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.
Canadian-designed and assembled, the signal distinguishing feature of Tri-Art Audio amplifiers is that concrete is used extensively in their construction. Tri-Art Audio believes that class-D power amp chips offer superb power but suffer from microphonics, and only when the chip is isolated from vibration can its virtues be truly experienced. The Block amplifiers do just that. The amplifiers are available in various forms, some with and some without level controls, with optional battery power supply, power ranging from 25 to 200Wpc, prices starting at $1995.
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.
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.
Borrowing a page from the Montreal Salon Son & Imageand, previous to that, the Stereophile Hi-Fi showsTAVES featured live music. Singer/pianist Anne Bisson performed at King Edward's Lounge on Friday and Saturday. Her latest LP/CD was also being played in a number of rooms, and was available for sale. In the Oracle room you had a choice of whether to listen to the LP or the CD. When I was there, the preference seemed to be overwhelmingly for the LP.
"Have you heard the Woo headphone amps?" Todd Garfinkle of MA Recordings pulled me over. I told him that I hadn'tbut then I have not kept up with the market in headphone amps. "Have a listen." So I did, over Sennheiser HD800 headphones. The MA Recordings Seeing Unknown Colors (MO 15A) sounded great through the Woo Audio WA6 ($650), without the touch of extra brightness that these 'phones are prone to.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Anthem, Paradigm's sister company, has a very interesting new class-D amplifier, the M1 monoblock ($3799 each), a slim unit that is capable of putting out 1 kilowatt into 8 ohms and 2kW into 4 ohms. The M1 has an integrated fan-less cooling system that allows multiple amps to be stacked without feet.
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.