. The English company is still making gorgeous looking speakers. Remember the company

Thursday Oct 4 photo update

German exquisiteness with a Plasma Tweeter. The ACapella Violin Loudspeaker.

German exquisiteness with a Plasma Tweeter. The ACapella Violin Loudspeaker.

Quad II-classic - Mono Power Amplifier.

Quad II-classic - Mono Power Amplifier.

The very pleasant Cabasse rep showing off one of Cabasse's lifestyle products.

The very pleasant Cabasse rep showing off one of Cabasse

Vince Bruzzese (left) of Totem explaining a new driver's technology to an attendee.

Vince Bruzzese (left) of Totem explaining a new driver

Gorgeous kit from Jeff Rowland.

Gorgeous kit from Jeff Rowland.

Nordost rep demonstrating the sound differences from power cords.

Nordost rep demonstrating the sound differences from power cords.

Italian style from Union Research. The P40 integrated amplifier.

Italian style from Union Research. The P40 integrated amplifier.

Harbeth speakers and AirTight electronics. Always a very musical combination.

Harbeth speakers and AirTight electronics. Always a very musical combination.

Shanling CD player.

Shanling CD player.

Chario speakers from Italy. We'll be publishing a Chario speaker review later this month.

Chario speakers from Italy. We have a review of Chario speakers scheduled for late October.

Lots of lovely analogue at the show, some static, but many very good turntables set up and playing. Here's the Michell Gyro SE.

Lots of lovely analogue at the show, some static, but many very good turntables set up and playing. Here we have the Michell Engineering Gyro SE.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

MM Guy 10.01.12 at 9:11 pm

Here’s my take on this show. I attended on Friday. I say about half the rooms are good, where the other half was either not ready (staff or equipment) or just lousy. Disappointed that some of the big brands sounded so bad - clearly a setup issue. Disappointed that the video side of things was non-existence. Maybe the name should change to TAES. While I celebrate many new comers to the industry, there were no elaborate demonstrations to delight the attendees. Yes, a fancy Porsche car was in the lobby but I can’t hear a thing from it. Last year show was better. This year they up the ticket price and charged extra for the weekend. Organizer should not nickle-and-dime attendees on a supposedly high-end show. Here are my awards:

Best Of Show Award: IcIntosh (Insanely good for the price, and I ain’t talking Apple’s Mac)
Best Darn Expensive Loudspeaker Award: Casta Model C (Horns this good is beyond engineering)
Biggest Disappointment of Show Award: Vienna Acoustics (Which won my Best of Show Award in 2011 Salon Son & Image)
Biggest Bewilderment of Show Award: Bryston new line of loudspeakers (I asked, why bother?)
Biggest Ripoff Award: $40 for a regular 16/44.1 CD (Supposedly ‘better’ produced. But real hi-bit better produced sound is available from HDtracks.com for half the price)

Charisma Audio 10.01.12 at 11:39 pm

Thank you so much for giving us Best Sound of Show.
We would like to clarify that Calyx Audio is from South Korea, not Australia.

Andy Fawcett 10.02.12 at 7:51 am

Great venue, great show … and right on your proverbial doorstep. You’re a lucky man! Thought I’d dropped the ball when you referred to Calyx as an Aussie company, but the website indicates they’re actually Korean.

You didn’t mention them specifically, but that looks like the lovely Audia Flight Strumento pre and power amps driving your second-favourite system. I predicted, in my review of their CD Three player, that the Strumentos would be serious contenders but yours is the first report I’ve ever read on their sound - apparently they impressed!

admin 10.02.12 at 8:38 am

Thanks for your comments and choices, MMGuy.

Charisma. You are welcome. Well deserved. I’ve made the Antipodean correction. :)

Andy, too bad you couldn’t have joined the team here. It’s not Gold Coast hot, but warm enough. Charisma already caught my error. But, thanks.

