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.
When I went into VMAX Services' room, they were playing a recording of "Mona Lisa" that wasn't Nat King Cole's but had the same spirit. The speakers were small bookshelf units (stand mounted, of course) and they sounded exceptionally good. Who is the singer, I asked VMAX's Richard Kohlruss, and what are those speakers? He showed me the CD: Verve ERCD 6671, vocals by Densil Pinnock, guitar by Bill Coon.
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.
The Avantera ($24,000$26,000/pair, depending on finish) is the speaker from German manufacturer Audio Physic that replaces their Avanti and Caldera models. (Avant-i and Cald-era combined gives you Avantera.) It's Audio Physic's 25th Anniversary model, and features the aptly-named Hyper-Holographic midrange driver and tweeter. The sound of the system, at a price not for the faint-hearted (Acoustic Signature Storm turntable, $7500; Trigon Chonolog CD player, $8995; Trigon Dialog preamp ($8495); Trigon Monolog Power Amps ($9495 each); Creative Reference Plus audio rack ($10,500); Creative Audio Amplifier bases ($1000 each) was exquisiteclearly a candidate for best sound of the show.
Prior to having attended TAVES, if you had asked me what the connection was between "loudspeakers" and "waterfall," I would have referred to the "waterfall plot" of frequency response that is part of John Atkinson's speaker test regimen. But it turns out there's another connection: there's a line of speakers called "Waterfall." Made in France, these speakers' claim to fame is that their cabinets are made of glass.
A well-balanced sytemboth in terms of the price of its components and the soundwas demonstrated by Jay Rein of Bluebird Music. The speakers were Spendor SP2/3R2s ($4295/pair), a reworking of the classic BC1, with the tweeter from the A line. CD player, preamp, and amplifiers were by Exposure, and cables by Van den Hul (which Jay told me were the most neutral sounding Van den Hul has produced so far).
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.
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.
On their website, the only products listed are cables and stepup transformers, but at TAVES, Blueberryhill Audio had a new speaker on demo. And what a speaker! The Rhapsody 3D has a bipolar arrangement of two 8" full-range Fostex drivers, supplemented by a Fostex supertweeter, and a servo-controlled powered subwoofer, with all the drivers in cylindrical cabinets. The sound was fabulous, with startling dynamics, great imaging, and bass that was tight, well-controlled, and extended. The Rhapsody 3D was being driven by an 8W 300B amp for the mid/highs and another 25W tube amp for the supertweeter (or maybe the other way around; my notes are not clear on this). Sold factory-direct at $15,000/pair, the Rhapsody 3D system provided for me one of the best sounds of the show.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.