Reports from the Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show by Richard Mak
PART – I
The Toronto Audio & Video Entertainment Show (TAVES), which originally began at the King Edward Hotel in 2011, is by all account tremendously successful. Thanks to the efforts of Sauve Kajko (President, TAVES) and Simon Au (Vice-President, TAVES), Toronto has a firm position on the world map of high end audio as TAVES is currently the largest high-end audio show in Canada in size, number of exhibitors, as well as for attendees. To accommodate the growth, the organizer had to change venues twice, which led them to the Sheraton Hotel and Conference Centre in Richmond Hill in 2016.
Popularity comes with a price and a hefty one, which translates into a significant increase in rental cost of the show venue. The Sheraton Hotel in Richmond Hill jacked up the price several folds, so for 2017, TAVES had to change venues once more and landed at the Toronto Congress Centre. The Congress Centre is strategically located just five minutes from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. The supposedly premier trade show facility proved to be a challenge for the show organizer as well for exhibitors. The Congress Centre has more than one million square feet of event space, but they are mostly open areas with a limited number of exhibit rooms. Kajko, and Au had to assemble a team of workers to build temporary exhibit rooms for nearly half the exhibitors within a two-day period. Adding to the difficulty was the uncooperative and hostile attitude of Toronto Congress Centre management which threatened to shut down the show, because they did not expect an audio show to have sound (Duh!). In all my years of show coverage, the Congress Centre truly registered high on the level of bureaucracy, and red tape combined with an attitude of indifference which made things difficult for the exhibitors.
But to the credit of TAVES, they pulled it off and all that was witnessed by the attendees was the professionalism and attentiveness of the organizers, which made the show another success. Exhibitors, however, were not so happy with the venue. I would be surprised to see a repeat of the show at this venue in 2018, on the part of the organizer as well as exhibitors.
Once again, Wynn Wong of Wynn Audio spared no expenses and occupied one of the largest and the best rooms at TAVES. His exquisite taste in the choice of electronics can only be matched by his generosity. This is the only room at the show which showered attendees with candies, free gifts, and an endless supply of Perrier. Wynn is fast becoming – or already is – Toronto’s premier high-end dealer showing off some of the most expensive toys you can find at the show, year after year, and this year was no exception.
- Turntable – Thales TTT-Compact MK2 ($19k) with Statement tonearm ($30,000 CAN)
- CD/DAC – Metronome Kalista 30th Anniversary Set (CD Transport and DAC) ($105,000 CAN)
- Phono – Karan Acoustics KA Ph Reference Phono Preamp ($30,000 CAN)
- Preamp – Karan Acoustics KA L Reference Preamp ($24,000 CAN)
- Amp – Karan Acoustics KA M 2000 Monoblock ($78,000 CAN)
- Speakers – TIDAL Contriva G2 (starting from $65,000 CAN)
- Cables – ZenSati Zorro and Seraphim Accessories – Critical Mass Systems Olympus
- Rack ($13,000 CAN/each), Entreq Olympus Tellus Ground Box ($12,000 CAN)
In an age where CD players are on the decline, Wynn Wong sails against the headwind by bringing in the $105,000 Metronome Kallista CD Player and DAC. This is a special edition which commemorates their 30th anniversary of building high quality CD players. With risk comes high reward, as I overheard that a lucky somebody had already bought the CD player and DAC, or perhaps Wynn Wong is luckier still. The Karan Acoustics KA M2000 Monoblocks delivers a whooping 2,000 Watts/channel (into eight ohms) in Class-A. Unlike traditional amplifiers, Karan determine the bias level based on the input voltage, which they operate at a much lower temperature versus traditional Class-A amplifiers. Then of course, there’s also the Thales Statement tonearm in glittery gold being shown for the first time in Canada. I listened to the tunes of the LA Four’s “Things Ain’t what they use to Be,” and “The Recipe of Love” followed by ISO MIKE’s piano album. The sound of Wynn’s system projected a wide and deep soundstage, and a solid holographic imagery reinforced by the largest rectangular room at the entire show. Tonality was natural and organic, easily winning him the best sound of the show in my book because no other room created as lifelike a piano as Wynn Wong’s winning system. That said, many of the rooms at the show were handicapped by bad room acoustics, which makes critical analysis difficult to do.
The sound of the CH Precision system powering Focal’s Sopra 3 speakers by Audio by Mark Jones has become all too familiar for me as I am a frequent visitor to Mark Jone’s shop as well as to DVL Audio’s showroom at the house of Lawrence Lock (President of DVL Audio).
