George de Sa

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Roksan Audio K3 Integrated Review.indd

Roksan Audio Ltd. was founded over 30 years ago in London, England. The company’s name was derived from ‘Roxana’, the daughter of Persian King Darius, as opposed to “Roxanne”, the catchy song by The Police. I know, I know, you’re now humming it – sorry. Getting back to that Persian influence; in the case of Roksan, it goes beyond the company name and carries on through to product styling as well as some of the model names. Why this Persian connection? Turns out that the original British founders of Roksan were themselves of Persian decent and hence, the company understandably bares this heritage. Since the company’s founding, Roksan has changed a few hands, most recently in 2016 the company was acquired by Monitor Audio. Today, Roksan produces a full gamut of audio products including: turntables, phonostages, cartridges, CD players, amplifiers (pre, power and integrated) as well as cables and accessories. Currently, Roksan’s lineup of integrated amplifiers includes three models, each at a different tier with the most affordable being the K3 integrated amplifier ($2,000 US).

The K3 integrated amplifier is the first Roksan product that I’ve had a chance to review, though I’ve appreciated hearing a number of Roksan products over the years at dealers and audio shows. Though technically being Roksan’s entry-level integrated, the K3 sure doesn’t come across as entry-level anything. Lifting its 14 kg / 31 lb body will immediately convince you that the K3 means business. This integrated amplifier feels impressively solid, like a chunk off the K3 (Broad Peak) mountain, where I expect it takes its name from. The rock-like metaphor continues to apply to the K3’s 1/4-inch aluminum faceplate, which comes across almost as if honed from stone, given its texture. You’ll find a neat arrangement of chrome buttons on this face, which give a reassuring click when depressed. The volume control looks the part but doesn’t feel as robust as you would expect, given the rest of the K3 build. Most impressive are the K3’s connectivity features; offering 5 line level RCA inputs, 1 moving magnet phono input, 1 Bluetooth input, Home Theatre by-pass, five-way shrouded left/right speaker binding posts, stereo preamp output and a front 3.5mm headphone jack. A compact, yet nicely styled remote is included, though it lacks backlighting for in-the-dark listening.

On the specification side, the K3 has a very impressive class-leading 140 Watt-per-channel / 8 Ohm power rating, doubling to 220 Wpc into 4 Ohms. No doubt the K3’s oversized 550 VA ultra-low noise toroidal transformer and 5 regulated power rails are to thank for the generous power capability. Distortion is rated very low at under 0.005% (1 kHz / 8 Ohm), which is just amazing for an integrated amplifier at this price point.

I evaluated the Roksan K3 using a MOON by Simaudio 280D DAC / digital player, streaming music from my PC and Tidal HiFi. The analog source was my resident VPI Scout turntable with a Dynavector 10×5 MC cartridge. Nordost Heimdall 2 interconnects and power cord with Zavfino (by 1877 Phono) Prima-OCC speaker cables were used, along with a Nordost QB8 powerblock and AC Sort Kones. The primary speakers for this evaluation were my Monitor Audio Silver 6G 300 towers, borrowed from my home-theatre system.

I started my listening tests by evaluating the K3, with my MOON 280D DAC/streamer connected via the analog RCA jacks. Using Tidal HiFi, I dialed up “Ho Hey” from the Lumineers self-titled album. The Roksan K3, playing through the Monitor Audio Silver 300 loudspeakers demonstrated wonderful speed, agility and dynamics. There was punch and vibe, without any harshness, even at high volume levels. The K3 / Silver 300 pairing was able to clearly relate the echo in the bellows of the back-up vocals. Imaging was well defined with appreciable depth and breadth. I couldn’t help but sing along; fortunately my sound-proofed room contained my hound-like hollering.

Next, I dialed in Lake Street Dive’s “I Want You Back” from Fun Machine via Tidal HiFi. The opening plucks of the bass resonated viscerally within my room, having very impressive depth and weight. As Rachel Price began to sing, I was sold on the sultry midrange that the K3 was able to deliver via the Monitor Audio Silver 300 speakers. Scale was no problem for the K3, in fact, it’s one of this amplifier’s strengths, with power to spare. Delivery was tight and snappy paired with a dollop of richness and warmth. Soundstaging was well handled with elements well defined and separated. I was taken aback by the casting of the back-up vocals well to the left and right of the speakers.

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Welcome to Part 5 of our coverage of the 2018 Montreal Audio Fest.  If you missed the previous parts, you can read them HERE.

ELAC America

ELAC America was hosting a couple of their own rooms at the Montreal Audio Fest.  It was great to see this company now in direct control of their Canadian product distribution and marketing and from what I saw, the future is promising.

One room hosted a modest yet relaxed and engaging sounding setup, fronted by a pair of ELAC’s new Debut 2.0 Series B6.2 bookshelf speakers ($429).  Amplification was by way of ELAC’s Discovery Series DS-S101-G integrated amplifier ($1499) utilizing BASH amplification for 80 watts-per-channel and the source was an EA Series EA-101EQ-G Music Server ($999) with built-in RUNE.  Heck, since RUNE itself is $500 U.S. for a lifetime licence, this is quite the bargain of a product.

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Moving to the second room there was a standing room crowd, so much so that I had to pass-on-bye and return at a more convenient time for a photograph.  The system was demonstrating the ELAC Adante speakers ($3,749) on stands ($479) with the aforementioned EA-101EQ-G RUNE Music Server as the source, Audio Alchemy amplification and AudioQuest cabling.  Listening to a master-tape copy of Patricia Barber’s “You Don’t Know Me” the sound was wonderfully detailed and musical with substantial weight to the low frequencies.

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Andrew Jones was in town personally to speak about these products, which no doubt was a significant draw to the room –he has a following, and given his success with everything he touches, he should.

Verity Audio

In the Verity Audio room I found the Sarstro IIS loudspeakers ($59,995/pair) being driven by VerityAudio’s own Monsalvat Amp 60 ($75,395) and controlled by their Monsalvat Pre-2 ($45,495).

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A MELCO HA-N1ZH60 Music Server ($4,000) and an APL DTR-SR transport ($9,850) were the sources.  How did it sound?  Warm and rich with a lovely bloom that was undeniably relaxing and a welcome treat for my ears.

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I took an interesting shot of the Monsalvat Pro-6 with its top off, which gives you an idea of the engineering and logical layout of Verity Audio’s electronics.

A Taste of Live Music in a Studio

I came across a large room, professionally dressed, in which I was enchanted by live music.

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The setup was an open studio and it was inspiring to see such a young artist (Anne Bisson’s son) playing the piano so wonderfully.  This is only a small taste of the live music events happening at the show over the 3 days.  In fact, Anne Bisson herself was also playing in the Plurison Room.

Gemsen

Distributor Gemsen only had static displays at the show this year.  I did find the new Dynaudio wireless speakers to be interesting looking.

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This was the first North American showing of the Dynaudio Music 1, 3, 5 and 7 models, which range in price from $649 to $1,099 U.S.

RUEL Audio

RUEL Audio had a charming room setup with a table, seating and warm lighting.  The music came from decorative and unimposing column speakers set near the corners.  Totally non-intrusive despite their floor to ceiling height, the RUEL R+ system has strong appeal for those wanting high-end audio with a modern aesthetic flareThe distribution of sound and tonality was amazingly consistent throughout the room and whether standing up close or at a distance.

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Thierry (Terry) Ruel, company founder, stood by his creation with pride for a photo.  The RUEL R+ system stands 8-feet tall and is adjustable in height given its modular design. There are 16 stacked modules included, with a system controller (amplifier, DSP, input selection and DAC) and speaker cables.  Shipping is also included in the system price of $39,000.

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The system can be ordered in 3 different finishes including: Passion Red, Dream White and Golden Brown.

Audiophile Experts

Montreal dealer, Audiophile Experts, has a room built around Esoteric, Focal and SGS audio gear.

