The interior of the N1 shows an impeccable arrangement of circuit components. There are separate circuit boards for the left and right channels; these are identical, and are stacked, as shown in the photo.
It's called Toronto Audio and Video Entertainment Show, but--just between usTAVES is basically an audio show. This is not for want of trying on the part of show organizers. They've arranged seminars on the TV calibration, the differences between LCD, LED and plasma displays, and set up an elaborate blind comparison involving 20 flat panel displays that included LCD, LED, and plasma designs, all professionally calibrated, and with the brandnames obscured. I thought it was quite an interesting and useful comparison, but on the three occasions that I visited the room, there were hardly any people therecontrast this with the booths where LPs and CDs were being sold (below).
Reev Designs is a new Toronto-based speaker company, with so far just one model: the large, stand-mounted Aetma ($6950/pair). It's a striking-looking speaker, with wooden extensions on each side that are said to be critical in controlling resonances. Frequency response is claim to extend from 44Hz to 22kHz, ±3dB.
Toronto-based Focus Audio has been around since 1993, and they manufacture a vast array of speakers. The ones on demo (Chord CD player, Conrad-Johnson ET5 preamp and LP125M power amps) were the FP88s ($6800/pair). I enjoyed a recording of Eva Cassidy played through this system.
I know that Zu is a manufacturer of loudspeakers, but what does "Omen Def" mean. I have no idea, but a pair of these speakers was producing a lively sound at TAVES. At $3400/pair ($2900/pair show special), the price seemed eminently reasonable. They were playing vinyl, courtesy of a KLM 15 turntable and Denon 103 Grade 2 (yes, it's still being made) cartridge.
Turntables were much in evidence at TAVES. Oracle was here, of course, and another "Made in Canada" line of turntables that I was not familiar with: TTWeights Audio. Located in Newmarket, Ontario, TTWeights have an honest-to-goodness aerospace CNC facility: their website notes that they have just signed a Long Term Agreement to supply the Curtiss-Wright Corporation critical cabin-pressure controls for the Boeing 737 passenger aircraft. This high-tech expertise has been applied to the design and manufacture of turntables. These include the Momentus, Momentus Supreme, and the GEM, which utilize a Duo Drive design: Direct Rim Drive or Tri-Belt. Prices are in the $6000$15,000 range. This is serious stuff, beautifully made.
Naim had several products on static display, one of them looking like a small preamp but with an antenna sticking out in the back. I asked Terry Richardson of Audio Plus, North American distributor of Naim products, what this product was; he explained that it was called the Unity QUTE, and said that "it did everything except what a speaker does." Add a pair of speakers and you've got a sound system.
Focal distributor Audio Plus can always be counted on to give impressive demos of the big Focal speakers; this time, they had the Stella Utopia EMs, driven by the Devialet DAC/preamp/amp, with a laptop as a source. At $90,000/pair, the Stella Utopia EM, is for those folks who can't quite afford the $180,000/pair Grande Utopia EM. Great sound, as always with speakers in the Focal Utopia line.
If you're wondering what you're getting when you buy a speaker like the Focal Stella Utopia EM, the back of the speaker gives you some indication. Note that it's signed by designer Jacques Mahul, and the quality control of this speaker was the responsibility of one S. Robert.
iPod speaker docks are getting to be a major product category, and although audiophile-oriented manufacturers have initially dismissed them as belonging strictly to the realm of mid-fi (or worse), serious audio manufacturers like B&W and Arcam have introduced products in this category, so perhaps it can't be ignored any longer. Monitor Audio has now joined the fray, with the i-dock 200 ($600) and i-dock 100 ($500). They look like serious efforts, too, with high-resolution DACs, multiple drivers driven by a 50Wpc and a 25Wpc amplifier, respectively, and room correction using built-in test tones. Both sounded good, but I was particularly taken with the larger i-dock 200. If I were in the market for this kind of product, the Monitor Audio i-dock 200 and i-dock 100 would be at the top of my list to check out.
Made in Germany, the Ceratec Xeno ($7000/pair) is a "lifestyle" speaker that also functions as room lighting, the back of the speaker having top-to-bottom LED lights whose hue and brightness can be varied with remote control. Combined with the Vita II subwoofer ($6000; less expensive options are available), the Xenos had a nice, open sound.