George de Sa


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.

003 (Custom)

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.

004 (Custom)

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.

005 (Custom)
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 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.

Grado SR325e Headphones Review 01

Grado Labs, is a U.S., Brooklyn-based company that hand makes headphones and phono cartridges.  Founded by Joseph Grado in 1953, the company has dabbled also in other products, including loudspeakers, turntables, and even a wooden tonearm.

Today, Grado headphones come under five main lines, which are: Prestige, Reference, Statement, Professional and In-Ear.  The SR325e sits at the top of the “entry-level” Prestige Series.  Though the Prestige Series is their entry-level, the models within have received numerous awards.  Yours truly has been using a set of Grado SR80 headphones as a reference, for over a decade.

Grado released an update to all its headphones in June 2014, branded as the e-Series.  Grado does not frequently make crossline series updates, so any series update is worth taking note of.  This latest e-Series is said to be a full optimization of both design and materials, delivering the greatest dynamics and fidelity ever achieved by the company.

Like all new e-Series models, the 325e incorporates a new driver geometry that Grado developed for the ultimate precision.  In addition, the 325e uses a new 8 conductor cable that provides greater control and stability of the upper and lower frequencies; magnetic field fine-tuning for symmetry throughout the full range of the voice coil and a wider, more cushioned headband for increased comfort.

I personally love the look of Grado headphones, the mid-40’s styling cues mixed in with current materials give them a timeless retro-trendy quality.  The 325e is rather unique in that it has solid aluminum earcups that portray an industrial steam-punk visage.  The metallic silver earcups, combined with the chromed mesh covered donut-hole openings, stylishly contrast with the black leather headband, trim and earpads.   Fit and finish are very good but none of the Prestige Series headphones come across as opulent – you want bling, go elsewhere.  Rather, the Grado 325e exudes a matter-of-fact persona with a unique, purposeful and durable form that is undeniably cool, with real personality.

Along with its unique styling, the 325e, like all Grado headphones is an open-back design.  That means, it demands a quiet listening environment but also delivers a more spacious (non-claustrophobic) listening experience, much more like listening to stereo loudspeakers within a room.

On the technical side, the 325e has a frequency response of 18 – 24,000 Hz, sensitivity of 99.8 dB/1mW and nominal impendence of 32 ohms.  The box contains the headphone, a Grado story-sheet and a 6.5mm gold-plated adapter plug.

The feel of the Grado 325e is a little different than other headphones given the substantial weight of the aluminum earcups.  It is blessed with a wider leather padded headband but the weight of the earcups prevented me from forgetting I was wearing them.  Move suddenly and you will unleash the inertia of those earcups – yes, the 325e is best used when stationary; definitely an armchair headphone.  As well, the Grado bowl earpads, though absolutely necessary to get the desired soundstage and tonal balance, are somewhat coarse against sensitive skin.  Yes, they take some getting used to but once I did, I found myself easily comfortable for a couple hours of straight listening.

Monitor Audio CP-IW460X In-wall Speakers 01

Monitor Audio CP-IW460X In-wall Speakers with the grills off

Modern living environments and contemporary décor trends generally don’t embrace traditional audio/video systems with large speaker enclosures.  Just flip through one of the latest home décor magazines and traditional loudspeaker boxes are nowhere to be found.  Rather, today’s interior designs call for small lifestyle setups, Bluetooth speakers or perhaps a svelte soundbar.  Audio performance is compromised as such lifestyle oriented setups just don’t perform like high-end tower or bookshelf loudspeakers.  Catering to this trend, many high-end audio product manufacturers have introduced high performance on-wall / in-wall speakers; speakers to be heard, not seen.  UK based Monitor Audio is one of these companies and their Controlled Performance CP-IW460X in-wall speaker aims to provide stealth without sonic compromise.

Monitor Audio CP-IW460X In-wall Speakers 02

Monitor Audio CP-IW460X In-wall Speakers with the grills on

The CP-IW460X in-wall speaker is compact considering that it is a full three-way, five-driver loudspeaker.  Its sealed-box construction allows it to deliver optimal performance in virtually any in-wall application, when installed properly.  The highest quality components, materials and construction are used to ensure maximum performance.  First, the CP-IW460X uses Monitor Audio’s latest speaker driver innovations – proprietary C-CAM (Ceramic-Coated Aluminium Magnesium) cones with ‘dimpled’ Rigid Surface Technology (2 x 6.5’ and 2 x 4’) as well as a single C-CAM Ribbon High Frequency transducer.  These drivers have the capability of delivering high-output with great speed and minimal distortion.  Second, a high-quality three-way crossover is incorporated, with adjustable high, medium and low frequency (boundary) controls, allowing seamless driver integration and tailoring of speaker sound for room acoustics and personal taste.  Finally, the enclosure is a cast polymer cabinet with die-cast aluminium baffle, which has exceptional rigidity and thus, limits vibrational distortion.  With a frequency response of 50 to 60,000 Hz, the CP-IW460X covers most of the audible spectrum.  Monitor Audio has aimed high with the CP-IW460X; it is designed to emulate the performance characteristics of Monitor Audio’s own Gold range of loudspeakers.