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The speakers in play were the latest EVO edition of the Focal Utopia Scala ($47,000/pair).  They were being run on a full set of Esoteric components, including their 901 Streamer ($26,000), C03XS linestage preamplifier ($16,000) with a G02 Master Clock ($8,500) and S03 power amplifier ($16,000).  Cabling was all SGS Electro Acoustique, including the new Zeus series, as well as the Gold and Poseidon series.  Music was delivered with a wonderful sense of air and space, set within a large soundstage.

Artist Cloner

An interesting and lovely looking room was hosted by Artist Cloner.

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This was a full Artist Cloner system, which included their Rebel Reference standmount loudspeakers ($22,299/pair), driven by their COLEO monoblock amplfifiers ($25,399/pair) and controlled by their LUCEO preamplifier ($12,599).  Cables and connections were by Furutech.  This system sounded open and palpable with lovely articulation.

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On static display and open top for viewing pleasure was the SCORPI ($6,000), a 50 watt-per-channel integrated amplfier, which I was told is soon to be succeeded by the SCORPI II ($15,000).

Distinct Distributors – Radial Engineering Ltd.

The last room I had the pleasure to visit was of Distinct Distributors with Radial Engineering Ltd., which had numerous products on display.

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The featured system in play was using Angstrom’s all-new 500 series speakers ($999/pair) – the taller of the two sets pictured.  The 500 Series are unique in that a pair of two speakers (left/right) incorporate a separate centre channel for true 3-channel operation in a home-theatre or surround-music system.  The shorter of the two is the 600 Series ($1,299/pair) which also incorporates three channels into two speakers but adds a side-firing tweeter.

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This system was being driven by a Hafler CI-1255e 12-channel amplifier ($1,500) that delivers a healthy 55 Watts into each of those 12 channels.

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The relatively new Dynaco ST-70 ($3,999) was on static display.  We are hoping to get one of these in for a review soon.

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Also on static display was the Hafler P3100 ($2,599) a 2-channel studio power amplifier that delivers 150 Watts-per-channel.

Wrap   

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So that’s it for me on my re-cap of the Montreal Audio Fest 2018.  I had a fantastic time attending this show, once again.  So long, from me, George de Sa and Suave Kajko.

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With Michel Plante and Sarah Tremblay at the reins of the Montreal Audio Fest, I had no doubt that the 2018 edition would be a success.  Their tag-team efforts over the past couple years have successfully rejuvenated the show, while retaining its focus on not only audio products but also on music.

Once again, visitors were welcomed at no charge (although the show was selling raffle tickets for prizes to raise money for the show), which no doubt was part of the reason for the substantial crowds I saw in a number of the rooms.  The vibe was friendly and warm, with consumers and exhibitors obviously having a good time.  Making my way down the escalators, my excitement began to build.

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JVCKenwood

Though there is no denying the audio focus of the Montreal Audio Fest, it was nice to see JVCKenwood taking the effort to show off some of their fabulous projectors.  Though I finally made the move this year to an 82” 4K TV a projector is at the top of my wish list.  Three projectors were in action in their room.

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The screen in the foreground is being lit by JVC’s flagship DLA-RS4500 4K Laser projector ($45,000).  In the background the projector was the Procision DLA X-790 ($8,000), which sits midway in the Procision line-up, with the X-590 ($5,000) beneath it and the X-990 ($10,000) above it.

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On a smaller screen, there was an impressive picture being cast by an amazing new product form JVC.  The all-new native-4K LX-UH1 pre-production DLP projector (est. $2,999) was being shown for the first time ever (coming to stores in May 2018).

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This all-new LX-UH1 will no doubt be a very competitive product, as it brings JVC down to an unheard of price point for a true 4K 60fps projector, with full-speed 18G HDMI.  It most definitely caught my attention.

MOON by Simaudio with AudioQuest

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As I walked into the MOON room, I couldn’t help noticing the 888 emblazoned on the wall and more so the two Goliath sized monoblocks flanking a full MOON by Simaudio Evolution stack.  This was my first time hearing the 888 monoblock amplifiers ($160,000/pair) that each weigh 230 lbs. and push 888 watts at 8Ω, doubling that into 4Ω Ohms.  The stack was made up of a MOON 780D DAC with the MiND Streamer ($19,000), 820S power supply ($9,000) and 850P preamplifier ($40,000).  Cables were all AudioQuest, including Redwood speaker cables ($18,000) with Fire interconnects and Dragon power cords via a Niagara power conditioner.  The speakers in play were the Wilson Alexia ($75,000/pair).  And, how did it sound?  Despite a square room, my overall perception was of clarity and dynamic impact, with masterful bass and impressive musicality.  In short, I found this room, nothing less than droolicious.

Audio by Mark Jones – Kronus, CH Precision, Magico, Nordost

The Whitby, Ontario based dealer, Audio by Mark Jones, no stranger to the Montreal Audio Fest, had returned this year once again to show off how good vinyl done-right can sound.

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The system centred around a Kronos Pro turntable with a Lyra Etna SL cartridge with a package price of around ($70,000 U.S.).  A new integrated amplifier with a DAC & phonostage from CH Precision ($38,000 U.S.) were driving a pair of Magico S3 MKII speakers.  The digital player/streamer was the Aurender N10, though not in-play during my stop in the room.  Loom was Nordost Valhalla 2, with the system sitting on a rack by Massif Audio.  Listening to Wrapped Around Your Finger, by the Police, I was taken by the lifelike texture, impactful dynamics and bass control.

Martin Logan

It was a welcome surprise to find Martin Logan, the manufacturer, hosting its own room.  Unfortunately, my pics do not show the glory of these speakers, perhaps I was too focused on what I was hearing.

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The speakers were from Martin Logan’s Masterpiece Series, the Renaissance ESL 15A ($32,499/pair).  Combining a 15-inch CLS XStat electrostatic panel with twin 12” 500-watt active woofers and balanced with their 24-Bit DSP Engine and ARC room correction, the presentation was smooth, incredibly easy on the ears with plentiful bass, despite the massive room.  Driving the panels was a Simaudio stack, comprised of a 740p preamp, 780D DAC with MiND player, 820S power supply, and a pair of 880M monoblocks.  Cables were by Kimber Kable and power conditioning was courtesy of a Torus RM20.

Wynn Audio – Tidal, Kalista by Metronome, Goldmund

Wynn Audio’s room at the show was large enough to accommodate two full top-line system demonstrations, side-by-side and taking turns wowing audiences.

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The first system incorporated a Kalista DreamPlay CD transport ($56,800), with Kalista DAC ($58,500), Goldmund Mimesis 22H preamp ($130,000), Goldmund Telos 1000+ monoblocks ($140,000/pair), TIDAL Contriva G2 loudspeakers ($75,000/pair) and cabling by Acoustic Revive of Japan.  Incredibly detailed, yet extremely smooth and natural, I could have spent the better part of the day just taking it all in.

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The second system was an all-active wireless speaker system from Goldmund, their Logos Satya active loudspeakers ($140,000) fed by a Goldmund Eidos 36U+ universal player ($53,000) and Goldmund Mimesis 11 wireless hub ($15,000).  This setup was strikingly realistic.  The sense of effortless dynamic delivery, ease and scale was just amazing.  Truly an end-game system.

The Gramophone Distribution Company – Luxman, Raidho, Acoustic Signature, MELCO

I walked into the room hosted by The Gramophone, a distributor and re-seller of a number of very desirable audio brands.  The system was a combination of Luxman, Raidho, Acoustic Signature and MELCO with Nordost cabling.

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The Raidho speakers were the C3.2 ($54,000/pair) and the D2.1 ($53,000/pair).  Though the construction and technology and high-frequency drivers of these two speakers are much alike, the key difference is their mid-bass drivers; the C-series uses ceramic (Ceramix) drivers, whereas the D-series uses Raidho Diamond Drivers.

