Updated: Jan 23, 2020
Another year and another TAVES show has come to an end. As much as I was looking forward to my 3rd TAVES in a row, I have to say this was a bit of a letdown. My sentiments are shared by many of my audiophile friends. The main reason is the new location - Toronto Congress Centre. Room acoustics play a huge role in the sound quality. And unfortunately, many rooms at the show just didn't sound good this year. The organizers had to move to the new location, because hotels in the Toronto area are no longer willing to host the show, which is a real shame.
That is not to say there weren't some great rooms at the show and I will describe them in more detail below.
In my opinion, the best room at the show in terms of gear and acoustics was Wynn Audio. Wynn Wong always brings some amazing gear to TAVES and the atmosphere in his room is friendly and welcoming.
This year the setup included Tidal Contriva G2 loudspeakers, which I have had the pleasure of experiencing a few times in Wynn's showroom, Karan Acoustics amplification (KA L Reference Mk3 preamplifier, KA M 2000 monoblocks and KA PH Reference phono preamplifier) and the amazing Metronome Technologie Kalista CD transport (or CD turntable as they call it) and Kalista DAC. Analog source was Thales TTT-Compact II turntable with the new Simplicity II tonearm. Grounding was provided by Entreq and cabling was by ZenSati.
How did it sound? In one word - marvellous! Although I didn't get to hear the analog source, the digital was just amazing. Last year I heard the Kalista combo with Focus Audio amps and speakers, but in Wynn's setup with Karan and Tidal it was a whole different experience. Somehow, year after year, Wynn manages to come up with interesting combination of components that have amazing synergy among them, which results in a sound that is clean, transparent, powerful and neutral. I know my friend Ran will say it's "stupid money", and maybe it is. But there is still market out there for people who have the means for this kind of equipment. I know many people are tired of hearing Nils Lofgren's "Keith Don't Go" at the audio shows, but I think it's an amazing track to showcase the amazing equipment. So have a listen here: I recommend using a pair of good headphones for a better effect.
Audio by Mark Jones is another local dealer I am always eager to visit at TAVES. This year Mark teamed up with the local distributor DVL Audio and put together the setup that I am quite familiar with since I heard it at his place.
Focal Sopra No.3 loudspeakers
CH Precision M1 amplifier in stereo mode
CH Precision C1 controller/DAC
CH Precision P1 phono stage
Kronos Pro turntable with SCPS-1 power supply
Aurender digital server
Nordost Odin 2 cables
Nordost new grounding devices for AC and DC currents
Amp stand, component rack and cable risers were once again by Massif Audio Design
Mark's room always draws a lot of people. Every time I visited, it was full and the only time it cleared was at the end of Day 2 (Saturday), when Mark indulged me by playing Kingdom Come's "Get It On" from my own LP :) Thank you, Mark!
The atmosphere was friendly and welcoming thanks to Mark as well as David and Lawrence from DVL.
While most of the music played sounded great, some tracks did not impress either myself or my friend Konstantine. One example being his Stan Getz LP that Mark played on Konstantine's request. Sounded kinda flat. On the other hand, Dead Can Dance track "Yulunga (Spirit Dance)" from Into The Labyrinth was just amazing! We also enjoyed Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus" both as a cover by Johnny Cash and the DM's own extended mix. Perhaps it had to do with room acoustics or Nordost grounding devices. While the AC box did improve the sound, tightening the bottom end on Leonard Cohen's "Almost Like The Blues", I felt that DC box made it sound worse. I know this system sounds MUCH better at Mark's place.
Some videos for your enjoyment below.
Johnny Cash "Personal Jesus" (Depeche Mode cover)
Depeche Mode "Personal Jesus" (Extended Mix)
Proving once again that you don't have to spend an obscene amount of money to achieve great sound, the room that very much impressed us was Erickson Consumer. They are a Canadian distributor of audio brands such as JBL, Revel, Mark Levinson, Arcam and others.
The setup that was playing when we came in consisted of the new version of Revel's F208 speakers in white (about $15,000) driven by Mark Levinson electronics - Nº536 monoblocks, № 526 preamplifier and № 519 audio player controlled by Roon from a laptop.
The highs and mids were crystal clear and detailed, the bass was tight and punchy, which I felt with my chest. The music samples that were played covered various genres and each one sounded excellent! On my request, they played one track from Sarah Brightman's 1993 album Dive called "Seven Seas". Have a listen below. Sorry for the noise, people in the room just wouldn't stop talking.
Another room that I absolutely want to mention in this report is by local dealers Jonathan and Ed from Sonic Artistry. While their room suffered from overdamping, the equipment deserves to be mentioned.
Gold Note XT-7 loudspeakers
Soulution 511 amps in mono mode
Soulution 520 preamp
Soulution 550 phono preamp (brand new, possibly the only one in Canada right now)
Reed Muse 1C turntable with laser guided tangential Reed 5T tonearm
Acoustic Solid "Solid Wood" turntable
Absolutely massive rack by Massif Audio Design
I have heard the 520 preamp and 511 amps at my friend Aleks' house not long ago and the sound was simply amazing with his Kharma speakers. I am sure given the proper room, these electronics would shine with the Gold Note speakers too. Now, the laser guided arm is something else. Below you will see a couple of short videos taken by Aleks that describe how it works.
Wynn Audio actually had a second, much smaller room, which I liked as well. Here they had the very tall Penaudio Sinfonia loudspeakers driven by a Karan Acoustics integrated amp with a Goldmund player as a digital source.
A very enjoyable sound in this room given the adverse room acoustics. And the speakers look awesome too, in my opinion.
And last, but certainly not least, the Totem room. As a long time Totem owner, Konstantine was very eager to hear their latest bookshelf speaker offering called Sky. I heard them last year and I was absolutely floored by their performance. You may read about that in my last year's TAVES report.
Konstantine shared my impressions after experiencing the Sky driven by Naim electtonics playing all kinds of music. The mid range and highs were absolutely flawless. Amazing details and excellent imaging. It's incredible that such small speakers can project so well into the listening space. Bass was lacking a bit obviously. But that can easily be solved with a good subwoofer. Which, by the way, is how Konstantine's system is set up right to now - Totem Mite bookshelf speakers with an Energy sub. So the Sky is now on his upgrade list.
On a related note. We made some purchases. Both myself and Konstantine bought vinyl records from various vendors. I also bought a gorgeous wooden record stand from Trevor of Massif Audio Design.
In conclusion I would like to thank the people behind TAVES, who are doing amazing job year after year putting on a great show with many interesting exhibitors. Despite the difficulties and various challenges this year, I think the show was a success and I hope the show will grow and expand in the coming years. As a new member of the Greater Toronto Area Audiophile Club, I would love to help in whatever way I can to make TAVES an even better yearly event.