Hafler PH50 Moving Magnet Phono Stage Review.indd

Hafler is a division of Radial Engineering Ltd, headquartered in Port Coquitlam, BC, Canada.  Radial is primarily a pro-audio company with products targeted at musicians and studios; however, in 2014, with the acquisition of Hafler, Radial has begun its move into the consumer audio market.  Hafler though, is a brand with history, having its beginnings back in 1977, founded by David Hafler.  David was already well established in the audio biz as a partner in Dynaco, a highly-regarded audio product company best known for its tube amplifiers.  Interestingly enough, Radial just re-launched the Dynaco brand, at the 2016 High End Show in Munich, once again uniting Hafler with Dynaco.

I’ve been auditioning the Hafler PH50 Phono Stage ($500 US) for moving magnet cartridges over the last few months.  In addition, I’ve also had my hands on a Hafler PH60 ($600), its sister product.  Whereas, the PH50 is specifically made for moving magnet (MM) cartridges, the sibling PH60 is designed for low-output moving coil (MC) cartridges.  For those with even more demanding MC needs, Hafler produces two other significantly more expensive phono products, the PH34 ($1,200) and PH44 ($1,200).

The Hafler PH50 and PH60 share similar build, quality, exterior dimensions, aesthetics and simple operation, while differing in circuit design and application, as mentioned above.  The Hafler PH50 is an ultra-linear phono stage for MM cartridges.  It employs a RIAA curve to preserve the original program material and minimize coloration.  The PH50 has low noise, rated at -82dB with a dynamic range of > 91dB and just 0.002% distortion.  While not a pin-up model in form, the PH50 is non-intrusively styled and purpose built, with a sturdy feel.  The casing is 14 gauge steel, ensuring durability and effective shielding from external EMI/RFI contamination.  A full surface ground plane reduces its susceptibility to RFI, as well.  Sturdy gold plated RCA connectors and a grounding screw are on the back, along with the DC power input socket.  Inside, a military grade PC board has a neatly laid out circuit, which serves to minimize self-noise and cross-talk.  The power-supply is an outboard switching wall type that’s common for phono stages at this price point.  Adding to peace of mind is the fact that the PH50 and its siblings are made in Canada, and have a 3-year transferable warranty.

On the front panel of the PH50 there is a convenient power on-off button and a low-cut button but also a curious rotating knob, looking a lot like a volume control.  Turns out that this knob is a variable control for the low-cut (high-pass) filter, which, when engaged, allows variable attenuation of low frequencies – providing a means to ameliorate rumble or system low-frequency feedback.  Though I didn’t find I needed to employ the low-cut filter, given the vast potential systems out there, it’s comforting to have a means to reduce low frequencies, even to tame excessive bass.  Apart from this control, everything else with the Hafler PH50 phono stage, is plug and play with no other controls for users to worry about.

The vast majority of MM cartridges will be happy with a 47KΩ load and 35dB of gain of the PH50 but not necessarily all (see the Hafler website for full specifications).  My resident Ortofon 2m Red MM cartridge was fully compatible with the PH50; however, my Dynavector 10×5, a high-output MC, designed for use with MM phono stages, required a little more gain for optimal performance than the PH50 could produce.  All my evaluations were with my Ortofon 2m Red on my long-term reference VPI Scout turntable.

With over a couple hundred hours of break-in I began to pay closer attention to the sonic attributes of the PH50.  One thing that I first noticed about the PH50 was its nonchalant manner, this is not an in-your-face performer but rather comes across as relaxed and composed.  It conjures images with impressive body and dimension, while avoiding any unnatural highlighting or silhouetting.  With respect to treble, the PH50 was benign, never biting or stinging.  It’s delivery of high frequencies was smooth and controlled and absent of unnatural emphasis or grain.  Tonal colors possessed natural warmth without coming across as overly ripe or Technicolor.   My general impression, as I made my way through a stack of LPs was that the Hafler PH50 favoured musical relevance over forensic detail.


Over the years Editor-In-Chief Suave Kajko and I, have had the pleasure of hearing Bryston products at audio shows and dealers on many occasions.  However, our appreciation for what Bryston offers goes much deeper than that.  In fact, each of us have been so impressed by the quality and performance of Bryston offerings that we  both use Bryston components within our own reference music systems.  Yet despite our high appreciation for Bryston products, neither of us had a chance to get out to Bryston’s factory for a visit – until recently.

It was during the summer of 2016 when we made the drive to Bryston headquarters.  For those less familiar, I should let you know that Bryston Limited is a Canadian audio product manufacturer that distributes their products internationally.  The company’s headquarters and factory are located in Peterborough, Ontario, just over 140 kilometers from downtown Toronto.  Bryston produces a full range of audio products, including digital audio players, DACs, surround sound processors, preamplifiers and amplifiers, loudspeakers, phonostages and now, even turntables.

