Founded in 1979 by Jacques Mahul, Focalformerly known as JMlab and as Focal-JMlabis one of audio's success stories. Beginning with a single speaker model produced in a small workshop in Saint Etienne, France, the company is still headquartered there, but has expanded to employ over 250 workers, making products exported to over 160 countries. All Focal products are engineered in France; only a few lower-priced multimedia models and headphones are assembled in the Far East.
The Estelon X ($70,000/pair) was on the cover of the TAVES 2014 Show Guide, with the printed admonition "Don't miss Estelon in the Yorkville East Suite, 4th floor." Since they were kind enough to provide direction to the demo room, I just had to comply . . .
I'm drawn to the idea of having a single transducer reproduce all the frequencies, but I appreciate the difficulties of this approach. Generally, the larger the driver, the better it is at reproducing low frequencies, and the worse at reproducing the highs. Thus, I was intrigued when I walked into the demo room of R2R Audio, a new Canadian manufacturer, which featured a single-driver system, with the driver having a 15" diameter, used in a dipole configuration. Can a driver like that reproduce anything other than the bass?
The Sheraton Center Hotel, venue of the 2014 Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show (TAVES), represents a marked change from the genteel elegance of the King Edward Hotel, the TAVES venue for the past two years. Built in 1972 in a modern style, the Sheraton offers a lot more spaceit also sports one of the most confusing show layouts that I've encountered. There are long corridors leading who-knows-where, and stairs going up and down that may or may not lead to exhibit areas.
Toronto is turning into a happening place for audiophiles. The Toronto Audio Visual Entertainment Show being held October31November 2, 2014, promises to be bigger and better in their new venue at the Sheraton Centre Hotel downtown. The Update TV & Stereo Elevated store, with a strong high-performance audio orientation, opened last spring in the Toronto suburb of Unionville. And now, Angie's Audio Corner, devoted to high end celebrated its second anniversary with the opening of the Annex Clearance Center in the coach house next to the main building, acting as a clearing house for used equipment of all sorts and used LPs.
It's no secret that brick-and-mortar stores have had a rough time lately, with closures at an alarming rate. It's rare to encounter a new store that is devoted to high-performance audio and video. A store that fits this description opened recently in the picturesque village of Unionville, just outside Toronto.
I must admit that I was a bit worried when the change in ownership of Salon Son & Image was announced. What if the new owners want to move the show in directions that ruin what made the show successful in the first place? Having attended SSI 2014, I'm relieved to be able to say that the new ownership has followed the principle of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
There is a long-standing tradition of a snowfall in Montreal during or just after the show; in fact, several people at SSI 2014 joked with me about whether there would be some "audio snow" this time. For a while, it looked like this year would be an exceptionand then the snow came down Sunday morning, blanketing the city.
I think of Woo Audio as a manufacturer of fairly modestly-priced tube headphone amplifiers, so I was surprised to see in the Woo Audio exhibit something that was clearly more upscale. The WA5 is described as an "SET class-A transformer-coupled speaker and headphone amp." It's available as a base model at $3400, but the version with all upgrades (special tubes, etc.) brings the price up to $6400. The power output is 8Wpc, so your speakers had better have high sensitivity.
A sub-$5000 system that apparently involved careful consideration of alternatives was the one assembled by Patrick Sareault, Director of Sales for Montreal area dealer Brosseau Audio Video. Serault told me that the first component he picked was the Hegel H-80 ($2000), a DAC/integrated amp (75Wpc) that had impressed him greatly. He combined this with the Dali Zenzor 7 loudspeaker ($1700/pair) and Marantz CD 5004 CD player ($550). That brought the price up to $4250. The next item in the system was one that's seldom considered in assembling an audio system, but which he thought was extremely important in getting the best sound: a high-quality AC duplex receptacle ($50, made by BIS Audio). Cables from BIS Audio brought the total up to $5000or a bit more, depending on the cables.