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.
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.
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.
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.
Totem's Vince Bruzzese is very proud of his new Element series of speakers, which have the bass drivers running full-range, with no crossover. The Element series include Fire (compact), Earth (column, passive radiator), Metal (column, twin woofers), Wood (center channel), and Water (subwoofer). In a demo of the Metals (Arcam BDP100 Blu-ray player, Arcam 888 pre-processor, and Bryston 7B amplifiers), I was particularly impressed by the bass, which didn't seem like it had any need for a subwoofer.
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.