Arriving at Bryston, we received a friendly greeting from Brian Russell, President, who led us to their lunch room for a coffee.  From there, we were off on the factory tour.  Bryston’s factory is large facility, at approximately 20,000 square feet.  The site serves host for the manufacturing of all Bryston electronics but does not include their loudspeakers.  Bryston loudspeakers are manufactured off-site at Axiom Audio’s massive facility in Dwight, Ontario, a couple hours north of the Bryston headquarters.


When entering the manufacturing facility, one might expect to hear the buzzing and whirring of machines, and clanking of conveyors.  However, the Bryston factory is very quiet, the main reason being that Bryston products are hand built by a team of about 40 employees.  Rather than snaking conveyor belts and automation, you find workbench stations with skilled technicians applying their skills to the assembly of every product.  This personal touch to production is something special and adds to pride of ownership.  We looked on as a couple staff were hand soldering surface mount circuit boards, including 28B power boards and 4B3 LED boards.  The attention to detail was obvious.


Moving along in the factory we were shown a station where a technician was assembling Bryston’s new Cubed Series amplifier faceplates.  I noted that the new Cubed faceplates were actually two pieces.  It turns out that the rectangular protrusion centred on the new faceplate is an insert plate that covers the LED and power button module.  In Bryston tradition, form follows function.  I asked Brian if the new two-piece plate was for ease of servicing but his answer was far more intriguing than I expected.  Brian let us know they had an additional feature in mind for the Cubed Series, which wasn’t yet ready, so as a future proofing measure they added the insert plate for easy access.  I blurted out – is it for power meters?  All I got was wide eyes and a smirk, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

(Video) insights about the development of the Bryston Cubed Series amplifiers with James Tanner, VP of Sales and Marketing:

The Bryston facility in Peterborough focuses on product assembly and testing, rather than parts manufacture.  Parts production is primarily performed by Bryston’s third-party suppliers.  For instance, all the CNC cutting, parts anodizing and finishing, aluminum and steel stamping and casework painting are completed by outside suppliers.  That said, Bryston does do a limited amount of parts manufacturing on-site; for instance, we were shown a very interesting looking circuit board manufacturing tool.  Brian explained that it allows them to easily design and create different circuit boards right on the spot.


In addition, there was a special area reserved for silk screening parts, as found on the front and rear of most Bryston components.  I had to chuckle at the caption on the door of their paint kiln, which said: “BRYSTO (the “N” had gone missing) Amplifiers & Pre-amps, Watts & Watts of POWER”.  Obviously a sense of humour goes into every Bryston product.

As we walked along the aisle, Brian stopped us in front of a parts rack.  He picked up and showed us an assembled amplifier circuit board and pointed out that there is no difference in the amplifier circuit in any of their amps.  From their 2.5B through to the 28B Bryston uses the same amplifier board, it’s just the number that varies.  This fits Bryston’s approach of not doing better and best but rather building each product the best for its intended application.


Bryston takes great pride in the quality, reliability and durability of their products, backing them up with an industry leading 20-year transferable parts & labour warranty on all analog products and 5-years on digital products.  When it comes to their amplifiers, Bryston subjects them to extreme stress testing at their burn-in station.  All amplifiers, once assembled spend a minimum of 100 hours being cycled on for 1 hr and off for 1 hr.  During the on cycle, they are fed a square wave input signal that runs them to their maximum output.  100 hours on this bench is equivalent to about a year of normal use.  It’s like a boot camp for amps that they must pass to get their badge of health.  There were a couple of undressed 28B-SST2 monoblocks, along with a number of the new Cubed Series models, including the 4B3, 7B3 and 14B3, getting burned-in.  Brian informed us that all amplifier production was now Cubed Series except for the 6B and 9B, which were in the works.


After burn-in, amplifiers as well as all other Bryston electronic products go through a careful inspection and testing routine to validate that they meet Bryston’s exacting specifications.  If a product passes end-to-end testing, it moves on, while all failures are examined to determine the failure cause so that continual improvements can be made to parts, products and process.  Unique among audio product manufacturers, is the fact that Bryston actually includes a copy of the original test results certificate in the box with each product shipped.  We had the pleasure of meeting Jen, a lady who performs the final checkout on many of the Bryton products – you’ll find her very signature on many of those certificates.

Over in the packing area, we met Paul, who was busy packing up amplifiers.  Brian told us that 42 years ago, packaging for an amplifier weighed about 25 pounds but fortunately Bryston was approached by a company with an ingenious light foam packaging material.  The foam was much lighter and substantially increased protection over the packing used at the time.  Bryston uses this foam to this day, as shipping related damages over the years have been miniscule.

We popped by the engineering department – Bryston skunkworks, a walled off area with cubicles and tons of testing equipment.  Mike Pickett, Service Manager was busy in his cubicle doing what he does best, supporting Bryston customers.  One of the items that the engineers were busy developing was Bryston’s all-new BDP-π Digital Player.  We had a chance to take a look at one, top off of course.  It’s great to see a 40+ year old company still plugged into current customer demand – the secret of survival.


