After the very successful Toronto Audiofest (TAF) last year, Sarah Tremblay and Michel Plante followed it up with an even more successful Show this year. Sarah and Michel are the team that also organizes the highly regarded Montreal Audio Fest.
The TAF venue was once again The Westin Toronto Airport Hotel, which is conveniently located right by the Toronto Pearson Airport. In many cases, hotels located adjacent to the airport are not exactly ideal for an audio show because of the sounds of aircraft taking off and landing but the Westin Hotel has great sound insulation which ensures that the sounds of aircraft did not impact the interior of the hotel, allowing the exhibitors to demonstrate their gear with a relatively low ambient noise factor that is so crucial to revealing the sound quality of their audio systems.
The Show was again well attended.
Typical of a Canadian Show, the atmosphere was cordial and friendly. The dress theme for the staff this year was Woodstock and most of the staff was dressed in psychedelic outfits.
My colleague Jim Smillie and I made every attempt to give the exhibitors the attention they deserved. However, since we were able to spend only about ten minutes in each room. It is a challenge evaluating the sound quality in each room given the limited time spent in each room combined with the reality that hotel rooms don't usually have good acoustical properties. Many rooms have a lot of ambient noise of people talking. It is important to note that most systems need a few days settle in so just as the systems begin to sound their best, the Show is over. Please weight all these factors, when reading about our evaluation of the sound quality of each of the systems being auditioned.
Audio by Mark Jones
The very affable Mark Jones is known not just for the quality of the components that he demos, but also for the great care that he takes to make sure that the system is perfectly dialled in to the room. It was no exception at this Show. The room featured the Magico M2 with the MPOD stand. Mark told us that the M2 speakers were one of the first units of this model to ship from Magico factory. The speakers were fed by CH Precision P1 Phono Stage (US$31,000), L1 Line Preamp (US$34,500) A1.5 Power Amplifier (US$39,500), Vertere RG-1 Turntable with SG1 HB Tone Arm, Pulse R Cable (C$54,300) and Lyra ETNA SL Cartridge (C$13,000). The components were placed on Massif Audio Racks (C$2500) made by Trev Dolye. Cabling was by Nordost. Typical of Mark's setups, this system sounded very good. The superior dynamic contrast and tonal purity was very evident. What was a bit lacking though was the dynamics, which were good but not up to the high standards that we usually expect from a Mark Jones Room.
House of HiFi
Grant Phillips gave us the tour of the system that included the Music Hall MMF9.3 turntable with a Goldring Eroica LX cartridge (C$3499) and the PMC FACT .8 speakers (C$15,000). The sound quality in this room was par for the course for the price of the components, although female vocals came through with a lot more presence than you would expect for a system in this price range.
Bryston is one of the pre-eminent brands in Canada and as usual, the room was always full of Bryston die-hard fans checking out the latest of what this brand has to offer. James Tanner, the Vice President of Bryson showed us the new Bryston BDA-3.14 DAC that now offers streaming as well. What you could not miss in this room were the towering Bryston T-Rex speakers (made by Axiom). They stand at 9-feet tall with an array of 14 driver units. Good luck getting these speakers to fit into a home with regular sized ceilings. The T-Rex comprises two Model Ts stacked on top of each other to form a mirror image. The T-Rex has extra bracing and a layer of rubber between the two stacked speakers. The T-Rex retails for CD$20,000 a pair and that price includes the BAX-1 three-way electronic crossover. This system threw a huge sound stage, which was very well defined.
This room had some of the most recognizable audio brands in the world including Wilson Audio, D'Agostino, Sonus Farber, Audioquest, MSB and McIntosh. Demonstrating the systems were Vilpin Mak, Adrian Low and Adrienne Wilde. The standout system in this room was the Wilson Audio/D'Agostino combination, which delivered a truly sublime soundstage where you could place each and every voice and instrument with pinpoint accuracy.
Rega, Focal, Naim
The new product that made it debut was the Rega P10 (C$8900) which sports a ceramic platter and a special plinth. Arthur Cuth demonstrated the system, which sounded smooth and relaxed with good tonal accuracy and PRaT.
JVC has established itself as one of the premier brands in the field of high definition projectors. At this show they demonstrated the capabilities of three projectors and the picture quality of every one of them was truly outstanding. Ian Graham and Greg Cameron were on hand answering questions from visitors.
This was one of Angi Lisi's American Sound of Canada rooms at this Show. The big Avantgarde Duo Mezzo speakers ($60,500/pair) in this room drew in a steady stream of visitors many of them horn enthusiasts. This room also featured the debut of a very cool and very expensive Wadax Atlantis system, which included a DAC ($69,000), server ($20,000), and transport ($45,000). Wadax claims that the Atlantis represents the state-of-the-art in digital music reproduction with an industrial leading jitter measurement of 20 femtoseconds. This system also included an Airtight 3211 power amp ($70,000) and Preamp Act 5 ($9500). The analog source was a Bergmann Calder turntable ($30,800). Cables and line conditioners were all Transparent and the stands and platforms by HRS. The sound was lush, detailed and big as a house but with a bit of the usual mild colouration that comes with horns which, to horn enthusiasts, is a good thing. .