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At the heart of the system was Luxman C-700u control amplifier ($8995) , paired to M-700m stereo amplifiers ($8995/each) running bridged as monoblocks.  A Luxman EQ-500 tube phonostage ($6,495) was connected to two Acoustic Signature turntables; a Storm ($9,000) with 12” TA-2000 tonearm ($3,600) and a WOW XL ($3,600) with TA-500 ($1,250).  Digital music was by way of a MELCO N1ZH 6TB HDD NAS ($6,500).  The sounds was silky smooth, relaxed and very musical, though the room with its square dimensions was gremlin to this systems bass performance.  Cabling was by Nordost, including the Frey 2 speaker cables.

Tetra Speakers

Hailing from Ottawa was Tetra Speakers.  This company has a history of endorsements from music production professionals, including the Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Rob Fraboni.  In fact, though I didn’t get a chance to meet him, I understand that Rob was personally at Montreal Audio Fest hailing the virtues of Tetra’s loudspeakers.

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The speakers in play were the Tetra Phoenix ($12,750 U.S.) a relatively new design, which was paired to NAD Master Series components, including the M32 Direct Digital integrated and the new M50.2 DAC/Server/Vault.  They were playing specific “live” recorded, direct from master, recordings to demonstrate the detail retrieval and realism potential of the speakers.

Muraudio

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Muraudio was hosting the world-premiere of their all-new SP1 loudspeakers ($14,700 U.S. / pair).  I had heard about their development over a year ago and so was in anticipation of the result.  The SP1 (Single Panel 1) is a speaker that draws from their significantly more expensive Domain Omni series, using many of the same components in a much lighter and more compact design.  It’s great to see this innovative Canadian company introduce a product at this significantly more attainable price point.

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Murray Harmon, the company’s founder and Chief Technology Officer was all smiles with showing off his new product.  These speakers were being driven by an incredibly modest MOON by Simaudio 340i, with Luna cabling.  The SP1 incorporates two pairs of 15cm aluminum mid-bass drivers with a single continuous cure ESL panel.  The sound was natural with wonderful transparency and an amazingly even distribution within the room – no bad seats here.  A very exciting product indeed.

If you missed the earlier parts of this article, you can find them here: Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3.

Tri-Cell Enterprises (Vivid Audio / Accustic Arts / Acoustic Solid)

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The main system that was in play here was comprised of the Vivid Audio speakers – the Giya G2 ($66,000) on rotation with the smaller Oval B1 Decade ($36,650), driven by an Accustic Arts Tube Preamp II MK2 ($15,830) and Mono II Silver ($24,770) amplifiers. Vinyl was playing on an Acoustic Solid, Solid Machine Small R equipped with 3 tonearms (Abis TA-1, WTB-213, Jelco SA-750DB) having a combined price of just under $11,000. The cartridge was a Benz Micro Glider SL MC ($1,190), amplified by an E.A.R. Phono ($8000). The digital source was also from E.A.R. and included their CD ($10,000) and DAC/transport ($18,000). Cabling was all Cardas Clear and Clear Beyond, apart from synergistic Research PowerCell 12 ($8,500) and 1.5m Atmosphere Level 2 power cord ($2,935). The main stack sat on a Massif Audio 4-shelf stand with Salamander amp stands. Ed Stone, of Executive Stereo fame, was spinning the discs. The sound was incredibly smooth, effortless and naturally warm, possessing both musicality and intrinsic texture. Definitely one of the highest achieving setups at the show.

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A second system sat to the side, powered on but not in use when I visited the room. It paired the smaller Vivid Audio Giya G4 ($43,385) and Oval V1.5 ($10,455) loudspeakers with an Acoustic Solid, Solid 113 Bubinga turntable and Jelco SA-750DB arm ($4,300).

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There was also a static display of the Unison Research Triode 25 integrated ($3,700) and their S6 integrated ($5,160) that I couldn’t resist taking a shot of.

ALFA Distribution / Network
While on my way to the Main Show Floor, I passed through the Mirvish Hallway and came upon a couple gentlemen representing ALFA Distribution. The company develops and distributes network solution devices.

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The all-new DengWiFi lamp / WiFi Extender ($68) seems like the perfect solution to my WiFi challenges. All that’s needed is your WiFi network password and the device does all the setup automatically – my kind of device!

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Another great device they told me about was the ALFA Network Camp Pro Universal WiFi / Internet Range Extender Kit ($179). This device is perfect for homes, cottages or even RV/Boats that typically don’t have nearby hotspots. It is able to connect to hotspots up to 1500 feet away.

Epson
Entering the Main Show Floor, I couldn’t miss the crowd outside Epson’s room, taking in the view.

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On display outside their room was their all-new Home Cinema LS100, a full HD 3LCD ultra short-throw laser projector ($3,999). With 4000 lumens, this projector was producing a surprisingly clear and colourful image in a brightly lit area. With laser lighting, there are no bulbs to worry about and the short-throw capability means it will work in virtually any room. This projector was getting tons of attention at the show, and with its capabilities, that attention was well deserved. Inside their room Epson was showing off their LS10500 4K HDR laser projector ($10,000) projecting to a 120” unity gain Cirrus Screen ($1,200). The picture was superb but sadly my photos were not.

JVCKENWOOD
JVCKENWOOD was showing off their car audio products for their KENWOOD and KENWOOD eXcelon (flagship) brands.

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Their latest in-dash head units are true Hi-Res, capable of FLAC/DSD/WAV up to 24-bit / 192kHz resolution. Pricing on these head units ranges from $599 to $1499. And the KENWOOD brand caters to a younger consumer, incorporating Bluetooth and Touch Control, as on their KW-830BT ($899).

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KENWOOD even had a fully decked out off-road golf cart with a full assortment of car-audio gear. I would have loved to give it a spin on the Main Show Floor with the bass-a-kickin’.

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I took interest in their in-car drive recorder / dash cameras that now incorporate 4K super-HD, with GPS tracking, lane departure and collision alerts. Pricing of these is very reasonable, with the DRV-410 positioned at $299 and their DRV-N520 similarly priced.

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Within the first JVC exhibit room, they were showing an all-new RS 640 projector (first Canadian demonstration, est. $9,500), which will be available by the end of October 2017. The RS 640 features their latest e-Shift5 4K technology. This projector was displaying on an Elunevision 135” 16:9 screen. The image quality was just superb.

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Within their second exhibit room, the JVC DLA RS4500 Reference Series native 4K laser projector ($45,000) was projecting on a 133” 235:1 1.2 gain Screen Innovations screen. The picture was beautiful; now, if I can only find a way to afford one myself.

Tri-Cell Enterprises (Sonic Artistry / Audiovector & Goldnote / Acapella – House of HiFi / Transrotor)

Tri-Cell had a whole lot of floor space to say the least, comprising four audio rooms and a couple booth spaces as well. I spent a considerable amount of time touring their space.

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Sonic Artistry, a retailer, had a room featuring the GoldNote XT-7 loudspeakers ($26,500), driven by Soulution Audio components – 511 power amplifiers ($34,500 each); 520 Preamp ($26,000) and; 550 Phono Stage ($20,500). A Synergistic Research PowerCell 12 UEF ($8500) and Synergistic Research Atmosphere loom were used with the gear sitting on a Massif Audio rack.

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The turntables in the Sonic Artistry room were the Reed Muse 1C ($11,500) with Reed 5T tonearm ($18,150) as well as the Acoustic Solid Solid Wood MPX turntable & Sorane TA1 tonearm ($5,615). The sound in the room was relaxed, yet revealing with an impressive organic quality and lifelike soundstage.