Next stop was Bryston’s parts locker, a large caged off area where Bryston maintains parts for over 40 years of production.  If a Bryston product ever requires a repair, this is where the parts would come from.  Across the ways we were also shown a closet where Bryston maintains record cards for all the products it has shipped out over the years – we noted a box containing ones for their first preamplifer, the 1B.

Along with manufacturing, Bryston has a warranty and repair area.  Here we got to see a number of old amplifiers, obviously still desired for use that were being brought up to spec.  There was even an early generation 4B amplifier there – identified by its slim silver pipe handles.


Following the manufacturing plant tour, we got a chance to sit down with James Tanner, VP of Sales and Marketing, and spoke with him about the new Cubed Series of amplifiers.  James explained that about 5-years ago Bryston was approached by a young engineer, Dr. Ioan Alexandru Salomie, who developed a revolutionary new circuit concept.  Bryston hired Alexandru to work for them and over 2 years he co-developed the Salomie input stage, an all-new input circuit with 10 times less distortion than the one used in Bryston SST2 amplifiers.  The new Salomie input stage was patented and deemed significant enough to introduce a new amplifier series – the Cubed Series.  Sadly, Alexandru Salomie passed away before seeing the final implementation of his work.

We also spoke with James about Bryston’s current sales.  James let us know that in years past Bryston sales had traditionally been split 50/50 between consumer and professional but today, 80% of amplifiers are for consumers and on the loudspeaker side, it’s closer to 90% consumer sales.  Though Bryston sells its products internationally in over 65 countries, North American sales make up 65% of the total and U.S. sales are particularly strong these days.

Bryston has a substantial partnership with Axiom Audio in manufacturing Bryston-branded loudspeakers, which make up about 20% of Bryston’s overall product sales.  James showed us his latest product with Axiom, the BryFi BW-1, a wireless, portable multi-room music system that essentially incorporates two Bryston Mini A loudspeakers.  More details can be found in the press release on our website HERE.


What’s next?  James told us about his latest project with Axiom.  It’s a full-range line source loudspeaker system that he is calling the T-Rex.  Formidable name – keep a watch out for it.  In December, Bryston will also be releasing two new subwoofers –  one will be a bi-pole design using two opposing 8-inch drivers and another model using two opposing 12-inch drivers and an internal 600 watt Bryston amplifier.  And, most interesting was the news of Bryston’s first turntable, a partnership with a reputable Italian manufacturer named Goldnote.  In fact, we were able to get our hands on a sample turntable shortly after our Bryston tour.  You can find Douglas Brown’s review of the Bryston BLP-1 turntable HERE.

During our visit, we also got a chance to ask James Tanner a few questions on camera:

Our visit to the Bryston headquarters was concluded with a brief history of the company, as we stood beside a large display case, showcasing classic Bryston products, in the front lobby. Originally incorporated in 1962, Bryston was purchased in 1968 by John Russell, a former NASA engineer, who had moved from the U.S.A. to Canada.  At that time, Bryston was a medical equipment manufacturer, specializing in a blood analyser known as the Aggregometer.  It wasn’t until 1974 that John’s son, Chris Russell (now CEO at Bryston) developed his first amplifier, the Pro3.  Chris managed to sell ten Pro3 amps to Eastern Sound, a recording studio located in Yorkville Village, Toronto and convinced John Russell to re-tool the factory for amplifier production.  Interesting enough, Stuart Taylor, Chief Engineer at Bryston (where ST and SST amplifiers get their initials) was employed at Eastern Sound back in those days.


On exhibit in Bryston’s front lobby is one of the original Aggregometers, along with a Pro3, the first 4B amplifier – serial #4001, a first gen 3B, the first 2B #2001 and Bryston’s first preamplifier, the 1B.  I’m sure the late John Russell would be proud to see what his company has grown to become today.


We said, so long to James and Brian and on our way out got a friendly visit from Bryston’s adopted mascot, the neighbourhood groundhog, named Charlie.  A perfect end to our visit!


Welcome to Part 2 of George’s TAVES 2016 coverage.  If you missed Part 1, please give it a read HERE.

Totem Acoustic Inc.


Totem Acoustic, the presenting sponsor of TAVES, was displaying two systems, artfully separated within a superbly decorated large room.  Lucy Lentini’s eye for fashion and style always comes through in Totem marketing materials and show setups — and this was no exception.


“Lucy by the Sky, like Diamonds”

The first system debuted Totem’s all-new SKY monitor speaker ($1,850/pair; shown to the world for the first time at TAVES), powered by BSC Audio amplification.  Designed for budget and space conscious music listeners, the SKY replaces the long-lived and extremely well-regarded Model 1 Signature speaker, which was recently discontinued.  What I heard from the SKY was impressive to say the least, as they produced a surprisingly full bass and a pleasing top end.  One of our contributors at NOVO magazine, David Mitchell is currently working on a review of the SKY loudspeakers, so keep a watch out for that.


The second system showcased Totem’s Element Metal loudspeakers ($13,000/pair).  The monoblock amps and preamp were BSC Audio by Bret d’Agostino, with a Bricasti M1 DAC and Torus RM Series power isolation.  Listening to this system play Nils Lofgren Band’s “Bass & Drum Intro” immediately established its ability for incredibly tight, precise, crisp sound.