- CH Precision P1 Dual Mono Phono $31,000 USD
- CH Precision C1 Digital to Analog Controller $32,000 USD (Base)
- CH Precision M1 Reference Power Amplifier $52,000 USD
- Focal Sopra No. 3 Speakers $24,000 CAD
- Nordost Valhalla 2 Reference Cables
- Nordost QRT Power Products
- Kronos Pro Turntable $38,000 USD
- Kronos SCPS (Optional Power Supply) $13,500 USD
- Kronos Black Beauty Tonearm $8,500 USD
- Lyra ETNA SL Moving Coil Stereo Cartridge $13,000 CAD
- Aurender N10 8TB Music Server
- Massif Audio Design Rack, Amp Stand and Risers
The Lyra Etna SL is currently my favourite cartridge in the Lyra line up, second only to the mighty (but discontinued) Olympos. Mounted onto the Kronos turntable which needs no introduction after having won multiple awards all over the world, the famous counter-rotating double platter always delivers an analog sound which is difficult to beat. It is neutral, accurate and dynamic. Combined with the sound of CH Precision which carries an exquisite silky sheen on the top end, made for a sound which was vivid, neutral and pleasing. And to show off the “undigitized” sound of the CH C1 D/A Converter, DVL Audio did not provide a preamp which means even the sound of the analog has to go through the C1 which was plugged directly into the M1 power amp. Room acoustics however, was heavily dampened by thick drapes on the wall which gave off very little reflectionswhich made the room and the sound artificially warmer than normal. Mark Jones is smart about his music, and he knows which “show off” tunes to play which includes Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Tim Pan Alley (which I’ve probably heard 547 times at shows), Sad Old Red by Simply Red, and a number of classical tunes, thanks to David Chan and Lawrence Lock of DVL Audio, both of whom are walking encyclopedias of Classical music.
Executive Stereo is a Toronto retailer which is located literally five minutes from where I live in mid-town Toronto. Ed Stone, owner of Executive Stereo, is well known as a McIntosh dealer, but at the show he focused solely on Accustic Arts and Vivid Audio.
- Vivid Giya G2 speakers $66,000 CAD
- Massif Audio Stand $2,500 CAD
- Accustic Arts Tube Preamp II MK2 $15,830 CAD
- EAR DAC/Transport $18,000 CAD
- EAR Phono $8,000 CAD
- Acoustic Solid Solid Machine Small R with 3 tonearms $ 10,739 (3 arms included: Jelco SA-750DB, Abis TA-1, WTB-213)
The dimly lit lighting may be welcoming and lounge like, but it can be totally nightmarish when it comes to photography. The sound, however, drew me to sit and to listen to multiple songs. I especially liked it when they played Roxy Music’s The Space Between which displayed excellent rhythm and bass response.
There were two very exciting new toys at TAVES this year. The first was the all-new Posh speaker from Gershman Acoustics. Ofra Gershman gave me a very nice run down of their new speaker personally. At $129,000 USD, the Posh is certainly no chump change, but it packs a lot of punches. The cabinet is made of one-inch UDF wood with a quarter-inch stainless-steel front baffle. I am a big fan of the detailed, organic and sweet sounding Morel dome tweeter which is very similar to the design of the Esotar tweeter used in my Dynaudio Temptations which I have owned and loved for many years. Mid-range is handed by an Accuton ceramic Cell. Two eight-inch aluminum alloy double-magnet woofers designed and made by Gershman, take care of the bass which is listed to 16 Hz. The bass cabinets are completely separate from each other, as well as the tweeter/mid-range, held together by two solid steel structures on the side.
Then there’s the all-new and sexy-looking Oracle Origine Turntable. Representing the newest entry-level model to the Canadian company’s line up. At $2,600 CAN, the table comes in a white or a black plinth with an insert sandwiched in-between, which comes in many different colours. More than one insert can be added, with an optional lighting kit for said inserts. The Origine comes standard with a unipivot tonearm with adjustable effective mass, and customers have the option of buying the Ortofon 2M Blue preinstalled at the factory. An acrylic dust cover is also available as an option. The turntable was hooked up to the Oracle PH100/PH200 phono stage, but in the newest Mark II version – both of which feature a significantly reduced noise floor. A toggle switch has been added, which references the ground to either the outlet or to the body of the phono stage itself, which will come in handy in case of a ground loop. The rest of the equipment consisted of Krell’s Dual 300 amplifier and Illusion 2 preamp. For reasons unknown they only utilized half the room with space left over behind the curtains.