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Audiovector’s latest speakers, their SR3 Avantguarde Arrete Raw Surface Limited Edition (100 pairs, $15,000) were being demonstrated with a Goldnote P-1000 preamplifier ($7,500) and Unison Research Unico DM Silver power amplifier ($4950). Also in play were the Goldnote PH-10 phono amplifier ($2,000) and Goldnote Pianosa turntable with a B5.1 tonearm ($4,000), Hana SL cartridge ($850), as well as a Goldnote DS-1000 Streamer ($6,250), and a full loom of Cardas Clear Beyond cables. Racking was by HRS. Listening to this system I was mesmerized by how well spaced, defined and positioned images were. The tone was rich and authentic with impressive transient speed. I walked away very impressed with the sound.

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The next Tri-Cell room was hosted by House of HiFi and was featuring the Acapella LaCampanella MKII loudspeakers ($31,000). Amplification duties were by way of an Accustic Art Power I MK4 Silver integrated amplifier ($11,000) with two Acoustic Solid turntables through a Brinkmann Audio Edison Tube Phono Amplifier ($11,650) with Dynavector 10×5 ($750) and Denon DL-103R cartridges. Supporting the system was a HRS rack with power via a Synergistic Research PowerCell and cabling being all Cardas Clear Beyond. Listening to Hotel California I was smitten by the live and energetic dynamics.

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In a room dedicated to a Transrotor product, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Dirk Rake, CEO at Transrotor. Oh yes, and there was also David Geist of Tri-Cell Enterprises who twisted my arm to get in on this photo…okay, well maybe not twisted. Dirk, a very friendly gentleman, proceeded to personally show me around and tell me about their turntables.

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Here’s a special setup of the Fat Bob turntable ($5,000) with a second armboard ($4,950) with a mounted Acoustic Solid WTB-213 tonearm ($2,500) and a Goldnote B7 Ceramic tonearm ($2195).

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The Transrotor Jupiter turntable with TR-800S tonearm and Konstant Eins ($6,000).

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The Fat Bob S TMD with TR-800S and Konstant Eins ($7,725) platter on and platter off.

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And, my personal fave of the bunch, with its stealth menacing appearance, was the Transrotor Dark Star Reference Black with TR-800S and Konstant Studio ($7,550); with an Acoustic Solid WTB-213 tonearm ($2,520). This is a table within grasp for many an audiophile…an maybe even me.

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Finally, Tri-Cell also loaded up a couple booths with a wealth of interesting headphone products, including the U.K. Mitchell & Johnson headphones.

Plurison
Next up were the Plurison booth spaces towards the centre of the Main Show Floor.

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As I approached, I ran into my old friend Anne Bisson, who now is of international fame. She was showing off her new album, with her Trio, a direct-to-disk cut.

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Focal Aria 926 and 936 loudspeakers with Micromega integrated.

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The Rega P6 turntable, Brio R integrated and Apollo R CDP, Rega P3 turntable with a nearby line-up of Music Hall turntables.

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The Devialet Phantom Gold active Bluetooth speaker system with their Expert Pro integrated amplifier.

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A fabulous looking pair of Clearaudio turntables.

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The Naim Uniti Nova ($7,995), a 2 x 80 Watt all-in-one system with UpNp player/server/streamer and AirPlay 1&2 that is capable of 32/384 DSDx2 resolution files. Next to it is the Uniti Atom ($3,800) a 2 x 40 Watt all-in-one system.

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A pair of Naim Mu-So products, true all-in-ones that include integrated speakers. These are compact but amazingly large sounding.

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Here we see the all-new and highly anticipated Focal Kanta 2 loudspeaker ($12,000). This speaker uses Focal’s new F-Sandwich technology with a flexcore. It uses the Sopra woofer suspension on the mid-driver, with a sealed Tweeter and composite moulded baffle. The cabinet is constructed of a single piece of play that is curved to form the cabinet, ensuring superb rigidity. The new Kanta Series fall between Focal’s flagship Utopia Series and the long-running Electra Series.

Neat Acoustics / Kimbercan
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I dropped by the Neat Acoustics / Kimbercan room that was featuring the new Neat IOTA Xplorer loudspeaker ($5,999/pair) – set to ship this December. The speaker uses an AMT high-frequency transducer with 2 isobaric woofers within a sealed bass cabinet. The system was driven by a PS Audio amplifier and DAC with Kimber 8TC speaker cables. The system sounded full, punchy and quick, making for a fun listening.

Ruel Audio
The most unique product I came across at the show was that belonging to Ruel Audio, a new manufacturer all-the-way from New Brunswick.

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Terry Ruel, founder and designer, demonstrated the product for me and provided me with the details. The speaker, called the R7 ($36,000, as demonstrated with 8 modules / 8ft tall) is built by-order with a two-week turnaround. The Ruel Audio R7 is a one-way line source array that uses 1.5“ full-range drivers.

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The speaker is comprised of modules, each just short of 1-foot in height. The objective is to order a sufficient number of modules to make the final speaker reach from floor-to-ceiling. 7-feet is the recommended height. The R7 comes with Class D amplification based on B&O ICE modules. Power output is 120 Watts per channel, which can produce over 100 dB peaks. I found the sound to be room filling with a volume that remained even regardless of how close or far I was to the speaker within the room, characteristic of an infinite line array. Overall, I found the R7 sounded relaxed but would have like to have spent more time evaluating it.

Erikson Consumer (Marshall / Human Touch)
Almost at the end of my tour of TAVES, I came across a booth that my feet wouldn’t let me pass by.

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Turned out these were products distributed by Erikson Consumer. Human Touch is a company that specializes in precision-engineer chairs, including zero-gravity recliners like the pc610 ($4,500 to $5,500) as well as their NOVO XT massage chair ($10,999). With that name, it must be great and based on the demonstration…it totally was. In fact, I was so thrilled with how well the NOVO XT massage worked on me, I convinced a handful of others to give it a go. I had to laugh at seeing their faces display obvious pleasure at the experience. I can just imagine having one of these in my listening room.

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Erikson Consumer also distributes Marshall products, including this MF-110 bar fridge. As you can see the fridge is adorned with authentic Marshall Amp parts, as well as Marshall logos, fret cloth and knobs that dial up to 11. The fridge can store 36 small cans, 18 large cans, 28 beer bottles or 8 wine bottles – the possibilities are endless and I was now very thirsty.

On that note, I’ll wrap my TAVES CES 2017 show coverage. Once again, lots to see and experience and a great time with friends! Cheers – George de Sa.

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With the coming of the fall season in Toronto there are a few things I always look forward to. There is the beauty of the turning leaves, there is Thanksgiving long-weekend and of course there is pumpkin pie. And, yes, there is the annual TAVES Consumer Electronics Show.

This year’s TAVES was the 7th year running and there were a couple of key changes that came along with it. First, the timing changed, it moved up a couple weeks to mid-October – no more, Halloween party dilemma. Even more significant was the second change, no more was TAVES to be hosted in a hotel – this year marked the first appearance of the show in a convention centre – The Toronto Congress Centre. Gone were the typical winding hotel hallways, exhibit rooms spread over multiple floors, parking limitations and over-crowded hallways. This year, touring TAVES was a veritable breeze, with all the exhibits spread over a single floor.

Entering the show, the large audio/video exhibit rooms were found to the left and right and wrapping around what the Mirvish Hallway. Passing on through this hallway, which contained everything from art, to vinyl, to televisions and massage chairs, you made your way into the cavernous Main Show Floor. The Main Show Floor itself was divided into a central booth space and an outer perimeter of purpose-built audio rooms. Though somewhat overwhelming with the hustle and bustle of all the technology exhibits and the sounds of music playing this provided a level of excitement that many show-comers would likely appreciate – an all-out consumer electronics extravaganza.

I began by visiting the large rooms in the front, before making my way down through the Mirvish Hall and onto the Main Show Floor.

Audio One (AudioQuest and B&W)
The first room I came about was hosted by a local dealer, Audio One. Within the room AudioQuest had a table that featured a number of their headphone products, was well as their cables and DACs.

