TAVES 2013 Report Part 3

The design and manufacturing of loudspeakers can be described as falling on a continuum. At one end, we have speakers that use off-the-shelf drivers purchased from driver manufacturers, combined with crossovers based on information in standard loudspeaker design cookbooks and/or loudspeaker design software (perhaps with "voicing" that conforms to the designer's preference). In the hands of a skilled designer, this approach can produce good results—but they can't claim any originality.

At the other end of the continuum are speakers that are designed and built from the ground up,, using design principles that, while perhaps not entirely original, represent substantially new application of these principles. This approach is much more rare—and much more costly to implement.

The Muraudio Domain Omni ESL ($48,000/pair), which made its debut at TAVES, is squarely in the latter category. Pictured here with designer Murray Harman, the Domain Omni ESL is handmade in Canada, and is described as "a 360 degree, point-source, omni-directional electrostatic loudspeaker." The electrostatic elements are curved top-to-bottom as well as side-to-side (not just side-to-side, as in the MartinLogan electrostatics). The design features a horizontal dispersion of 360° and a vertical dispersion of 16°. The Domain Omni ESL is a two-way system, with the lower part of the range being handled by two LF drivers powered by a 700W class-D amplifier. The design is nothing if not ambitious, and is the subject of several patents. The sound was promising, with a soundstage that was apparent well away from the central sweet spot, but I had the feeling that the relatively small room did not give these omnidirectional speakers enough breathing room.

I have a certain fondness for vintage equipment, and was happy to see a representative of the Ontario Vintage Radio Association, Ted Catton (seen in the photo) at TAVES. Of course, the Sony TV set is a bit too modern to be classified as "vintage radio," but I was intrigued by the rotating picture tube. That's what I need when I forget that you shouldn't take a video with the camera turned to the portrait position!

TAVES offered a wide range of seminars, from the "home theater of the future" to "advanced turntable setup," sponsored by Tricell Enterprises and presented by Richard Mak of Tone Audio magazine (seen in the photo). I sat in on the latter for a few minutes, and was interested in Richard Mak noting that tracking-force gauges are notoriously inaccurate, with one costing $250 being one of the worst, and a $15 gauge being considerably better.

Attending a show like TAVES, it's easy to develop a jaded feeling, accepting as normal equipment whose cost seems to exist in another world. Of course, this is part of what shows like this are about: to see what the 1% buys—or, perhaps, what you would buy if you were part of the 1%.

But TAVES is not completely elitist, and if you were interested in more affordable equipment, there was lots to see as well. A system I saw that can be considered affordable by almost any standard is pictured here, with importer Jean-Marie Suard. The components included the ACT B-1.1 speakers ($700/pair), Ex-302 integrated amp (40Wpc, $349), Ex-322 CD player ($349), all designed by BC Acoustique in France and made in China. It would not be difficult to get it for a package price of $1000. And, despite lack of apparent care in the setup, the sound was really not bad.

How was the show? Well, because of competing obligations, I was able to attend TAVES 2013 only on the first day, Friday, which is traditionally a low-attendance day, so I can't say what overall attendance was like. For a Friday, it was about typical. In terms of the number and range of products on display, the show had a great deal to offer attendees. The major importers/distributors seemed to go all out to present their products. If I had the time, I would have welcomed the opportunity to go back and spend more time listening to the music.

The King Edward hotel continued to be an excellent venue: classy, and with rooms that were generally good for demonstrating equipment. This was the third year of TAVES, Suave Kajko and Simon Au having taken over from the Montreal crew of Michel Plante and Sarah Tremblay—and they're doing just fine. As the sign says: See you in 2014.