Welcome to part 4 of our coverage of the 2019 Toronto Audiofest. To read the previous parts of our show report, please click here: https://novo.press/category/features/audio-video-show-coverage/
Tri-cell Enterprises is an importer of some truly fantastic hifi brands from around the globe. These include Audiovector, Brinkmann, Harbeth, ModWright Instruments, Aesthetix, Gold Note, Transrotor, Unison Research and Opera Loudspeakers – just to mention a few. This year, the company highlighted many different products from its portfolio across four rooms.
I was happy to see a few new components on display in the first room: the Audiovector R 8 Arreté floorstanding speakers ($55,000 EUR), the Audiovector R 1 Arreté bookshelves ($7,500) and the Alluxity Pre 2 with built-in DAC / Streamer ($14,500). But it really was all about the sound in this room…
I sat down to listen to the demo system here, which highlighted the Audiovector R 1 Arreté speakers, the Alluxity Integrated One ($11,500), Alluxity Pre 2 and a pair of Alluxity Mono One monoblocks ($13,000 each). There were two other music sources here: the Unison Research CD Primo ($2,590) and the Gold Note Giglio turntable ($6,275) + Gold Note PH10 phono preamp ($2,055) + Gold Note PSU10 power supply ($1,500) for the PH10. I actually own all three of these Gold Note components in my reference system, so I’m intimately familiar with their sound.
Starting with the first track I listened to here, I realized there was something stunningly good about the sound of this system. The Audiovector Audiovector R 1 Arreté are compact bookshelf speakers but they pack an enormous musical punch. Their ability to fill the room with energy was simply remarkable. Of course, the electronics from Alluxity played in equal role in the sound here – providing an ultra clean, detailed sound with a sweet midrange. With well produced tracks, the system offered an Incredibly spacious, atmospheric sound and instruments and vocals positioned in a near-holographic soundstage. I also found the soundstage to offer a great amount of space between the various elements, making it easy to tune in to specific elements of the recordings. Wow! The highs played with a palpable crispiness and detail, and the bass energy from these tiny speakers was staggering, while offering great articulation and texture from bass strings. All the while, the midrange presented warm, organic vocals and served up the subtlest details. Likewise, string instruments sounded rich and loaded with textural details. Without question, this system simply blew me away and became one of my favourite sounding at the show.
In another room, Tri-cell was featuring a demo system that included the Harbeth 30.2 40th Anniversary speakers ($6,400) and the Aesthetix Mimas integrated amp ($9,900). The digital sources here were the Unison Research CD UNO ($3,280), Gold Note DS-10 DAC/Streamer/Headphone amp ($4,000) and the Brinkmann Nyquist MKII DAC ($21,000). On the analog source side, we had the Brinkmann Taurus turntable ($20,000), Brinkmann Edison MKII phono preamp ($14,000).
I’ve listened to the Aesthetix Mimas integrated amp and the Brinkmann components in the past and I know they are highly capable high-end audio components. I would be delighted to own any of them in my own system. I was given a chance to listen to both analog and digital sources in this setup. Playful guitar riffs on a Dire Straits record pleased my ears with sparkly, textured guitars and a warm organic sound. The midrange performance of this system was right on the money: both the vocals and instruments sounded perfectly natural. The music had me tapping my toes in no time. Selecting a couple of digital tracks that I often test audio gear with via Roon again showed that the system was capable of producing a sweet midrange and a soundstage with a good width/depth. The only aspect of music that was lacking to my ears here was the bottom end extension.
In the third Tri-cell room I came across another very impressive demo system. Here we had the Opera Callas Diva speakers ($11,500), Zesto Audio Leto Ultra vacuum tube preamp and a pair of Zesto Audio Eros 300 class A mono blocks ($27,000/pair). The source was the Transrotor Apollon TMD turntable ($12,395) equipped with two Tri-Planer MK VII U2 9.8 tonearms ($7,900 each) and two different MC cartridges from Benz Micro and Ortofon. The turntable was running through the Zesto Audio Andros Deluxe vacuum tube phono stage ($9,350) and the Zesto Audio Allasso step up transformer ($4,095).
Listening to Eva Cassidy’s Songbird record, I was greeted with gentle guitars and emotion-filled vocals. Cassidy’s voice offered remarkably organic qualities as if the singer was present in the room. The midrange was luscious and rich, the hi-hats sounded detailed and sparkly and the bass provided a solid foundation to the music.
With The Royal Ballet record in play, the system *teleported* me to an orchestra hall. The system painted an extremely spacious soundstage here, with TONS of air between the various sections of the orchestra, and even individual elements. The dynamics of the sound here were outstanding – from the soft, delicate passages to epic crescendos, there was seemingly nothing this system couldn’t handle. The result was a totally immersive experience that got me completely lost in the music. Wow!
Audiyo is the Canadian distributor of high-end audio products, cables and DIY accessories from Furutech, ADL and Zavfino – among other brands. Owner Simon Au highlighted an impressive selection of power distributors, cables, connectors, receptacles, cable lifters and more at its show booth.