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A display was setup up-front demonstrating the AudioQuest Dragonfly USB DAC with their Night Owl Carbon headphones ($899) as well as the B&W P9 Signature headphones ($999). This table had a constant stream of visitors, and Frederic Pinsonneault of AudioQuest, the bearded face in the background, was happy to demonstrate their products.

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The main system incorporated the recently launched B&W 705 S2 loudspeakers ($5,500/pair) paired with the all-new Bryston BP173 pre-amplifier ($3999) and a Bryston 4B3 amplifier ($5,699). The source was a Bryston BDA-3 / BDP-3 with power delivered via an AudioQuest Niagara ($5000), using the company’s new Hurricane and Tornado power cables, together with a Storm Series loom.

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Pictured is the new Hurricane power cable, which has a braided construction that I was told is mainly to preserve flexibility, given the cables low gauge. What I heard was delightfully detailed, transparent, yet smooth. Obviously the Audio One guys had put some thought into putting this system together.

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On static display were a number of B&W speaker models, including the B&W 803 D3 ($20,000/pair), which had me salivating.

Totem Acoustic

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Totem Acoustic, as I’ve come to expect, always has the best decorated room at shows and this year was no less. Even more delightful was finding the company’s founder and president, Vince Bruzzese, there, speaking about the company’s latest innovative creations. On display were three systems on rotating demonstration.

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The first, was comprised of the Totem Signature One loudspeaker ($3,299/pair), which follows in the footsteps of Totem’s original Model 1 loudspeaker. We recently reviewed this speaker in the pages of NOVO Magazine (http://novo.press/totem-acoustic-totem-acoustic-review/)

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The next speaker setup included the Totem SKY ($1,850/pair) and the SKY Tower ($2,500/pair). Both of these speakers offer an exceptional value/performance factor. The SKY Tower is the replacement for the long-lived and very successful Sttaf tower loudspeaker. Magnetic grills are now standard for all new Totem speakers and this goes for all the speaker models that were in their room.

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Next I was able to hear a demonstration of the new Totem Tribe tower loudspeakers, priced at $5,500/pair (matte) or $6,000/pair (high gloss). These speakers were able to fill the room, while delivering a marvellously stable and sizeable soundstage, even when off-axis. I was amazed by the bass response of the relatively tiny Tribe towers. Vince told me that the speakers provide a flat in-room response from 30 to 30,000 Hz (+/- 3dB), handle up to 250 watts each and achieve an in-room SPL of up to 108 dB. To paraphrase Vince, a listener from Holland has nicknamed the Totem Tribes as “Beastly Angels”.

Audio by Mark Jones

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Out front of Audio by Mark Jones’ room was a static display of the all-new and very stylish Focal Kanta loudspeaker. A perfect appetizer for what was to be found within.

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The main system being demonstrated by Mark, was playing through a gorgeous pair of Imperial Red high-gloss Focal Sopra No. 3 loudspeakers. Amplification and electronics was by CH Precision, including their P1 Dual Monaural Phono Stage ($31,000); C1 DAC ($31,000) and; M1 Reference Power Amp ($51,000). Cabling was Nordost Valhalla 2 Reference with QRT power products. The analog source was the Kronos Pro Turntable ($38,000); with SCPS power supply ($13,500); Black Beauty tonearm ($8,500) and a Lyra ETNA SL MC cartridge ($13,000). The digital source was an Aurender N10 Music Server ($8,500) and racks were by Massif Audio Design. The system sounded wonderful with generous harmonic colour and sweetness, natural warmth and openness, together with generous detail and excellent timing. I had the opportunity to sit in on a Nordost demonstration of their new QKore grounding unit. Listening to an A/B comparison, it was evident that the QKore provided added clarity, image focus and texture.

Update TV & Stereo / Samsung
There were a couple rooms that local dealer Update TV & Stereo were hosting at TAVES this year.

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The first one I entered contained a full 7.2 home theatre demonstration using Revel loudspeakers (F36 $3,200/pr; C25 $1,200; F35 $2,400/pr; B10 subwoofers $2,300 each). Surround sound processing and amplification duties were being handled by an Arcam AVR850 ($8,500) with an Arcam UDP411 Blu-ray players ($2,500). The video was by way of a Screen Innovations 100” screen paired to a JVC DLA RS620 projector ($12,500). Watching the Mad Max movie as well as Everest Atmos demonstrations (sadly, no Atmos speakers), I was very impressed with the detail and clarity presented by both the sound and images.

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The second room hosted a literal banquet of Samsung televisions on display, with some absolutely amazing prices. I myself was scoping out the UN82MU8000 82” 4K HDR Smart LCD Samsung TV ($6,999, TAVES special $5,000), yet alas, a call to my wife clarified her priorities for a vacation this winter…hmmm, can’t we have both dear?

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While looking around I caught James Drew, Wired for Sound, with Stacey Sniderman of Update TV & Stereo and it didn’t take much to coax their smiles.

Audio Eden
Rob and Mike of Audio Eden are incredibly knowledgeable and experienced so I’m always excited to find the Audio Eden room at TAVES.

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This year, the system was comprised of a JBL/Mark Levinson pair-up; specifically, the JBL Synthesis K2 loudspeaker ($80,000/pair) in Ferrari red with the Mark Levinson No.526 preamp ($29,000), No.519 phonostage ($29,000) and; No. 536 mono power amps ($42,000/pair). A Bryston BIT-20 ($3,995) was being used to ensure clean and plentiful power, along with Nordost Odin 2 cabling and QRT power products.

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The source in play was a SME 15 turntable ($12,000) with SME V5 tonearm ($7,000) and Dynavector XX2 MKII cartridge ($2,250), a cartridge that is a venerable steal at its price. The sound had an incredible amount of low level detail and delicacy, with a refined and soothing presentation. Great job, as usual guys!

Krell Industries / Oracle Audio / Gershman Acoustics
As I walked down a hallway, I heard what sounded like live music emanating from one of the large rooms.

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The room was hosted by Gershman Acoustics, Krell and Oracle Audio and featured the all-new Gershman Posh Speakers ($129,000/pair) that are hand-made in Canada. The speakers are constructed using 1” HDF with ¼” stainless steel panels. The cross-over is a point-to-point construction that uses Munforf MCapR Surpreme Classic Silver-Gold Oil caps. The tweeter is a Morel-dome with an Accuton Cell 5” midrange paired to twin 8” dual magnet woofers that are designed by Gershman. The sound had impeccable timing and was very vibrant. Along with the Krell amplification, the source was the new Oracle Audio entry-level Origine turntable/tonearm & cartridge package ($2,600), also made in Canada.

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Ofra Gershman here, proudly posed with their company’s new creation – the Posh loudspeaker.

Bryston Limited
With a friendly greeting from Brian Russell, President of Bryston, I entered their room and found a chair beside James Tanner, VP Marketing & Sales.

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James was demonstrating Bryston’s Active Speaker System, this year with something new, an all-new 3-channel amplifier, the 21B3 ($10,000). James told me that the amp was named based on its construction – it turns out that it combines a 2-channel (4B3) with a 1-channel (7B3) amplifier; 2+1 = 21 right, well not exactly but we get it James. Since a Bryston Active speaker setup requires three amplified channels per side to drive it three-ways, the 21B3 fulfills this need with a single-chassis form-factor.

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There are two Bryston Active systems currently available – the Model-T and the Middle-T. The system playing was a Model-T Active system (a pair of crossover-less Model-T speakers with a Bryston BAX-1 DSP Active Crossover, priced at $8,685). The speakers were finished in an attractive expresso brown wood veneer. The 21B3 has a total output capability of 350 + 350 + 500 watts = 1200 W / 8-ohms. With a BDP-3 digital player, BDA-3 DAC and BP26 preamp, this system delivered spectacular soundstaging and clarity; projecting images well above my head and with a level of immediacy and control that was mesmerizing.