Ovation Audio


I found Ricky of Ovation Audio with ProAc speakers in one of the rooms at TAVES.  I hadn’t heard ProAc in a long time and was glad to be reunited with them in Ricky’s room.  The ProAc D20R 2-way speakers ($5,399) were being driven by Hegel amplification, through one of two systems.  The first used  a Hegel H20 power amp, P20 preamp, CDP2A player or Acoustic Solid – Solid III Metal turntable with WTB 303 arm and Nagoka Mp110 cartridge ($3,875 pkg.).  The turntable was paired with an Acoustic Solid – Solid III Metal Stand ($600) and MM/MC phonostage ($1,800).  The other system used was an Acoustic Solid, Solid Wood MPX turntable ($3,750), WTB213 tonearm ($2,520), Synthesis MM/MC tube phono ($2,800) and a Hegel H360 integrated amplifier ($6,500).  The sound was warm and inviting, with lovely bass weight and natural tonality, accompanied by a delicate top end.

Triangle Art / Skogrand / Krolo Designs


A beautiful setup was comprised of Triangle Art electronics, with Skogrand cables and Krolo Designs racks.  Venture Audio’s Ultimate MKII loudspeakers ($60,000 U.S.) were being played.  All-new Triangle Art Reference components were being demonstrated, including: the Triangle Art Reference Tube mono amps ($18,000 U.S.), Reference Phono Pre Power Supply and Line Stage ($16,000) and Reference Preamp Line Stage and Power Supply ($18,000).  A Triangle Art Symphony Table with new T.A. Horus tonearm and T.A. Zeus cartridge ($7,000) was being played, along with the Triangle Art Signature turntables and Siri tonearm ($16,000).  Cabling was top-of-the-line Skogrand Beethoven – if you have to ask how much, you can’t afford it.  And the system was sitting on Krolo Designs racks – large ($5,400) / small ($4,100).  The sound was marvelous with a rich, liquid sound that expressed ease and naturalness.  Listening to Miles David, Kind of Blue, images were life-sized and I was amazed at the lifelike manner in which the brushes were portrayed, having physical presence.


Skogrand premiered its all-new Vivaldi range of cables at this year’s TAVES, which brings the company’s “special sauce” to a much more affordable level.  A pair of 2 meter interconnects starts at just $750 US.  Look out for a review of Skogrand Vivaldi cables in the NOVO magazine soon.


Here are the happy hosts of the room: Knut Skogrand, Mirko Krolo and Tommy Vu (Mr. Triangle Art).

Audio Eden



Rob and Mike of Audio Eden decided to take the gloves off with a Nagra, Kharma International and Bryston system.  Nagra components employed were: Jazz pre ($20,000), MPS power supply ($8,500), Classic DAC ($17,995) and Classic Amp ($21,495).  Bryston components were: BLP-1 turntable and BTP-1 power supply ($3,995) with Dynavector XX2 cartridge ($2,350), as well as a BDP-2 digital player ($3,295) and BIT20 power ($3,995).  The Kharma Elegance S7 loudspeaker ($21,750), along with Khrama speaker cables ($7,500/pr) were up front.  All other cabling was Nordost, including Valhalla II and Odin II.  This system had tremendous detail, clarity and timing.

JVC Canada


JVC Canada put together a home theatre setup at TAVES based around their D-ILA HDR 4K projectors, with Paradigm loudspeakers and Anthem AV electronics.  The projector in play was the JVC DLA-X750 RB Procision 3D / 4K / HDR model ($7,499), projecting onto a 133” SI screen.  The image quality was superb, with amazing detail and contrast and I was craving to sit down and take in a full feature length film given the lifelike and immersive image.  The audio system in the room was a full 7.2.4 Dolby Atmos setup with Paradigm Persona 5F loudspeakers ($9,999/each), Personal C centre ($8,799), Prestige 25s surrounds ($1,099), Millenia 2.0 overhead ($600/each) and twin SUB1 subwoofers.  An Anthem AVM60 pre/pro ($3,299) with two MCA 525 amplifiers ($3,999/each) and an MCA225 amp ($2,499) were providing the juice.


Other projectors on static display were the DLA-X950RB ($11,500) and DLA-X550RB ($4,699) as well as the LX-FH50.

KEF and VPI Industries



This was the first appearance of KEF and VPI in their own room at TAVES and what an appearance it was.  KEF decided to go all-out with their assault, bringing up a pair of Muon MKII loudspeakers ($225,000 U.S.) in their magnificent polished aluminum finish.