Steven Huang may have a small footprint at these shows but the popularity of his products is very evident from the number of show visitors milling around his stand. He continues to offer cables, interconnects and power cords that offer performance that is comparable to some products that are sold at twice and even three time the price. Steven is has an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering with specialty in Metallurgy and a Master's degree in Mechanical Engineering in robotics. I guess that explains why he is able to come up with designs that offer such great performance at such reasonable prices.
Kimbercan is the distributor for Kimber Kable, Select, Axios, Neat Acoustics, PS Audio and Quadraspire. Don Rhule demonstrated the Neat Acoustics system, which for its size did have a fairly large sound stage.
Yamaha, Luna Cables
I always look forward to visiting the Yamaha room at audio shows. The sound is always so pleasant, natural and relaxed. This Show was no exception. Danny Labrecque and Nico Bucher were on hand to demonstrate the system that comprised the Yamaha NS5000 speakers ($18,000), fed by the GT-5000 belt drive turntable (Price not determined yet), CDS3000 CD/SACD player ($7500), C-5000 preamp ($11,000) and M5000 power amp ($11,000). The cablings and step-up transformer was by Luna Cables.
Frank Pugliano demonstrated the Paradigm F5 (C$20,000/pair) driven by the Anthem STR Integrated Amp ($5500). I've heard these marvellous speakers many times before but this Show, they sounded unusually constricted with a very shallow and narrow sound stage. I am sure the culprit was the very small room, which did not allow this splendid speaker to breath and perform at its best.
This was one of the many Tricell Rooms at this Show. Tricell is one of the oldest, biggest and most reputable distributors of audio products in Canada. Tricell's owner Vince Scalzitti is the veritable 'Godfather' of the Canadian audio industry. Transrotor did not introduce any new products at this Show, but Dirk Rake, the owner of Transrotor mentioned to me that they have a new turntable under development which they hope to launch later this year or early next year.
Cardas, Harbeth, Brinkmann, HRS
This Tricell room manned by Donald Lee, had the Harbeth M30.2 40th Anniversary Olive Wood Speakers ($3750) driven by the Brinkman Taurus turntable ($20,000), Nyquest DAC MkII ($21,000), Edison MkII phono preamp ($14,000), Unison Research CD player ($3280) with all cabling by Cardas Clear and stands by HRS. The sound in this room was truly outstanding. The percussion instruments came through with crisp clarity and the vocals had incredible presence.
Audiovector, Goldnote, Alluxity, Unison Research, Synergistic Research
We met David Geist in this Tricell room and he took us through the system that comprised the Audiovector R3 Avantegarde Arrete speakers ($14,000), Goldnote Gigliio turntable, PH10 phono preamp ($2055), PSU10 power supply ($1500), Alluxity Integrated One ($11,500), Mono One ($26,000/pair), Pre 2 DAC/Streamer ($14,500), Unison Research CD Primo Black ($2590) and Synergistic Research Powercell 12UEF SE ($8500). This room had a sound that was very addictive. We could have spent a much longer time here enjoying the great sound reproduction if we were not so pressed for time.
Tektron, Zu Audio
Chris Thomas demonstrated the system in this room, which consisted of the Zu Audio Omen Dirty Weekend Mk II Speakers ($2000) driven by the Tektron TJ6J5 tube preamp ($4,350) and a pair of TK2A3 mono block power amps. The sound in this room was smooth but a bit on a euphonic side.
Toronto Home of the Audiophile
Wallace Poon gave us a demo of the Golden Ear Triton One.R Speakers ($8000/pair) that was driven by a Pass Labs X30.8 stereo power amp and the new XP22 preamp. With these speakers, Golden Ear has enhanced its reputation for designing and building speakers that offer unbelievable sound quality for the money. There was obvious synergy with the Pass Labs pre and power amps, which are well know for allowing speakers to deliver their best performance. The sound stage in this room was wide and deep with bass that was tight and tuneful.
Acora Acoustics, Esoteric, Audio Research
Shiree Cora demonstrated for us the Acora Acoustics SRC-1 ($38,000/pair) driven by an Esoteric Grandioso K1 SACD Player/DAC ($40,000), Esoteric N-03T Network Audio Transport ($15,500), Esoteric E-02 Phono Preamp ($12,000) and Audio Research Ref 10 ($44,900). All cabling was by Cardas. The great synergy between all these components was very evident in the quality of the sound, which was very neutral and which had a very well defined sound stage.
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