By Richard H. Mak
Francis Chung, President of the Toronto Home of Audiophiles, is the exclusive dealer of Pass Labs and Gershman Acoustics in the greater Toronto area. I have known Francis for nearly 30 years, and I still remember my university days back in the early 90s where a bunch of us would skip classes and trek down to Francis’ original store in The Village by the Grange just one block south of the University of Toronto. The industry has changed a lot since then but Francis remained as committed to the service oriented retail sales business model as he was 30 years ago. In fact, he pretty much looked the same after 30 years and speaks in the same reserved gentlemanly voice.
Francis has also been faithful in showing Pass Labs and Gershman loudspeakers at TAVES. Each year he would display different models of these two brands and this year was not different. A pair of Gershman Grande Avant Garde speakers ($ 13,000/pr) was being bi-amped by a pair of First Watt SIT-2 Stereo amplifiers ($ 6,999 ea). Front end equipment includes the Audio Note UK CDT Two /II CD Transport ($ 9,700), 3.1x/II Balanced Tube DAC ($ 11,900), as well as the Berkeley Audio Design Alpha Reference DAC mk II ($ 23,500). Interestingly, the Siltech Cables used in this system had a total value of $ 172,100 CAD, making it one of the demo rooms in the show where the cables retailed more than the electronics!
The analog front end featured a Clearaudio Innovation Basic turntable in black lacquer ($ 6,995), and the all new Clearaudio TT-5 Tangential Tonearm ($ 3,700). The TT5 is an entry level linear tracking arm, based on the technology of its bigger brothers, the TT2 and TT3. It requires no air pump or motorized control, the horizontal movement is propelled by the stylus along a linear bearing running on rollers along a polished glass rail.
I especially like Francis’ detailed explanation on the various equipment before every demo session. Francis explained that the First Watt SIT2 power amplifier, is Nelson Pass’ newest creation utilizing “Static Induction Transistors”. It is specially designed to operate like a 300B Tube, but without the shortcoming of typical singled ended tube designs such as high distortion levels and excessive heat. The SIT2 produces 10 watts per channel, but it seemed to have paired remarkably well with the 88 dB Gershman speakers. On a double bass performance of the song “What a wonderful world”, the system projected adequate bass textures sending vibrations across the room which i could not only hear, but feel too. Difficult to believe the sound was coming from two 10 watt amplifiers.