No less impressive was VPI’s new flagship turntable, the VPI Titan ($48,000 U.S.) with its two 3D printed arms lashed to some amazing cartridges – the Lyra Etna ($9,000) and the Lyra Elan ($12,500).  Also worth highlighting, was the debut of the VPI Aurora phonostage preamplifier ($6000 U.S.) that was directly connected to a pair of Hegel H30 monoblock amplfiers ($15,000/pair).  The digital source was a Hegel HD30 DAC ($5,700), streaming from a laptop running JRiver.  Cabling was Nordost Valhalla 2.  I was totally flabbergasted by the vitality and lifelike size of the sound.  Playing symphonic music it sounded as if a full orchestra, in all its size and majesty had been conjured from the air.  This system showed just why you need to spend the big bucks, if you want to get believably big sound.  Yet, when it came to delicacy and mid-range purity, this KEF / VPI system showed amazing proficiency.


On static display was VPI’s Prime turntable ($4,000 U.S.) in their new walnut finish.  I would have loved to hear what this table could have done, in place of the VPI Titan.


Outside the room was a more affordable setup, a KEF/VPI setup for the masses.  And Dipin Sehdev of KEF was there to pose with the VPI Play turntable ($1,200 U.S.) and KEF Eggs ($500 U.S.).

Simcoe Sound


Simcoe Sound, a dealer from Barrie, Ontario was making their debut exhibition at TAVES this year.  Scott Mercier, the owner, is always a pleasant guy to chat with, and was introducing a new brand to their store at the show – Icon Audio.  Icon Audio is based out of Leicester, England, and I was curious to hear their tube gear.  The Icon Audio products in the system included their Stereo 60 MK IIIm integrated amplifier, reputed as the “world’s first KT150 integrated UL/Triode Hi Fi amplifier” ($6,100), and their PS 3 MKII MM/MC phonostage with separate tube power supply ($4,600).  A Bryston BDP-2 digital player ($3,295) and BDA-3 DAC ($3,695) satisfied the digital needs, while a Rega RP6 turntable ($2,000) and Benz Ace SM cartridge ($1,100) served up the vinyl.  The speakers were Totem Element Fire ($6,500/pr) with the rack/stands by Solid Tech and Custom Designs.  Listening to the Totem Element Fire, I was impressed by the musicality of the system, the balance of detail, texture, warmth and flow.

Nation Imports



Jeff Wells of Nation Imports had an interesting system combining Lyngdorf Audio and DALI.  The loudspeakers were the DALI Epicon 2 ($10,000/pair) using DALI RM230 ST speaker cables ($600/pr).  The source was a Lyngdorf Audio CD-2 Pure Audio CDP ($3,499) into a TDAI 2170 integrated amplifier ($3,999), paired with an SDA 2400 power amp ($3,000).  What caught my attention was the unorthodox position of the speakers, non-toed, quite separated and very close to the back wall, yet upon play of the tune “Keith Don’t Go” the sound was quick, with fast transients, while possessing both harmonic colour and airiness – absent of any bloating, thickness or overhang.  Whether this was due to the active “Room Perfect” adjustments or something else, I enjoyed what I heard.


The DALI Katch ($599), a portable Bluetooth 4.0 2-way/2-channel 4-driver (tweeters and woofers) speaker was on static display but caught my attention given its stealthy size and chic styling.  Despite being small it is rated at 25 watts x 2.


I also took note of the Cayin CS 55A Integrated tube amplifier with USB-DAC ($2,699) that does 40 wpc UL / 22 wpc TRI.  It was sitting atop a Cayin CS55 CDP with USB-DAC ($1,499).




At this show booth, I came across a brand that was new to me, called 1More.  Headquartered in San Diego California, this company aims to provide high quality / high performance headphone products at very affordable prices.  David Kellogg and Alyssa Freund, representing 1More, gave me an introductory listen, which sparked my interest.  The highlight was the 1More E1001 Triple-Drive In-Ear headphone.  This tiny headphone incorporates dual balance armatures, plus a dynamic driver, all for $99.99 U.S.  A short listen had me sold – punchy sound, with a layered soundstage, open and surprisingly detailed (watch for a full-review in NOVO to come).  Honestly, check the company out as they have a full selection that will please just anyone’s taste / budget.



Peter was manning the ship over at the FiiO booth.  Their various portable music players could be heard with a variety of Grado headphones.  This booth was getting a lot of attention, and so it should, as FiiO products have got a great build, amazing performance and a good feature set that’s been growing with more recent models.


FiiO has just updated their popular X1 portable Hi-Res DAP (digital audio player) with the new X1-2, ($149.99) just released in October.  The new X1-2 supports most lossless/hi-res formats, is Bluetooth 4.0 compatible, and comes with 256GB memory on board, which can be doubled with an optional SD card.  It also sports a nice 2.0” colour touch screen.


Also new (1st Canadian showing) was the FiiO A5 portable headphone amp ($139.99) that is compact and stylish and is sure to improve your music listening with your smartphone.

PMC / XLO / Audio Alchemy


It was great to find PMC at TAVES, showing off in a room with Audio Alchemy electronics and XLO cabling.  The system on demo included the PMC Twenty5 26 ($16,000/pr) loudspeakers driven by Audio Alchemy’s DPA-1M Monoblock Hybrid Digital Power Amps ($2,899/each).  The Audio Alchemy DDP-1, Digital Decoding Preamp/DAC/Headamp ($2,899) with PS-5 Power Supply upgrade ($899) was handling control, fed by a Lumin music server, along with a Hegel CDP.  This system sounded controlled with solid bass.


