Day 2 at Toronto Audiofest 2018

Vince Scalzitti's Tri-Cell Enterprises had five rooms on Level 4 of the Westin, with lots of product introductions. One that caught my eye was a piece of equipment that looked like it was from an airplane used in WW II. Labeled a "Puristic Audio Apparatus," this was the Thöress F2A11 integrated amp ($11,500, all prices in Canadian dollars unless marked otherwise) and is cradled like a baby by Vince in the photo above. Completely hand-build and hand-wired in Germany, the F2A11 uses new-old-stock Siemens F211 power beam tetrodes operating in single-ended triode mode.

I have long admired Vivid's Giya line of loudspeakers, but was put off by the prices. My interest was piqued at the show by the news that Vivid is introducing a lower-priced line called Kaya, and that Tri-Cell had just received the first pair of Kayas to reach North America, and were going to demo them at Toronto Audiofest.

Alas, at $25,000/pair, the Kaya 45 (second from the top in the line) being demoed at the Toronto show is not as inexpensive as I had hoped, but it definitely represents a saving over the Giyas. And, as I think the photo above shows, the Kaya 45 is a sleek, modern-looking speaker, not as idiosyncratic in appearance as the curlicue-on-top Giyas. The pair in Toronto were virtually just-out-of-the-box, but they already had much of the clarity and open quality that characterizes the Giyas. The system featured a Solution Audio 330 integrated amp and a host of Synergistic Research acoustical treatment devices and power line treatments, the effect of which may have been . . . er . . . synergistic.

For reporting on an audio show, the priority is equipment that's being introduced at the show, perhaps a piece of equipment that represents a US or a North American premiere. It's relatively rare to run across an entirely new line of audio equipment. I was then surprised to discover the Saturn line of equipment, which was receiving its world Premier at Toronto Audiofest. Designed by Gilbert Yeung of Blue Circle Audio, the line includes the 101/102C/103C power filters ($2499–$3950), 201 DAC ($4500), 501 solid-state preamp ($4550), and 601 solid-state amplifier ($4950). Phono preamp, headphone amplifier, and integrated amplifier are still to come. The system, which included PMC 5.24 loudspeakers ($9500/pair) sounded smooth as well as revealing. All Saturn products are manufactured and assembled in Canada.

ArtistCloner is a new name to me—and an interesting name it is for an audio equipment manufacturer. The name did sound vaguely familiar, and, doing a Google search, I discovered that their products were reported on in show reports by Art Dudley as early as 2016, and by Robert Schryer in his 2018 Montreal show report. (I ought to read Stereophile more carefully . . .) Located on the South Shore of Montreal, ArtistCloner is another full-featured company, the system at Toronto Audiofest—shown in the photo above—including the Scorpi integrated amp ($12,925) Rebel Reference speakers ($15,995/pair with stands), Pteros power distributor ($3669), and ArtistCloner speaker cables, interconnects, and AC cables. I didn't have much time to listen to the system, but my impressions were very positive: a well-balanced sound, with credible dynamics and precise imaging.

Based in Toronto, exaSound designs and manufactures high end DACs, network music servers, and servers. Several of their products (some shown in the photo above) were given very positive reviews in Stereophile, earning Class A and A+ listings in "Recommended Components." exaSound had the new PlayPoint DM dual-mono D/A converter and network audio server at the show; with a regular price of $18,200, it was available at a "show special" price of $11,000, including up to 3 hours of installation. This offer was available only during the show hours, and "while quantities last," with only three devices available to any one consumer, so if this is the first time you heard of this offer, you're out of luck.

There were a lot of turntables on display at Toronto Audiofest, with most of them costing over $10K. An exception was the Origine Mk,II (photo above) from Oracle Audio, the Canadian company with a long history in the design and manufacture of turntables. The Origine Mk.II ("100% designed, crafted, and assembled at our factory in Canada") has a resemblance to the flagship Delphi Mk.VI Second Generation (US$9150 with turbo power supply but without tonearm), but at a more affordable CN$2750, including Origine tonearm and Ortofon MC-1 Turbo cartridge.

A former owner of Avantgarde horn speakers, I retain a fondness for these speakers, and I'm always interested in any new speaker from Avantgarde. This time, I had heard that Avantgarde has a new entry-level speaker called Uno Fino, which Angie Lisi, the importer (shown in the photo above), said will surprise me. She heard these in Germany, and was hoping to have a pair in Canada in time for the Toronto show. Alas, it didn't work out that way, and the speakers she was demoing with were the Duo XD-42s (US$42,000/pair). The sound—with VAC electronics, dCS DAC, and Aurender music server—had an effortless quality that made me want to just sit and listen to the music. I'll be interested in what the new baby-Avantgardes sound like.