Totem Acoustic is another Canadian speaker manufacturer that I was eager to experience, especially since one of my close friends has been hyping his own Totem Mite speakers. This room did not disappoint! In fact, I can honestly say that this was one of the best rooms at the show. Totem had two models on display. The first model is called Sky which is a bookshelf speaker. You know how they say that size matters? Well, that is definitely not the case with the Sky, These diminutive speakers on matching stands produced the kind of sound that I could not believe I was hearing, given their size. The imaging was on par with some of the bigger floor standing speakers I have heard previously!
The second model was the Element Metal, which is Totem's flagship model in the Element range. Again, I was amazed by the sound produced in this part of the room. Some of it I can attribute to the excellent equipment used, which I will talk about in a few moments. First, Metal are not new. They've been around since 2011. What is new, are the Torrent woofers, which were built in-house from the ground up. They substantially differ from other woofers by the way they are manufactured, using extreme precision-machining process of the chassis, rather than the usual molding or stamping. According to Totem, each Torrent driver goes through 3 hours of machining followed by 4 hours of assembling and testing. There are other interesting innovations in these speakers, which you can read about on Totem's site. Now, as mentioned above, here is the equipment used to drive the Metal. Amplification was provided by the excellent BSC Audio M5 Monoaural Class A amplifiers and L5 Reference Stereo Preamplifier. Digital front end included a Naim CD player and a musical server (sorry, can't remember the brand) as sources and Bricasti Design M1 DAC. Torus RM15 was the power conditioner and speaker cables were by Transparent Cable. No matter what music was played, the sound was just excellent in all aspects. They were kind enough to play one song from one of the CDs. I had with me - Ayreon's "Dragon On the Sea" from the 2000 album "Universal Migrator 1: The Dream Sequencer". This proves once again that you don't have to spend insane amounts of money to get amazing sound! And when the time comes to upgrade my own speakers, Totem will be a definite consideration.
10. Venture Audio
Another interesting room at the show was by Venture Audio, which featured their new Quantum 8 fully powered speakers along with VP100P phono stage, and VP200D preamplifier with a built-in DAC. Analog source was the excellent Triangle Art Reference turntable. Digital source was a Mac laptop. Great sound all around and great looking equipment!
DVL Audio is a local distributor for CH Precision, Viola Labs and darTzeel. Last year at TAVES they had pretty much the same set up as this year, except for the speakers, which were Kharma Elegance dB9. This year, Mark Jones loaned them the awesome Magico S7 in Lamborghini orange, which he used in his room last year. This was a match made in heaven, in my opinion. The full system consisted of CH Precision digital front end with D1 SACD/DC drive and C1 D/A controller. Analog front end included Kronos Sparta turntable, connected to CH Precision P1 phono stage, and X1 power supply. Amplification was by the 2 chassis Viola Labs massive Bravo II stereo power amp and Sonata Performance Preamplifier with its separate regulated power supply. One of the best rooms at the show this year! After listening to some of the excellent musical selections chosen by the staff in the room, they were kind enough to play a selection from my CD - "Welcome to the New Dimension" by Ayreon from my favourite album "Into The Electric Castle". Needless to say I was in heaven! I hope I get to hear more of DVL Audio equipment in the future, including darTzeel.
12. Focus Audio
Another Canadian manufacturer I am familiar with is Focus Audio and their excellent product line. About 10 years ago a friend picked up a used pair of their Classic series towers (FC7, I believe). Good sounding speakers but they couldn't beat my PSB Stratus Bronze :P. Focus Audio room featured the following setup - Master 2 tower speakers, bi-amped by their own Concerto Mono tube amps, and with digital front end by the amazing Metronome Technologie Kalista Ultimate Signature CD Transport, and Kalista DAC. Great sound in this room but again, I am thinking that it can be achieved with less expensive equipment.
Conclusion and final thoughts
This is my second time attending TAVES and it seems to me the show is getting better and better. The number of attendees has definitely increased since last year, as more and more people are attracted to the show and what it offers. What I miss are some of the brands that should have been represented at the show, such as World of McIntosh (McIntosh Laboratories, Audio Research, Sonus faber, Wadia), mbl, T+A elektroakustik Burmester and Accuphase. Last year Accuphase were present by their Canadian distributor Audio Alliance. However, in my opinion, it was not successful as the sound in their room was totally lifeless. And maybe that is the reason for their absence this year. But regardless, TAVES continues to be a great venue for local audiophiles and HiFI enthusiasts, and I will continue attending the show for many years to come.