TAVES 2017, Day 1

The Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show (TAVES) has changed its venue. The show that now bills itself "North America's ULTIMATE Technology & Hi-Fi Show" has moved from the suburban Sheraton/Best Western location of the past two years to the Toronto Congress Centre, near the airport.

Why the move? Suave Kajko, President of TAVES, cites several reasons: the venue wanted to literally double the price for the large rooms; the Best Western hotel was the source of many complaints from exhibitors, and, in any case, is scheduled for demolition, and the show was bursting at the seams in terms of space (they didn't have enough space for booth exhibitors).

The Toronto Congress Centre is a large event, meeting, and trade show complex, with over one million square feet of exhibition space, with events as varied as the Realtor Quest Trade Show, the Franchise Show, the Anime North anime fan convention, and the Leadership Election of the Conservative Party of Canada. It's clear that space was not going to be a problem, but was this going to be a suitable venue for exhibits of high-performance audio/video as well as other consumer electronics products? Kajko evidently thought so, and hopes that this would be finally TAVES's permanent home.

In an admirable bit of outside-the-box thinking, Kajko arranged for a tie-in with the RV Show, being held at the same time, seeing them not as a competitor but as a potential ally, selling a combination ticket that would allow admission to both shows.

The obligatory people-lined-up-at-registration photo, taken 20 minutes before TAVES' opening, suggested that attendance was not going to be a problem. There was, in fact, the usual sort of excited buzz that comes from seasoned audiophiles—some of whom I recognized and chatted with—eager to check out the latest-and-greatest audio equipment.

The first equipment display I saw, in the Booths section, was of turntables—although I suspect these would not lead Michael Fremer to give them his unconditional recommendation. The one in the photo is called the UFO, from a company called Rock'n'Rolla, and is described as a Portable vinyl Entertainment Unit: a 3-speed turntable featuring a "diamond tipped needle," "super suspension technology for smooth perfect play," 4-hour lithium battery, and connection to all sorts of digital devices. The price is $US129.

As it happens, a turntable was featured in the next exhibit I saw (in one of the rooms rather than a booth): this was the Triangle Art Master Reference Turntable, which sells for $39,900 (not sure if this is $US or $CAD, but if you're considering equipment in this price range, I suspect it won't make much difference to you). This system included the Triangle Art Osiris Mk.2 tonearm ($6,800), various Triangle Art electronics, ACA Seraphim Prime Extreme loudspeakers ($35,000/pair), and TEO Audio Reference speaker cables ($44,000 for a 9ft pair).

Two different worlds...they live in two different worlds.

Much less expensive than the Triangle Art Master Reference, but still by no means in the entry-level category, were the Transrotor turntables (various prices around $10k, depending on the finish) from Germany. I quite liked the look of the white one, shown here by Transrotor's Dirk Rake.

All right, so here's another turntable: the Reed Muse 1C, from Lithuania. This 'table is rock-solid, immediately inspiring confidence. I thought, "Michael Fremer should review this table." And, wouldn't you know, the November issue of Stereophile that I received two days later has Michael's review of the Reed Muse 1C. (He liked it a lot.)

Gershman Acoustics is about to enter the $100k+ speaker club. Their new speaker, called the Posh ($CAD129,000/pair) looks completely different from previous Gershman models, and represents, according to Ofra Gershman, a "totally new approach incorporating two entirely separate enclosures placed one above the other in such a manner that they blend seamlessly into one." The driver complement includes a top-of-the-line Morel tweeter, Accuton 5" ceramic midrange, and two 8" aluminum double-magnet woofers of Gershman's design.

The rooms at this year's TAVES generally did not present an ideal acoustic environment, but Gershman had one of the better sounds—and the speakers must have had something to do with that!