Furutech’s NCF Booster products – like the NCF Booster and NCF Booster-Signal – have received a lot of media attention over the last little while because of how effective they are. Our sister publication NOVO High-End reviewed these two products last year – I invite you to check out the article at this LINK. At least two NOVO magazine contributors swear by these products and use them in their systems. In this picture, you can see the NCF Boosters in action in another room at the show:
Shown for the first time at the Toronto Audiofest, was the new Furutech Booster-Brace. This accessory is designed to keep your power plugs firmly in place in receptacles, power bars and component ends – and significantly reduces vibration / resonance.
Although Yamaha showcased the same system at the Toronto Audiofest as they did at the Montreal show earlier this year, that didn’t prevent me from stopping in to enjoy the tunes here.
The all-Yamaha system here consisted of the NS-5000 speakers ($17,995), C-5000 preamp ($10,995), M-5000 power amp ($10,995) and the GT-5000 turntable (shipping in early 2020; price $TDB). Also in play here were the Luna Cables Orange Step Up Transformer ($2,500) and a full Luna Cables system loom.
The sound here was highly immersive, dynamic and warm. I greatly enjoyed the music selection the Yamaha / Luna teams spun up for me during my listening session.
Canadian importer Motet Distribution partnered with several local dealers to spotlight its portfolio of high-end audio brands at this year’s Toronto Audiofest. Motet distributes several high performance audio brands including Plinius, Auris, PMC, Triangle, Lumin, VTL, Music Hall, Hifiman and iFi.
In one room, Toronto retailer Star Electronics / Motet demonstrated that you can achieve some great sound without spending a ton of money. The affordable system here showcased the Triangle Borea bookshelf speakers ($599), Triangle Tales 340 subwoofer, Music Hall A15.3 integrated amp ($750), Music Hall C-DAC15.3 DAC / transport ($750) and Music Hall mmf-2.3wh turntable. The music had me tapping my toes in seconds flat. Vocals were vibrant, clean, articulate and full of emotion. Guitars displayed detailed string textures as they danced around in the mid / high ranges. The bass was also surprisingly deep and well articulated for such a small and inexpensive system. Overall, this was perhaps the highest value system I had the pleasure of listening to at the show. Amazing value!
Another room was a partnership between retailer Being There Audio and Motet. Here we saw a system that consisted of the coming-soon Finale Audio Sesto Elemento tube integrated amp ($7,500) and Triangle Esprit EZ Australe speakers ($4,500). The digital source was the Lumin D2 network music streamer, while the analog source was the Music Hall mmf-3.3se turntable running through an iFi phono stage. The sound I heard here was certainly a few rungs up the sonic ladder from the previous room. Listening to Adele’s Hello album, I heard lucious, palpable vocals with fabulous emotional energy. The midrange was full of warmth, yet offered a great amount of musical detail. The piano sounded equally vivid and rich. High frequencies were presented with a true-to-life sparkle, while bass notes were tuneful and well articulated. Finale Audio is working on a new Conductor line of single ended push-pull tube amps – something to look out for in 2020.
In the third room, Motet paired with Apple Tree, an in-home retailer. There were two different systems in play here: a 2-channel system as well as a multi-channel Dolby Atmos system. The 2-channel system consisted of the PMC fact.8 speakers, PMC core integrated amp and the Lumin D2 network music streamer. The Dolby Atmos system on the other hand utilized 11 PMC speakers, which included models from the twenty5 series and the slim PMC Wafer speakers on the sides. Also shown inside this room were several components from the TEAC 505 series (clock generator, amp, int amp and DAC). During my visit to the room, I caught a few minutes of the Dolby Atmos demo of a classical recording. There’s no question that this system produced one of the most immersive experiences and largest soundstages of any system at the show – after all, 99% of the rooms at the show were 2-channel systems. The multi-channel experience was nothing but joy to my ears!
In yet another room, Motet demoed a lovely music system together with retailer Audio Eden. The system here consisted of the VTL 6.5 Series II preamp ($21,000), a pair of VTL MB-450 Series III monoblocks ($31,000 / pair) and the PMC fact.12 Signature speakers ($28,500). The analog source was the new SME Synergy all-in-one turntable (includes tonearm, cartridge, and built in phono stage, $28,000 package price). On the digital source side, we had the Lumin T2 streamer ($6,995) and the Yamaha CD-S3000 CD player. What I heard here was a very sweet midrange, rich instrumental and vocal details, punchy high frequencies and deep, articulate bass notes. Overall, the sound was really musical and engaging. A job very well done!
The last Motet room was presented in collaboration with retailer House of HiFi. Inside this space, visitors were given a chance to listen to a system that included the Plinius Hautonga integrated amp ($7,999) partnered with the PMC fact.8 speakers ($15,000). Analog audio was provided via a Music Hall mmf-9.3 turntable ($3,499) fed through a Plinius Koru phono stage ($5,500). Digital audio came from Lumin’s top of the line X1 network player ($17,500). The music here played with a richness and palpate midrange detail. Vocals sounded vivid, piano tones sounded natural, the highs were extended and filled with micro details.
There’s no question that the 2019 Toronto Audiofest left us musically very satisfied, perhaps even somewhat overwhelmed. We discovered lots of great new products and hope to place some of them in our reference systems – so that we can evaluate them and report our findings to you, our readers.
Hope you enjoyed this year’s show report.. and see you next at the Montreal Audiofest in the spring!