MartinLogan had on demo their latest electrostatic/dynamic hybrid speaker, the Montis. At $9995/pair, the Montis is placed in MartinLogan's hybrid ESL line under the flagship $13,995 Summit X, and features the latest Curvilinear Line Source (CLS) design, with MicroPerf stator technology that provides for almost twice the exposed diaphragm surface as a traditional electrostatic of the same size. The electrostatic mid/highs are matched with a powered subwoofer that features MartinLogan's proprietary Vojtko crossover and DSP engine, and a 200W amplifier. I'm slated to received a pair of these speakers (maybe the pair that was at TAVES) for review.
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.
I've had a fondness for speakers by Vienna Acoustics ever since I reviewed their original Mozart. I've heard their larger speakers at shows since then, and they've always sounded excellent. This was also the case at TAVES. The Music (how can you criticize a speaker named Music?) at $27,500/pair was combined with electronics by Esoteric and cables by Transparent (about $42,000 total), and a MacBook Pro as the source.
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.
Paradigm has some new active speakers, including the A2 ($300$350/pair, depending on finish) demoed here by Erin Phillips and Mark Aling using a Numark DJ mixing deck. Paradigm has also entered the earbuds market, with models ranging in price from $59 to $149. Like Paradigm's speakers, these were developed utilizing anechoic testing.
Bryston is one of the most successful Canadian audio companies, and I think a major part of their success is due to the fact that they have a good sense of their market: not interested in fads, but moving with technology to the future, and meeting new trends in listening. Headphones have been around for a long time, but they've been usually peripheral to the interests of audiophiles. This has been changing, and Bryston has a new product to meet this challenge. The BPHA-1 ($1295) is a headphone amplifier that is said to work well with the new headphones that are difficult to drive. Bryston's James Tanner is holding up a prototype of the BPHA-1.
Divergent Technologies is known for producing the Reference 3A speakers and distributing a number of product lines, including Antique Sound Labs and Copland. They're now about to enter the turntable business. In collaboration with a partner in Hong Kong, Divergent has a classy-looking turntable, named the Perpetual Technology TT-1, which is a modest-by-high-end-standards $2500, sold with a 12" carbon-fiber tonearm for a combined price of $3000. It's to be available in three months.
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.
Ron Sutherland of Sutherland Engineering is famous for his phono preamps. At TAVES he introduced a new product: the N1 ($10,000), a line-plus-phono preamplifier. The most striking thing about this product is that it uses Nixie tubes for the display of source number and volume. Nixie tubes are those little tubes that light up to display a number or other characters. It's a charmingly retro look. I didn't think that these tubes are being made any more, and Ron Sutherland confirmed that this is correct; however, he has purchased a huge stock of Nixie tubes, so his customers are taken care of.
Canada Hi-Fi, a print and internet magazine, is one of the sponsors of TAVES (editor Suave Kajko is President of TAVES), and had a booth at the show. Canada Hi-Fi is distributed free to audio and video stores in Canada, but if they decided to charge for their issues, with such charming representatives as Sarah Ferguson and Margaret Waymark, they would be signing up subscribers in no time.
It's a well-known fact that any speaker can sound bad if the rest of the system if there are problems with the rest of the system and/or there's a problem with room acoustics. However, as I listened to the Sonus Faber Amati Futuras at TAVES (NBS preamp and cables, Basis turntable and arm, Audia Flight amplifier), which sounded very good indeed, it occurred to me that I've never heard Sonus Faber speakers sound bad. Was it just luck? I doubt it . . . (JA is working on a review of the Futura, to appear in the February 2012 issue of Stereophile.)
A major part of the success of an audio/video showand, yes, based on my impressions of the first day of TAVES, it's shaping up to be a successis having a helpful, experienced staff. Michel Plante and Sarah Tremblay brought with them most, if not all, of the staff of the Montreal Salon Son & Image. I was delighted to see Caroline St-Louis, the talented singer and flute player whose performances with her band are always a highlight of the Montreal show. Although this time she's not performingshe's expecting a babyshe's here helping out at the registration desk.
The new TAVES event taking place this weekend in Toronto is the result of two years of planning and market research and the efforts of Suave Kajko, Publisher/Editor in Chief of Canada Hi-Fi magazine, Simon Lau, owner of AuDiY, an audio component and accessory distribution company, and Michel Plante, President of the Montreal Salon Son & Image. The experience of Michel, and of Sarah Tremblay, Director of the Montreal show, who is also involved in the organization of TAVES, has, I'm sure, been invaluable. The list of sponsors includes Stereophile and sister magazine Home Theater. The venue is the upscale Le Meridien King Edward Hotel, a four-diamond property built in 1903 and subject to extensive renovations through the years.
Every person I talked tomanufacturers, distributors, dealers, and, most important, audiophile visitorswere most enthusiastic about their experience at the Toronto Show. Of the visitors, perhaps typical was the brother of a neighbor of mine, who lives in Florida and made a point of timing his visit in Toronto such that he'd be able to attend TAVES. Both brothers came to the show, and took pains to look for me and tell me how much they enjoyed it. The brother from Florida said that there are not many audio dealers in his part of the country, and he really appreciated the opportunity to see and hear so many products that he had only read about in Stereophile.
The exhibitors I talked to were uniformly positive about venue, and about the efficiency of the TAVES staff. Congratulations to Suave Kajko, Simon Au, Sarah Tremblay, and Michel Plante (LR in the photo): a winning team.
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.