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Bryston was also showing off on static display, their new 24B3 amplifier ($9,000), with 6-channels of amplification (2 x 300 W + 4 x 75 W) using 2 transformers. The 24B3 is meant to serve as a lower cost alternative for the 21B3 in the Bryston Active Speaker Systems, delivering the 3-channels of amplification per side at half the price of a 21B3.

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There were two new active subwoofers also on display – the Model T 12” subwoofer (approx. $5000), with 2 x 12” drivers and a 600 Watt amplifier and a Mini T (approx. $4,000) subwoofer with twin 8” drivers and 600 Watts of power. James told me the relatively modest wattage is not indicative of their output, as the driver to amplifier match is more than sufficient for full-scale bass attacks.

Erikson Consumer (JBL Synthesis / Mark Levinson / Revel / Arcam)
Erikson Consumer always has lots to show at TAVES and this year they took on a large room to showcase all the new products from their fine brands.

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The first system combined Mark Levinson electronics with Revel and JBL speakers. This included the Mark Levinson No.536 Mono Blocks ($21,999); No.526 Pre-amp/DAC ($28,999); No.519 CDP/Streamer ($28,999) with the Revel Salon 2 Reference Ultima2 speakers ($34,000/pair) in rotation with the all-new (Canadian 1st showing) Revel F228 be ($14,000/pair) and the JBL Synthesis 4367 Studio Monitor ($22,000/pair). I heard the Ultima2 and JBL speakers back to back playing O-Zone Percussion Group and the sound was rich, full, relaxed, while also being very impactful and precise.

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Though the Salon2 and JBL 4367 were masterful, I was even more amazed at what the new Revel Performa3 F228 could do, at its significantly lower price. In fact, the Revel F228 be had superb control and detail with some added vibrancy, making their sound extremely addictive. Speaking with Kevin Voecks of Revel he told me that the new F228 be is a ground-up new speaker that incorporates the latest innovations, with ceramic drivers, extremely low distortion motors and a Beryllium tweeter set in a ceramic waveguide.

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This was not the only surprise in the room. The main-stage turned to the Revel Landscape Series products and a demonstration ensued. The setup included the all-new Revel L41XC Satellite Wall/Deck Mount outdoor speaker; L42XC Tower Satellite outdoor speaker with a built-in light and; L12XC 12″ in-ground subwoofer. All, which are set for release in December. The sound of this system was spectacular and I doubt I’ve ever heard a better outdoor system – yes, that good! Two more conventional looking outdoor speakers sat in the middle, on static display, these were the Revel M80XC large bookshelf ($1,199) and M55XC small outdoor speaker ($799).

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My attention turned to the wall-display in which were mounted the JBL Synthesis in-wall speakers, specifically the SCL-4 2-way 7″ woofer + 1″ D2 Compression driver ($4,500/each) and the Revel B28W dual 8″ in-wall sub ($1,400). Controlling this system was a JBL Synthesis SDP-75-32 32 channel AV processor with ATMOS, Auro 3D and DTS-X ($45,000) paired to two Revel SA1000 Power amps for the subs ($1,800/each) and the JBL Synthesis SDA-4600 4 x 600 watts power amp ($6,750); SDA-8300 8 x 300 watts power amp ($8,250). Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to hear this system in play.

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A couple of interesting new Mark Levinson products sat on static display, off to the side. They included the all-new Mark Levinson No.585.5 2 x 200 watts Integrated-Amp with DAC and Phono board and the No.515 Turntable, both of which will be available this November with pricing yet to be finalized.

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Some new products from Lexicon were also displayed in the room. These included the MC-10 11.1 pre-amp processor with ATMOS / DTS-X and Dirac and the DD8+, 8 x 125 watts 1U high power amp.

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There was also the Lexicon RV-9, 7 x 100 watts Class G AVR with ATMOS / DTS-X and Dirac and the Lexicon RV-6, 7 x 90 Class A/B AVR with ATMOS / DTS-X and Dirac.

Kevro International (Monitor Audio / Roksan / Cyrus)
I did have some idea of what Kevro would be showing at TAVES. You see, I’d just recently finished my review of the Monitor Audio Silver 500 loudspeakers for NOVO Magazine, which ended up having to be picked up for TAVES, I was told. Despite that, I was in store for a pleasant surprise.

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The main system paired the Silver 500 loudspeakers ($3299/pair) with the Roksan K3 Integrated Amplifier ($2499), K3 Power Amplifier ($1999), K3 CDP ($2499) and K3 DAC ($2499) using a Clarus cable loom, including Clarus Aqua speaker cables. The analog source was a Roksan Radius 7 turntable ($2,999). The results were nothing less than delicious, with music portrayed in a balanced and beautiful manner accompanied by generous detail, touch and realistic timbre. At TAVES 2017, this system was truly an overachiever and in my books exhibited the highest price/value quotient at the show; a steal at under $20,000.

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On static display could be found a number of other models from Monitor Audio as well as Roksan, including the Roksan Caspian and BLAK series of components.

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Still on the British theme, Kevro also distributes Cyrus Audio and there also a few of these components on display, including the Cyrus Xa ($2,499) and the 8 DAC ($3,199).

Monitor Audio Silver Series 500 Loudspeakers Review 01

Over the past few years Monitor Audio’s R&D team has obviously been drinking some creative Kool-Aid with all the innovations we have been seeing from this company that hails from the U.K. No doubt, product updates and new products are great for marketing but with Monitor Audio, their latest products appear to consistently be based on solid performance enhancements.

Two years ago I had the chance to review Monitor Audio’s, then new, Gold 300 loudspeaker, a brilliant update to their previous GX series. Sometime after that I reviewed Monitor Audio’s CP-IW460X in-wall loudspeaker, which benefited greatly Monitor Audio’s R&D on their Gold Series. Most recently, NOVO Magazine reviewed the company’s Platinum Series II 300 loudspeaker, a ground-up re-design that has received much acclaim from press and consumers. With such continual advancement and innovation, the new Silver 6G Series benefits greatly from trickle-down technologies. For this review, I received the Silver 500 ($2,500 US / pair); top-dog in the new Silver 6G Series, a world first review opportunity.

One significant advantage larger audio product manufacturers like Monitor Audio have is the ability to invest substantial resources on R&D since results can benefit numerous products / product lines; the new Silver 6G Series is no exception. Monitor Audio has leveraged much of their learnings from their new Gold and Platinum II in the new Silver 6G. Extensive research and FEA modelling and their DCF coupling mechanism, a direct trickle down from Platinum II, delivers greater driving force with reduced distortion. An all-new teardrop shaped mid/HF module brings the tweeter and midrange acoustic centres closer for more precise and consistent imaging on/off axis. The 25mm C-CAM tweeter is a ground-up re-design, which delivers the smoothest and lowest high-frequency distortion ever for the Silver Series. Monitor Audio’s National Physical Laboratory research, including laser measurement, has aided the elimination of undesirable cabinet resonance nodes; while an optimized crossover network maximizes signal transfer with zero distortion and a benign 8 Ohm impedance. Ports are now on the rear, based on new HiVe II technology, for smoother airflow, improved transient response and tighter bass. The new Silver Series now has greater consistency across the line for a true ‘family sound’, according to Monitor Audio.
The models within the Silver 6G Series now follow the naming convention of its Gold and Platinum II Series brethren – the Silver 1 is now the Silver 50 and so on. Available finishes remain the same apart from a new Satin White that replaces the former High Gloss White. There are two new centre speakers (Silver C150 & C350) and the new Silver 50 and 200 models are now more compact.

The Silver 500 loudspeaker is the largest floorstanding model within the new Silver Series. It is a 3-way, 4 driver, bass-reflex configuration with an all-new 1” C-CAM tweeter, and specially developed 4” mid and dual 8” bass drivers. It has a frequency response of 30 Hz – 35 kHz (-6db); 90 db/1W/1m sensitivity; 8 Ohms nominal impendence and; 250 watt (RMS) power handling. Weight is just over 50 lbs.

