George de Sa

1071 POSTS COMMENTS

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).

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
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.

bryston-15-custom

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.

bryston-02-custom

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.

bryston-20-custom

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.

bryston-12-custom

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-23-custom

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.

bryston-31-custom

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.

bryston-30-custom

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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