Last year's TAVES involved a partnership of Suave Kajko and Simon Au, both from the Toronto area, as well as Michel Plante and Sarah Tremblay, organizers of the well-established Montreal Salon Son & Image (SSI). Michel and Sarah also brought with them most of their staff from SSI. Suave and Simon were new to "show" business, so when it was announced that Michel and Sarah were not going to be involved in this year's show, there was some concern. Would these Torontonians have the élan, the savoir faire, the je ne sais quoi needed to run a show like TAVES.
The most expensive audio system at TAVES 2012 was in the main ballroom. With components from Burmester's Reference line, the total cost of the system was $500,000. That's according to the advance write-up in Canada HiFi magazine. At the show, I heard $600,000 mentioned as the price. But I guess that when you're at that level, what's an extra $100,000? The system was playing during the show and served as PA system for the concert by Cindy Gomez. How did it sound? On its own, not at the concert, it sounded very good indeed, especially considering the size of the room (huge) and the lack of acoustical treatment. At the concert, it sounded like it could have been any PA system.
John Atkinson reviewed the Acapella High Violoncello II speakeran esoteric item with a horn-loaded midrange and ion tweetertwo years ago. His conclusion: "This admittedly expensive German speaker really is one of the finest-sounding speakers I have had the pleasure of using."
How expensive? $80,000/pair. Is that too much for you? Well, TAVES 2012 had a demo of the Acapella Violin 1, which is a "mere" $45,000/pair. In a system with Audio Research Reference electronics, the Acapella Violin 1s sounded magnificent.
The Audio Zone Eliminator speakers ($8900/pair) have a distinctly DIY look, aimed at providing maximum performance with no concession to decor. Bass and midrange are both horn-loaded, the bass using a reproduction of the Electro-Voice DX-15 driver, the midrange a Selenium D330 compression driver, and a Fostex supertweeter. Claimed sensitivity is an astonishing 120dB. The Audio Zone Eliminator is built to order. Audio Zone also offers a variety of amps and preamps (active and passive), at what seem like very reasonable prices (eg, 50W Op-Amp Integrated, $1595), all made in Canada.
Location, location, location. Although there are more factors that go into a successful audio/video show, unless the location and the venue are right, it's really an uphill battle. The organizers of the Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show recognized that unless the show is in location that's convenient and has a venue that's attractive, only the most devoted audio/videophiles will attend.
They got it right by selecting the King Edward Hotel, a luxury hotel in downtown Toronto, with many restaurants nearby, and also close to theaters. All right, so parking is expensive, but the King Edward is steps from the subway, so it's easily accessible by public transit.
One of my formative audiophile experiences was the first time I heard electrostatic speakers. I walked into an audio store and heard music played by a live jazz combo. But where were the musicians? I saw none, though I did notice a couple of room-divider panels in the part of the store where the music seemed to be coming from. Eventually, it dawned on me that these must be loudspeakersbut they sounded like no other speakers I'd ever heard, and nothing like the Advents I had at home.
I'm a great fan of the musical theater: musicals, operetta, and opera, more-or-less in that order. A typical summer vacation for my wife and me involves driving from Toronto to the East Coast, stopping off to see musicals (and some plays) at places like the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, MA, the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, CT, the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ, , and the Ogunquit Playhouse in Ogunquit, ME. The Glimmerglass summer opera festival, near Cooperstown, NY, is not far from the route we usually take, but I never thought of visiting it because my impression has been that they specialize in performances of modern and obscure operas, which are not quite our cup of tea.
My discovery of the fact that Glimmerglass has greatly expanded the range of its offerings came about through sheer serendipity. . .
Integrated amplifiers are hot. I don't mean in the literal sensealthough having a preamplifier and stereo power amplifier in the same chassis usually results in higher running temperaturesbut in the metaphorical one. Once viewed as the type of component that no serious audiophile would consider buying, integrated amps have made a comeback in popularity and prestige. Consider: the October 2006 "Recommended Components" issue of Stereophile listed 29 integrated amps, whereas the October 2011 issue lists 40. Stereophile's 2010 Amplification Component of the Year award went to an integrated amp, the Audio Research VSi60, beating out a host of heavy-hitter preamps and power amps. The 2012 Stereophile Buyer's Guide lists 400 integrateds.
On the morning of the last day of the show, I went around one more time, looking for anything that I might have missed, and re-visiting some exhibits that I particularly enjoyed. To this end, I stuck my head in the MBL room, hoping to get another listen to the small MBL126 speaker that had impressed me earlier. Alas, the speakers playing were the big ones, but Jeremy Bryan of MBL said that if I came back in 5 minutes, he would have a special listening treat for me.
The Light Harmonic DaVinci USB is perhaps the most unusual-looking DAC I've seen, with the top of the unit that can be rotated. It's a non-upsampling, non-oversampling, no-negative-feedback design, with up to 384kHz/32-bit capability. The DaVinci uses three transformers in the power supply: one for digital, one for analog, and one for USB and control. This looks like a very serious design, and the price is correspondingly serious $20,000.