The Sliver 500 loudspeakers I received had a Rosenut wood veneer and were wonderfully finished, as expected from Monitor Audio. From the drivers, to the tear-drop shaped mid/tweeter module, down to the out-rigger feet and the dual 5-way binding posts, all was of high quality and impressive for a speaker in its price range.

beautiful interiors of a modern house, living room

Innovation can be simply defined as introducing something “new”, whether an idea, method, technology or product.  A key way to innovate is to pull together talented individuals with broad perspectives and expertise, under a common objective.  Steve Cheng, founder of SOTA Acoustics, branded Markaudio-Sota, set out to accomplish just this.

MarkAudio-SOTA is a collaboration of a number of diverse and most-capable professionals with global perspectives and expertise.  Their team includes the talents of: Mark Fenlon of Markaudio Ltd., a Brit residing in Hong Kong and accomplished manufacturer of loudspeaker drivers; Dr. Scott Lindgren, another Brit, well-known for loudspeaker design; Andre Ponti, an Italian industrial designer and; a number others drawing on experience form Hong Kong and Japan.  Together, under Markaudio-Sota, this team has set their target on producing best-in-class loudspeaker products.

The company’s product line includes tower, bookshelf, monitor bookshelf, mini and stand-mount loudspeakers, under three collections – Viotti, Cesti and Tozzi.  Prices range from $445 US / pair up to $3,495 US / pair.  The Viotti One represents the company’s flagship stand-mount loudspeaker and retails for  $2,495 US / pair.

The MarkAudio-SOTA Viotti One is distinctive in appearance and exudes a chic European flare; yet, what makes it most unique are its drivers.  At first glance, it seems someone forgot the tweeter; however, that is most definitely not the case here.  Rather, the Viotti One utilizes two wide-range, wide-dispersion, shallow-profile cone drivers of different diameters – no domes or ribbons here.  These wide-range cone drivers are inherently matched in their dispersion and output characteristics, which lends to seamless integration, further enhanced by the use of a simple high-quality low-order 2.4 kHz crossover.  Designed by Mark Fenlon and built by Markaudio, the two drivers of the Viotti One are the Sota 11 (110 mm) for mid-bass and the Sota 5 (50 mm) for treble frequencies.  These drivers are constructed of an aerospace grade mixed aluminum alloy, for an ultra-low mass.  Key objectives of the driver choice were a smooth, natural output with a wide and even dispersion, along with transparency, dynamics and lifelike vocal reproduction.

The Viotti One is a standmount loudspeaker with a tall-ish profile, offering dimensions of 24.6 cm x 33.9 cm x 100.8 cm (WxDxH) with the included stands.  The stands are perfectly matched to the speakers and provide two installation configurations, one retaining the Viotti One speaker base and the other eliminating the base to provide a flush appearance.  Floor cones made of non-ferrous metal, as opposed to spikes, are also provided.

The cabinet of the Viotti One features a dual-core laminate construction for optimal resonance management.  Drive units are acoustically isolated, with the high frequency driver having its own sub-chamber, while the low frequency driver utilizes the ported bass-reflex cabinet.  The front baffle is covered in a black, velvet-like material, for a refined and finely appointed appearance.  Four cabinet finish choices are available: light oak, dark oak, white piano-lacquer and black piano-lacquer.  Magnetically attached grills incorporate waveguides and are covered in a chiffon-like material that lets you gawk, if you so desire, at that pair of golden drivers.

When it comes to fit and finish, the Viotti One is top-notch.  I found the black piano lacquer of the review sample to be impeccable, up there with the best I’ve come across.  The overall design lines are very stylish, as well.  Certainly, the Viotti One is a specimen that will engender strong pride-of-ownership and perfectly fit in with opulent surroundings.

Yamaha A-S2100 Integrated Amplifier Review 001

Founded by Torakusu Yamaha, back in the late 1800’s, Yamaha had its beginnings making reed organs. Today, Yamaha is one of the largest manufacturers of musical instruments, well recognized worldwide for its pianos, string and percussion instruments. Grounded in music, even the company logo features three tuning forks overlaid in a circle. Along with instruments, Yamaha produces audio/video products; from A/V receivers to loudspeakers through to streamers and headphones. Yamaha has seven integrated amplifier models; second from the top sits their A-S2100 ($3,499 US) superseded only by their flagship A-S3000 ($6,999 US). NOVO’s Glen Wagenknecht reviewed the less expensive A-S801 integrated amplifier in 2015. I though, had never evaluated a Yamaha audio component and wondered, could a company so accomplished with musical instruments capture such musical verve in its top-line integrated amplifiers?

Yamaha created the A-S2100 to satisfy discerning listeners…both audiophile and musical lovers alike. Built like a tank, weighing at over 50 lbs given its massive EI power transformer and filter caps (22,000µF x 4), it has a mid-‘70s aesthetic. Real wood side panels finished in a piano gloss black lacquer give tribute to the company’s piano heritage, while front VU / peak power meters add panache to the retro-chic style. A 5mm thick aluminum faceplate comes in brushed black or silver. The volume, source selector, bass/treble knobs are made of real aluminum, exemplifying its quality. The Yamaha A-S2100 eschews an integrated DAC in favour of a Moving-Magnet (MM) / Moving-Coil (MC) phono-stage for turntables. A front headphone jack is connected to a discrete head-amp circuit with its own trim level and possible speaker connections include A, B or A+B.

On the back, the A-S2100 has three stereo sets of single-ended (RCA) input jacks, phono (RCA) jacks, an in/out (RCA) tape loop, and a single stereo set of balanced (XLR) inputs. In addition, there is also a Pre-Out if you’d like to connect the A-S2100 to an external amplifier. There is also a Main-In, allowing the A-S2100 to be used as a dedicated amplifier, by-passing its preamplifier section. Though impressively equipped with inputs/outputs that are well laid out, it was the solid brass, seriously overbuilt five-way speaker binding posts that had me floored – talk about hiding the jewels. Another surprise was found on the bottom, where well-built vibration insulating feet are convertible to spikes via removable magnetic pads, and adjustable for levelling – talk about attention to detail. A svelte brushed aluminum faced handheld full-function remote is also supplied.

Without getting heavily into the electronic design and believe me there’s much to be said, I’ll sum it up in a few sentences. The Yamaha A-S2100 is a symmetrical balanced floating A/B MOSFET design with low noise, to facilitate pure transmission of signal. Output power is 90 Watts/channel (8 Ω) and 150 Wpc (4Ω). Within the A-S2100 lies a massive EI custom built transformer mounted with brass washers for vibration control. The preamplifer circuit of the A-S2100 is the same as that of Yamaha’s flagship A-S3000; it is fully balanced from input to output.

I evaluated the Yamaha with a MOON by Simaudio 280D DAC and MiND player as the digital source, with digital files from my PC and also streamed from Tidal HiFi. My resident VPI Scout turntable was the analog source and cables were all Nordost Heimdall 2. I primarily used my Audio Physic Scorpio 25+ loudspeakers but also tried my Focal Electra 1008 Be monitors with the A-S2100.

The 2017 Salon Audio / Montreal Audio Fest, was a wonderful event; an amazing feat, given that this was technically only its second year. The shows organizers, industry veterans, Michel Plante and Sarah Trembley, assembled this year’s Montreal Audio Fest, with a refreshed look and feel, within the freshly renovated Hotel Bonaventure Montréal. Once again, the Montreal Audio Fest opened its doors with free admission, to the delight of its patrons. I found that spirits of both consumers and exhibitors seemed high; embracing the rejuvenated venue and perhaps now settled into the fact that the Montreal Audio Fest is not going anywhere. The following are just some of the rooms that I visited, over the three days of the show – March 24/25/26, 2017; for more, look to Suave Kajko’s coverage, posted last week on our website.