My favourite item at the show is the $65 CAN Rock ‘n’ Rolla Turntable. For only $ 49.95 USD, available through Amazon.com, the Junior comes in a portable case built-in with a speaker, and a hidden CD Player. Colour options include green teal, white, black, orange or red. What more can you ask for ? I plan two buy two of these for my girls this Christmas. If if you fancy a higher-spec’d model, you can spring for the Rock ‘n’ Rolla XL for $100 more. This bigger brother comes with Bluetooth which allows you to play MP3s from your device. It also has a USB and SD card input, a screen display as well as a larger speaker.
My wife and I were disappointed in this years show. Although the larger rooms were nice, the small rooms were just hot boxes. Those little half built sheds that the vendors had to attempt to display their products seemed to be such a secondary thought. We ran out of many of the rooms because of lack of ventilation and so much sound coming through from adjoining room. We will be back next year but I truly hope its not at the same location. Hotels made life so much easier for me to sit down comfortably and enjoy the music and make decisions on what equipment I would be purchasing in the near future.
Back again. I can’t help but refer back to TAVES 2017, and the impressive Gershman ‘POSH’ loudspeaker.
Impressive performance. And price. I’m not sure why this is on my mind. I suspect a combination of astonishing pricing (many others are guilty) and the state of hi-fi today.
It was, a few years into the turn of the century, when in an most a world-wide orchestrated maneuverer, prices doubled overnight -and spiraled from there. The year -2004/5.
Those hi-fi companies on the scene ten-years earlier (perhaps struggling) that left for greener pastures must have banged their heads at the transformation -of the dollar, consumer interpretations and expectations that would follow (circa 2004).
In any case, I think upon the $129K price tag of the GA ‘Posh’ loudspeaker and the competition; Dynaudio (Statement), Focal “Utopia -Maestro, TAD “Reference”, Magico (any model), Rockport Technologies, Vivid, Sonus Faber (top-line)? and several others that elude me at the moment.
And then, there are the simply expensive entrants (as opposed to insanely priced) such as the very impressive KEF “Reference” series and a few other equally inspired makers.
Hmmm, I think the $129K price-tag requires some serious adjustment.
BTW, the Gershman Acoustics aptly named ‘POSH’ loudspeaker was truly impressive. I was drawn in (from outside the room) with, I believe a Roxy Music tune (or was in Earth, Wind & Fire -no I’m not kidding), took a surprisingly empty front-row seat and marveled at the sound quality.
A very “tuned” listener there at the same time agreed with my assessment that (it appeared) the Krell driving amplifier’s did not possess the low-frequency resolution (definition, layering , nuance) that superior amplifiers reveal. I realize that it’s nit-picking, but not after the astonishing price of the loudspeaker was revealed. (It explained the empty room though). I’m not 100% confident the apparent lack of low-frequency ‘finesse’ was the amp’s doing -simply suspected. It may very well have been some other component. It was not the room (acoustics).
It sounded truly excellent; engaging, linear, open, dynamic, clear, articulate, resolving, dimensional/holographic -in audiophile parlance, Alternately stated (for all other listeners; the normals! -lol), it sounded like real, live music. Very, very impressive.
The construction details (of the POSH) revealed here on part-time-audiophile goes a long way in explaining; construction quality/sophistication. Naturally, it takes a talented designer (or team of) to pull it all together. And this, in no uncertain terms was clearly accomplished. Masterfully.
Attn: Gershman: $129K ! Seriously ? It may be a good idea to discover (or use some) trickle-down technology to offer up some of this performance in the 5X-10X less expensive category.
Otherwise, nicely done !
P.S> May I suggest some (real) Levinson amplification -or similar ?
2017 TAVES: Exhibitor’s were all excellent -as per usual.
Yet, amazingly, I was unaware of some of some of these, missing (inexplicably) Mark Jones (CH/Focal), Executive Stereo (Vivid, Accustic Arts) rooms ? (Me, or hard to find ?)
The main rooms were impressive, and the smaller “booths” in the hallway also nicely arranged. The ‘sheds’ built in the main area for many of the additional vendors was terribly
disappointing; walking in to the “rooms” was as if entering a half-baked/built shed -flimsy doors, heavy-blanketed walls and leak-through acoustics.
Whether vendors were happy with the acoustics I cannot say, but as an attendee, the feel/experience was very disappointing. I certainly hope these vendors were suitably compensated. If not, I urge TAVES to subtract the amount paid from next years show -assuming they’d like to return.
Overall, it was an exciting weekend for music lovers and audiophiles. Moving forward, 2018 TAVES must ensure that all vendors receive the same level of consideration as all others.
Next year must be better.