After two ten hour listening/walking days, a thousand conversations, names, and handshakes, followed by 16 hours of writing and editing, I missed one! ;)

Cheers, a

Angie, Angie's Audio Corner 10.02.12 at 6:38 pm

Dear Audiophilia, Thanks for a great overview of the TAVES show. As an exhibitor for both year 1 and now year 2, I can say that we do need to thank the show organizsers at TAVES for a job well done. The feeling of the show was great, full of excitement and Wow in come cases. Can there be more to see, always, but more of the industries involvement is needed. We should applaud those who took on the hard work and energy it takes and put on a show for the visitors who love to experience what audio is about and can be. I look forward to the show write ups because as an exhibitor I don’t get time to walk around and see what is in each of the rooms. Improvements and bettering the show will come with more shows under our belt. Feedback directed to those at TAVES is important, the good the bad and the ugly as they say, will make us all better. The mission is Audio, or better Audio. Video is also a part of it, so perhaps the balance may be off but next year is another year to be better.Maybe I will have the Sim2 projector connected instead of sitting on a stand. Great effort from all exhibitors and thanks to the vistors for their support. Untill Next year.Angie

admin 10.02.12 at 6:47 pm

It was a fun show, Angie. And made all the better for folks like yourself supporting with four rooms.

Thanks for your comments and your continued missionary work for high end in Ontario and beyond.

Now, call Air Canada and get the Thursday direct flight to Denver! Plz!!! :) It’s gonna be a party!!!

Cheers, a

wes bender 10.04.12 at 12:38 am

GREAT read Anthony! Really enjoyed perusing the show via your show report as well as seeing some dear old friends and familiar faces therein (the King and Queen!).

Wish I could’ve made it. Perhaps next year?!?

Cheers-

Wes

admin 10.04.12 at 6:53 am

That would be great.

See you next week in Denver. Looking forward to hearing all the goodies in your room.

Cheers, a

rayman 10.04.12 at 6:15 pm

I didn’t go to last year’s show so I can’t compare. This year’s show had lots of signage to direct the people where to go. The ticketing was quite organized with cash sales and prepaid separately. The 2nd floor had lots of high energy. The Vanity ballroom had some very interesting seminars but were packed every hour. I had wish to stay for more seminars but sitting 1 hr per seminar back to back is long and I left halfway to visit the rooms. Maybe the organizers should space out the seminars and make them shorter. The 7th floor rooms were evenly spaced out which I find is good since it block off sounds from other rooms. The 8th floor wasn’t full but had some really good rooms a few more signs upstairs would be good. The refreshment stand was a bit hidden away and they closed early. I would have liked more Home Theater next year (Panasonic, Sony, and LG r u listening) ? Overall, I loved that we now have a show in Toronto, kudos to the organizers and looking forward to next year’s show! Tip: Gotta get good walking shoes as the hotel was huge!

admin 10.04.12 at 6:23 pm

Many thanks for the detailed comment, Rayman.

Cheers, a

Will 10.06.12 at 9:27 am

Nice overview report. One question. Your caption under the Naim Audio picture simply says Naim Audio. Do you have any comments about what you heard in that room?

Louis Desjardins 10.09.12 at 8:49 am

Thank you for a great report and thanks for a BEST SOUND for the Kronos Turntable. As you can imagine, it is not an easy thing to bring an innovative audio product to the high end market. Prices of quality manufacturing in small quantities are really high, and innovation requires a huge amount of R&D. Amazingly, many designers and manufacturers are pushing the frontiers of the high end. That is obvious when one visits a show such as TAVES. All this would not be possible without the support we, manufacturers, receive from audiophilia.com , as well as other reviewers. Again, great job on your coverage!

admin 10.09.12 at 8:51 am

Merci, Louis.

admin 10.09.12 at 9:04 am

Hi Will.

Sorry, No. As always, the Naim room looked fabulous, but with only two days at the show, hearing everything at the length one needs to comment was impossible.

FWIW, I’ve always been a big fan and especially the CD players and speakers.

Cheers, a

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