SVS by Summit HiFi (Custom)
SVS by Summit HiFi
One of the rooms that generated a lot of excitement was hosted by Summit HiFi, an Eastern Toronto dealer that was demonstrating a complete SVS home theatre setup. Gary Yacoubian, President & Managing Partner – SVS, was there in person to expound about this system. The system was a 5.1.2, using SVS Prime speakers, including the new SVS Prime Elevation height effects L/C/R ($200 – $250/ U.S. each). Though it was exciting to hear the object based height effects of the latest Mad Max film, the star of the show was most definitely the new SVS SB16-Ultra Subwoofer. The new SB16 demonstrated ($2,000 U.S.), along with the PB16-Ultra ($2,500 U.S.) ported sub – not shown, are the largest and most powerful subwoofers in SVS’ history! They incorporate an all-new 16” driver with an 8” edge-wound voicecoil. With 1500 Watts (continuous) and over 5000 Watts (peak) the demonstration was incredible. The sound was full, large and surprisingly tight, given the compact hotel room.

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CH Precision by Audio by Mark Jones
Audio by Mark Jones, another Eastern Toronto dealer, was hosting a room featuring CH Precision electronics. Raphael Pasche of CH Precision, Switzerland, was there in person to warmly greet visitors. Mark Jones himself was at the help of the system – keeping us entertained with an eclectic selection of vinyl. The CH system included their C1 D/A converter-preamp ($42,000 U.S. optioned), P1 phono preamplifier with EQ filter ($33,100 U.S.), and M1 2-channel amplifier ($54,850 U.S.). The featured source was a Kronos Pro turntable, (approx. $40,000) with a Lyra Aetna SL cartridge, Black Beauty tonearm and Kronos SCPS power supply. Speakers were the Focal Sopra No.3 in a radiant red gloss finish, and cabling was Nordost Valhalla 2. While I was in this room, Mark played “I Scare Myself” by Thomas Dolby, from an over-loved LP, yet it was a thrill to hear it on this system.

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Yamaha Canada
Yamaha Canada was hosting a gorgeously appointed room, highlighting their connection with musical instruments, as well as their growing line of higher-end audio products. Along with the piano, brass and string instruments in the foyer section of their room, about half-way inside was their featured system.

Montreal Audio Fest 2017 Coverage by George de Sa (Custom)
This featured two-channel audio system was comprised of Yamaha’s flagship A-S3000 integrated amplifier with their CD-S2100 disc transport/DAC and new NS-5000 flagship loudspeakers. This system, sounded delicious; possessing a relaxed, yet embodied presence.

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Yamaha also had on display some of their renowned musical instruments as well as the other members of its high-end integrated amplifier family, including the A-S2100, which I recently reviewed for NOVO Magazine.

006 (Custom)

PureAudioProject
PureAudioProject was demonstrating their Trio15 PAP-Horn1 loudspeaker ($7,500 U.S.) in a room with ANK (Audio Note Kit) electronics. These loudspeakers are shipped flat-pack as a kit for assembly by the buyer; though assembly is kept simple with all major components being pre-built. I was happy to meet Ze’ev Schlik, CEO who was demonstrating the product. The sound was best described as liquid and I took note of the sinuous textured portrayal of a stand-up bass. Along with the Trio15 PAP-Horn1, the company produces two other versions of their open-baffle speaker – the Trio15 Voxativ ($5,500 U.S.) and the Trio15TB Neo ($3,700 U.S.). The latter, I came to understand is personally owned by Harry Weisfeld of VPI fame, no better endorsement required.

Mundorf MA30 Custom Made Speaker Kit SilverGold Series Review 01

Mundorf and Accuton are two revered audio product companies, both having their start in Cologne, Germany in 1985.  In 2015, to celebrate their 30th anniversaries, the two companies collaborated on a new speaker kit – the Mundorf MA30 Custom Made Speaker Kit.  If that wasn’t enough, they looped in another venerable German audio product company, WBT, to provide its latest top-rate terminal plate and posts to this kit as an optional but recommended add-on.

Hearing the term “kit” might make you think Do-It-Yourself (DIY) but the MA30 Custom Made Speaker Kit, is no ordinary DIY speaker kit.  Rather than just a blueprint and bag of parts, Mundorf and Accuton, have put together an optimized speaker solution, which includes pre-built crossovers, optimally paired drivers, as well as optional wire-kit and terminal plate / binding-post choices.  Taking this further, the Canadian distributor and U.S. dealer AuDIYo Inc. offers the MA30 as a fully assembled and finished speaker product – no assembly required; while leaving the option to those so inclined, to order the unassembled kit.  Even unassembled, given the pre-built components, the MA30 kit demands only a modest level of skill for assembly, requiring only a screw driver (soldering is not required).

For this review, AuDIYo Inc. supplied me with a fully built MA30 SilverGold (SG) Series two-way standmount loudspeaker.  This speaker had optional Mundorf solid core OCC wires and a Mundorf terminal plate with five-way binding posts.  The Mundorf SG Series aims to deliver a most satisfying soundstage along with a full palate of harmonic colors.

To ensure optimal performance, the MA30 SG is assembled in a high-quality MDF cabinet built by an industrial cabinet maker, according to Mundorf / Accuton’s specific design specifications.  The cabinet uses an extended front baffle (18mm/0.71”) for the woofer to time-align the drivers.  A rear chimney port is found on the back, satisfying Accuton driver requirements.  Finishes available are gloss white and gloss black.  The review sample was in gloss black and the finish was of a high standard.

The MA30 SG speaker pairs Mundorf’s pneumatic Air Motion Tweeter (AMT) – the AMT19CM1.1 with Accuton’s ceramic mid-woofer, the 6.25” C158-8-085, outfitted with a titanium voicecoil former.  These drivers were chosen to maximize performance value, without musical compromise.  The Mundorf crossover is massive, making up a good chunk of the total weight of the speaker and is definitely a highlight of this speaker.  The layout avoids any parallel components and allows for bi-wiring / bi-amping hookups.  It crosses at 3450Hz, with 1st order hi-pass/low-pass 6dB notch filters that ensure a linear response.  Mundorf has incorporated their all-time best MCap capacitor – the MCap Supreme EVO SilverGold Oil in the MA30 SG Series, which the company holds to deliver the highest music performance, detailed staging, color and texture ever delivered.  Specifications are simply stated as 48 to 30,000 Hz frequency range with high-efficiency.  Looking up the drivers, the tweeter is nominal 8Ω / 91dB@2.83V, while the mid-bass is 7.8Ω / 89dB@2.83V.

Placement is most essential with the MA30, more so than I’ve found with other similar sized standmount loudspeakers.  Sitting the MA30 speakers on my Target stands, I started listening to them in the normal spot I have my KEF LS50 and Focal 1008Be speakers.  Things weren’t working to my liking, even after allowing my ears to acclimate.  Reviewing the Mundorf brochure materials, I found Mundorf provides specific instructions on placement, which involved moving the MA30 speakers to within 24″ of the back-wall; 8.2’ apart; with 9.8’ between my listening seat and the line of their front baffle plane and; with tweeters just off axis (i.e. pointed to the outside of my shoulders).  The result of this attention to placement was a significantly improved soundstage size and bass response.  Lesson learned, follow the directions with these speakers.

I typically use my Nordost Heimdall 2 speaker cables but AuDIYo Inc. provided me with Zavfino 1877Phono cables to experiment with; their Prima-OCC speaker cables and a Fina power cable.  The Zavfino Fina power cable on my MOON by Simaudio 280D DAC yielded greater dynamics and realism to my pleasant surprise.  And, overall, the Zavfino 1877Phono cables demonstrated greater synergy with the MA30 speakers – fuller and more musicality; hence, they stayed in for the balance of this review.