In October, some people look forward to the Fall season for the turning of leaves, turkey dinners, pumpkin pie, etc.  Others dread the end of summer with the necessity to close the pool, rake the leaves and store the boat.  And, then there are the young of age and spirit that look forward to picking out a costume.  For me, there is one thing that tops the list every October, and that’s the TAVES Consumer Electronics Show.  I just can’t help it because TAVES has set my expectations higher and higher each year.

2016 marked the 6th anniversary for TAVES.  The show has shown unrelenting growth and expansion with each year and 2016 was no different.  Exhibitors were up from 100 in 2015 to 130 this year.  And attendees also went up to 7,600, up from 2015’s record 6,500 count.  TAVES has established itself as the largest show of its kind in Canada and one of top in North America.

Looking around the show, it was evident that there is appeal to a broad demographic.  Lots of youth, women and kids to be seen walking the halls along with the customary mid-aged male veterans.  This is a great thing for TAVES itself but more so for industries represented, most notable being audio / video, consumer electronics and automotive.  With a plethora of exhibits, TAVES is really an extravaganza aimed to please just about anyone with an inquisitive mind.  From tech-toys, to VR, green-vehicles to robots or low-cost earbuds right through to super-high-end audio systems, TAVES has something to interest and entice just about anyone.

Technology and Innovation Pavilion



I popped my head into the Technology and Innovation Pavilion for a look-see and that’s the place my wife and kids spent a good part of a day.  Looking around there were some incredibly interesting gadgets from the latest in VR headsets as well as robotics and even a number of green-vehicles, available for test drives.

Exciting as the technology exhibits were, my focus has and will always be high-end audio, so that’s what I’m going to spend my time telling you about now.

Bryston Limited


One of the first rooms I landed was home to Bryston, the great Canadian manufacturer of high-end audio products and accessories.  Taking a larger room than last year, the system had adequate room to breathe, while leaving space for fans to congregate.  James Tanner was seated in front of a system that obviously sported something new.  Though the speakers were the now familiar Bryston Model T Signatures, the usual external crossovers weren’t being used; rather, Bryston’s all-new BAX-1 active DSP external electronic crossover (estimated $3,500) was in play, paired to the new Cubed series amplifiers.  A pair of 3B3 amplifiers were driving the highs and mids, with a pair of 7B3 driving the bass drivers.  Their BP26 preamplifier with MPS-2 power supply was in control with a BDP-2 digital player and BDA-3 DAC serving as the source.  The system sounded clearer, more detailed and more open than I’ve heard the Model T perform in past.



On static display was Bryston’s new BLP-1 turntable $3,999 including tonearm and power supply, atop the new Target equipment racks ($1,100 for the tall and $900 for the small, $200/each additional shelf).




Bryston’s all-new and highly anticipated BCD-3 CD player was highlighted (uncovered; expected release Dec 2016) and their all new BDP-π digital player ($1,295), among Bryston’s many other enticing products.

Yamaha Canada


My next call was the Yamaha room.  Though no stranger to TAVES, Yamaha really stepped up their game this year with a superb two-channel stereo music system, sporting their A-S3000 integrated amplifier ($9,000) with their CD-S2100 disc transport/DAC ($3,699) and the all-new (1st North American demo) NS-5000 flagship loudspeakers (est. $15,000 U.S.).


The wire loom was all Kimber Kable, including Monacle X speaker cables.   This system set a new high-bar for Yamaha in my book, demonstrating natural detail with luscious textured bass, and an amazing layered soundstage that was both deep and wide.  The NS-5000 speakers are definitely a serious move on Yamaha’s part into high-end audio, being the result of 8 years of R&D and using an exotic Zylon material for all drivers.  Zylon is used in F1 aircraft and by NASA due to its incredible tensile strength (a 1.5 mm strand can literally support a tonne!).  With all drivers of the same material, they delivered music as a whole, in a lifelike manner.



Yamaha also had on display some of their renowned musical instruments as well as the other members of its high-end integrated amplifier family – the A-S2100 ($3,699), A-S1100 and A-S801.

AuDIYo / Zavfino / 1877 Phono


AuDIYo was showing off a number of their distributed brands, with special attention given to 1877 Phono cables and the Zavfino turntable brand.


Mr. Will Tremblett, manufacturer/owner of 1877 Phono and Zavfino was the host of this room, proudly speaking about his latest creations.



The Zavfino hand-painted models are truly one-of-a-kind, with a master artist ensuring he never quite repeats his artwork.  A true combination of creative arts with engineering art!




The brand new, double-armed Zavfino ZV8 Edge turntable was proudly on display in this room.  The build quality of these turntables is truly wonderful.

