I felt as though I had entered sacred space. As I walked into the huge TAD suite, designer Andrew Jones was playing Aaron Neville's recording of "Amazing Grace." Everything about the sound, the speaker layout, and the rapt silence of the full house felt like a holy shrine.
By now, the excellence of the big TAD Reference One loudspeakers ($78,000/pair), designed by Andrew Jones, has become well-known to Stereophile readers. Less familiar, perhaps, may be TAD’s Reference electronics: the TAD D600 CD/SACD player and DAC with external power supply, the C600 preamplifier with external power supply that Michael Fremer reviews in the June 2013 issue ($42,000), and M600 monoblocks ($68,000/pair).
The warmth of the system’s midrange immediately won my heart.
Eric Hudgins' Tailored Technologies of Santa Clara, CA somehow packed a lot of equipment and sound into a small space. Audreal's PA-80 class-A amplifier ($5995), XA-3200 preamplifier ($1899), and LP-2 phono stage ($1295) were brightening up the room with the SoTM DAC 200HD ($2200) and server ($2200) and the new version of Volent VL-3 Mk.II loudspeakers ($11,000). The turntable was the Clearaudio Ovation ($5500) with MC cartridge ($800).
When I entered the Audio Note UK room, someone was in the midst of auditioning a CD of exotic Chinese instruments. The strings sounded beautiful, the highs lovely. On solo piano, the system had a very quiet, enticingly crystalline purity. Soprano Elly Ameling's voice sounded equally beautiful, the voice clear and radiant, even though her piano accompaniment was strangely bloated and over-emphasized. That was no doubt due to room problems that other exhibitors tried to tame with ASC Tube Traps.
Every music lover/audiophile with vision longs for the same thing: those magical moments when the system disappears, the time-space continuum parts, and we find ourselves mystically transported to a place where only the transcendent wonder and beauty of musical creation exists. For me, one of those unexpected listening experiences that make life worth living occurred on the Marriott’s mezzanine, when Kevin Hayes of VAC (Valve Amplification Company) played my JVC-XRCD of Sarah Vaughan and the Duke Ellington Orchestra performing Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns.”
For some, the Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show (TAVES 2013) is the show of the future. For others, it may signal a possible decline in the supremacy of two-channel audio. Either way, just two weeks after RMAF in Denver, with hardly any space between Stereophile's comprehensive coverage of that major two-channel show, TAVES 2013 takes place November 13 in the classy King Edward Hotel in downtown Toronto.
Classical music in general, and audiophile label Telarc in particular, scored big in this year's annual Outmusic Awards. Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Del Tredici, whose music has recently found an ardent champion in conductor Robert Spano, won Outstanding New Recording: Instrumental for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's Telarc recording of Paul Revere's Ride. Telarc veteran and Grammy Award-winning producer Thomas C. Moore, who assisted in the recording, received the Outstanding Producer award. In addition, soprano Melissa Fogarty received Outstanding New Recording: Debut Female for Handel: Scorned & Betrayed (Albany Records).
Telarc's stunning hybrid multichannel SACD of Jennifer Higdon's City Scape and Concerto for Orchestra has received the 2005 OutMusic Award for Outstanding New Instrumental Recording. The disc has also received the 2005 Grammy for Best Engineered Classical Recording (well-deserved by Jack Renner) and 2005 Grammy nomination for Best Orchestral Performance (equally well-deserved by Higdon champion Robert Spano and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra).
As I walked into the E.A.R./Marten room, Nat King Cole's voice sounded as beautiful as I have ever heard it reproduced. Through the modest-looking Marten FormFloor speakers ($6500/pair) and Marten FormSub ($4500), Reference Recordings' triumphant version of Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances was so thrillingly full and colorful that I could not hide my amazement. On Dialoghi, a demonstration-quality CD from Bob Attiyeh of Yarlung Records that Robert Levi of the Los Angeles Audio Society urged me to play, the sound of Elinor Frey' cello was as warm and beautiful as anyone would ever want it to be. I was in love.
It was a case of Johnny Hartmann the third time over. In the room shared by Hansen and Tenor Audio, my third encounter with Hartmann's vocalism at CES 2010 came via a CD transfer of a 1964 recording. Happily, the CD retained much of the vocal richness of the two Hartmann LPs I had heard earlier in the show.