Bryston is going gangbusters with their active speakers. In addition to the Model T Active (the setup at TAVES sounding smooth and dynamic as ever), product introductions at TAVES included active versions of the Middle T and the Mini T. They also introduced some new multichannel amps that represent a significant savings over the equivalent stereo amps, eg, $CAD10,795 for the new 24B, a saving of $1500 over the cost of a 7B and a 4B. Bryston also has some new subwoofers: the Model T sub ($CAD5565) and the Mini T sub ($CAD4179).


Photo courtesy of Wallace Poon.

It took a visit to just a few of the demonstration rooms to conclude that this year's TAVES venue had some major acoustical problems. The ceilings were much higher than normal homes, and many of the "rooms" were just open spaces, with temporary partitions, and very little isolation between them. I don't think I heard as many complaints about a TAVES venue at any other such event (although the Markham Best Western was pretty close). Still, some exhibitors managed to get decent sound, and not all sonic problems could be ascribed to the room acoustics.

Consider the demo of the GoldenEar Triton Reference speakers. I had heard these to good effect at the 2017 CES and at the local dealership, Toronto Home of Audiophile. However, when I first visited the Toronto Home of Audiophile's demo of the GoldenEar References at TAVES, I found the sound disappointing, especially the anemic bass, which I knew from previous experience to be powerful and articulate.

I normally refrain from making anything other than the most vague comments about the sound of demos at shows, but the exception is where my observations are at variance from my previous experience with the products, to the point that I suspect that there may be problem with the setup. The GoldenEar demo at TAVES used high-quality associated components (Pass Labs electronics), which I know to be favorites of GoldenEar's Sandy Gross, so there was no reason to believe that they were the source of the problem. Toronto Home of Audiophile's Francis Chung and Wallace Poon told me that they tried to fix the bass problem by turning up the subwoofer volume, but past a certain point the ceiling started to rattle but the bass in the listening area was still on the weak side. They concluded that the problem was inherent to the room, which was almost exactly square (the worst for sound) and the 18' ceiling. But they said they would continue to fiddle with the setup. I felt badly for them, and promised to return.

That was on Friday, the first day of the show. I returned to the GoldenEar demo room on Saturday afternoon (which was going to be my last day at the show), and found the sound completely transformed. The bass was back to its proper weight, and the sound had the spacious quality that is a general characteristic of GoldenEars speakers. What had changed? Well, I was told that there were three differences between the setup of Friday and on Saturday: they changed the cables, changed the DAC (to the PS Audio DirectStream, from a DAC whose identity I don't recall, but which is actually more expensive than the DirectStream), a change of cables, and allowed for more system warmup/break-in. If you listened carefully, you could still hear some problems with the acoustics, but they no longer interfered with enjoyment of the music. (In my excitement about the improvements, I neglected to take a photo. Toronto Home of Audiophile's Wallace Poon provided this photo, showing GoldenEar's Michael Lang.)

Another example of room acoustics being unjustly blamed for sonic problems was provided with the Monitor Audio demo. In this case, I hadn't actually heard the speakers (Silver 500, $US2500/pair) before, but they were said to incorporate some of the design characteristics of the Monitor Audio Platinum series, which I hold in high regard.

Listening to the Silver 500s at TAVES, I was disappointed. The sound had a shut-in quality, not at all like the openness of other Monitor Audio speakers of my acquaintance. The associated equipment included an integrated amp from Roksan (now part of the Monitor Audio family). The brothers Jeff and Sheldon Ginn (left to right in the photo), of Kevro International, importer for Monitor Audio, were distraught, but they could only blame the room acoustics (those 18' ceilings again).

That was early on Friday. Later the same day, I ran into Sheldon, who told me that there had been a problem with the Roksan integrated amplifier settings, discovered by Bruno de Lorimier of Nordost, who had previously worked for Kevro. It turns out that the Roksan has a Mute function, which attenuates the sound by 20dB, and this had been inadvertently engaged. The Gain control was then cranked up to a high level, deemed to be necessary because of the large listening space. With the attenuator function disengaged (and the Gain control turned down), the sound acquired the open quality that had been my expectation.