TheatreOne / Elunevision


When my feet became tired, it was time to try this seat by TheatreOne but I chose to photograph, Leadina, who was hosting the booth, rather than myself.  The seat pictured is TheatreOne’s Andromeda model.  The Andromeda has a wide seating area and armrests for extra comfort.  Covered in Top Grain 9000 leather, these seats looked and felt great, plus the natural cowhide makes them comfortable and durable.  Lighted LED cupholders ensure you’ll never miss finding them and there is even base lighting for ambiance.  Each seat has power reclining that can take you way back.  The Andromeda goes for $1,650/seat and their other Pegasus powered line is priced the same.


Also on display was Elunevision’s latest Aurora 4K ambient light rejecting screen ($3,800), which is available with LED backlighting for even higher contrast.

Erikson Consumer – Master & Dynamic


Erikson Consumer was showing off their latest brand offering – Master Dynamic headphones in a bright open space of the Sheraton, upstairs.  These headphones are high on style but also have sound to match, given my brief trial of the MW60 Bluetooth ($799), MH40 passive ($549) and MH30 passive on ear ($449).


A new Rolling Stones limited edition pair of MH40 ($540) headphones was there for demo.  Priced the same as the standard MH40 it is limited to 1962 units (commemorating the birth year of the Rolling Stones).  Paired to the headphones were two all-new products from TEAC /1st Canadian showing – the all-new TEAC TN400 3-speed turntable with built-in phonostage ($599) and ARCAM rHead headphone amplifier ($899).   Also, next to the turntable to the right is TEAC HA-P50 portable headphone amp with USB DAC ($369), which I used to demo the Master & Dynamic headphones.  To the far right are the MW60 Bluetooth headphones.


A closer look at the MH40 headphone shows the detachable earcups, allowing a change in style and feel as either leather or suede earcups can be chosen.  All Master & Dynamic headphones are sealed and manufactured with high-quality aluminum with real leather surfaces.  I was very impressed with their build and feel – truly a luxury performance brand.


Master & Dynamic’s earphones were also on display, just as much jewelry as high-quality headphones, the ME05 is their flagship in brass and black ($289.99).  They also offer the ME03 and ME01 models that are priced around $230.


A Teac compact component stack with speakers was also there for demonstration and included their S300 NEO 2-way co-axial speakers ($849/pr), AX-501 integrated amplifier ($1,399), PD-501 DSD/DXD CDP ($1,299) and their NT-503 Network player/DAC ($1,999).

Erikson Consumer – Harman International

In the main Erikson Consumer room, a three system demonstration was on rotation, with something surely to please just about any ear.



My prime attention was drawn to the JBL Everest DD67000 flagship loudspeaker.  It’s a 3-way, horn loaded, dual 15” woofer model with a 96dB sensitivity, weighing in at over 300 lbs. and priced at $120,000/pair.  Paired to this was a full Mark Levinson stack, including the No 536 monoblock amplifiers ($21,999/pair) that produce 400 to 800 wpc into 4 to 8 Ohm.  The No 519 audio player ($28,999) and the No 526 preamplifier ($28,999) were on the front-end.  Listening to the Ozone Percussion Group, as well as the Pink Panther theme, I was totally amazed at the dynamic punch and the massive sonic imagery.


The second system was fronted by Revel F208 speakers ($8,000/pr) in piano black with the Salon Ultima2 as the switch hitter.  The system was all Mark Levinson as well, using the No 526 dual monaural preamp/DAC/player ($28,999), No 585 integrated amplifier ($19,500) and No 534 dual mono amplifier ($28,999).  This system was also a real ear pleaser.

Now, shamefully, I didn’t get a shot of the third system – solely due to the crowd in the room.  It was also an attention grabber, given its solid performance at a much more accessible price level.  Consisting of Revel Concerta M16 speakers ($1,400/pr), B10 subwoofer ($2,300) and an Arcam Solo music system all-in-one integrated/CDP/SACD with Bluetooth and HDMI inputs ($3,500), it provided a good share of the high-end sound at a price affordable to many.

Kevro International – Monitor Audio


A fabulous sounding room was hosted by Kevro International, featuring Monitor Audio, Cyrus Audio and Clarus Cable.  The source was the Cyrus Audio Stream XA ($2,799) streamer and Simaudio 740P MOON Evolution CD transport.  The DAC was the 850D MOON Evolution Series paired to a couple of Pass Labs XA100.8 monoblock amplifiers.  Cabling was all by Clarus Cable, the Crimson Series with $5,600/pr speaker cables.  Yet, the stars of this room were the grandiose and gorgeous Monitor Audio PL 500 II loudspeakers ($38,000/pr).  The sound was room filling during the couple demos I sat through.  I’ve heard the new PL500 II speakers before however, at TAVES 2016, the PL500 II set a new high for sonic performance.  The sound was tremendously lifelike, with a very natural tonal balance, impressive musicality, solid imaging and appreciable soundstage depth.



On static display in the room were a number of Monitor Audio in-wall loudspeakers, which include the company’s advanced drivers.  These models included the CP-IW460X ($2,599/each), the CP-IW260X ($1,599/each) and a number of other lower cost models.


Outside the room was gracious Gayle Ginn, wife of Sheldon Ginn, Kevro VP of Sales.  Friendly as ever, she was showing her latest musical themed artistic creations, perfect to adorn a music listening space.