Audiophiles interested in buying LPs had a good selection to choose from at TAVES. The photo above shows some much-sought-after Japanese pressings, imported by Wallace Poon (who also works as a technician for Toronto Home of Audiophile, and who can be seen on the distant left in the photo). I talked to Wallace after the show, and he told me that his sales of LPs were down 30% from last year's TAVES, which he ascribes to the change of venue, last year's Markham venue being a more well-to-do area.

Some LP rarities could be found at TAVES from the vendor shown in the photo above. I asked him what was the rarest among those he had for sale, and, after looking through the "Rarest" bin, he held up an LP by Freddy King: Bossanova Blues. At $120, for those who like this music, this doesn't seem excessive.

Tri-Cell Enterprises, headed by the indefatigable Vince Scalzitti, had five rooms and three retail booths at TAVES. I've mentioned some of these products already; others included the room showcasing the Vivid Giya G2 speakers ($CAD$66,000/pair), whose performance, while generally OK, was not as impressive as on other occasions that I heard these speakers.

However, I had a strange experience with these speakers at TAVES. Listening to the system in what is normally the sweet spot, the imaging was acceptable, but nothing to write home about. But then, when I stood level with and in the middle of the space between the speakers, facing the back wall (looking for a possible close-up photo opportunity), the imaging was simply spectacular, with pin-point accuracy—something like giant headphones. I tried this at home with my Monitor Audio Platinum Audio PL300 IIs, and got only some of the effect. Looking at my photo of the Giya room, I see some sort of room acoustic treatment along the back wall. I don't know if this had something to do with what I was hearing.

There were lots of headphones at TAVES, but there was very little opportunity to compare them—which is something I would hope to have at an audio show. The headphone system that caught my eye was the Abyss/Wells Audio (another Tri-Cell import). I listened briefly to the Abyss headphones (Diana, $CAD4000), through the Wells Audio headphone amplifier, and was surprised that when I picked up the phones they seemed to be on the heavy side, but when I put them on my head they were very comfortable. Good sound, too, from what I could tell in a brief listen.

COMMENTS
PAR's picture

I don't believe that Michael Fremer reviews the Reed Muse 1C in the November Stereophile. It was the Muse Muse 3C he reviews which is quite a different looking 'table with a platter incorporating a series of LEDs around the circumference to indicate speed accuracy as a kind of strobe system. It also has an optional and unique friction drive system using twin motors.

Anyway he did indeed like the Muse 3C very much, it's just that it is another turntable to the one shown in your picture at TAVES.

Robert Deutsch's picture

Thanks for the correction.

Michael Fremer's picture

correction!

ken mac's picture

Sweet wide angle shots...

James.Seeds's picture

I also attended the Show on Friday, I like the new venue very much, easy to get to, lots of room unlike the Best Western with cramped listening rooms and catacomb walkways made the experience less than ideal. The sound of the other hand for me was mainly off, as Robert mentions the Tritons weren't at their best, I'm sure they'll be better prepared next year. Although I do find it silly that the rooms, cables, and DAC's were to blame for some of the issues and of course human error. Seems even those who sell you the equipment don't get it right.

PaulW's picture

I have to agree that the sound in some of the "rooms" was simply awful. Expecting audio manufacturers or distributors to properly demonstrate their products in that sort of environment is simply ridiculous. I spent a fair amount of time in most of the traditional rooms and many of the demos were quite impressive. However, if the TAVES show is going to be successful in the future, a more suitable venue will have to be found.

corrective_unconscious's picture

The gross disparity between the reported sound of the GoldenEar speakers from the first visit to the second visit cannot possibly be accounted for by a change of a working DAC and intact cables and more run in time, imo. Either the flaws or the ensuing improvement is not being reported accurately, or they had something wired out of phase, or something equally fundamentally wrong, but didn't want to cop to it.

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