Publisher Profile

2011 TAVES – Coverage IV

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Room 662: Plurison – Naim

A very simple but nice sounding Naim system was on display in the Plurison (Canadian Distributor for Naim) room. I am accustomed to seeing Naim systems with multiple boxes, including a separate power supply for each individual unit. This system, however, was rather simple, consisting of a “UnitiServe” Hard Disk Player / Server and a “SuperUniti” All-in-one Player connected to a pair of Ovator S-400 Loudspeakers.

The SuperUniti ($5,955) is an 80watt-per-channel integrated amplifier with every imaginable input available under the sun, except for a phono stage. It is an integrated wireless network stream player, which means it can retrieve music files from your computer through your WiFi network. It is a USB audio player, iPod and iPhone dock, internet radio, DAB radio, FM radio, 10-input digital and analogue preamplifier and DAC converter capable of supporting WAV and AIFF files up to 32bit/192 kHz, and FLAC files up to 24bit/192khz. The only thing it doesn’t do is brew coffee or cappuccino.

Room 619: Tube Magic Canada

Tube Magic Canada is a little known local manufacturer that has been faithfully attending the last few audio shows in Montreal but has never received much attention. In an industry dominated by large companies with huge advertising budgets, I have a lot of respect for small local companies which continue to fight for market shares in a difficult economy.

New for 2011 is their IAM96 tube integrated amplifier delivering 20 watts per channel. According to the owner, these are hand-built in Toronto utilizing quality parts, such as stepped attenuators and Jensen capacitors. You can take one of these home for 4,900 Canadian clams. (A Dagogo Review on the IAM98 is already finished and will be published shortly. – Pub.)

Room 646: Audiyo.com

Speaking of small local manufacturers, TAVES’ very own Simon Au (TAVES Director of Sales, and owner of Audiyo.com) is coming up with a few new products of his own.

The wooden treasure chest you see here is a prototype of his upcoming new power amplifier, the M2 which is based upon a modified version of the Marantz M2 circuit. It features dual R-core output transformers, and the choice between EL34 (20W/ch) or KT88 (45W/ch) tubes. It will be released in a kit form, priced at approximately $3,000 CDN.

M2A

Audiyo.com will also be releasing its SP1 speaker in kit form (MSRP $2,000 CDN). It is also available assembled for a slightly higher price. The kit comes with Hiquphon tweeters from Denmark, and woofers made by Focal. A variety of finishings will be available, ranging from plain veneer to exotic Baltic Birch.

SP1 and SP 1a side by side

Vanity Room: Woo Audio Inc.

Downstairs in the open area, Woo Audio had an interesting booth featuring a series of tube amplifiers dedicated to headphones. I’ll be honest, high-end headphone amplifiers are something new to me, especially when they are fitted with vacuum tubes. Jack Wu, president of Woo Audio Inc., gave me a quick tour of all their products, and I was happily tapping my toes with the headphone on. The WA22 (MSRP $1,900) sits in the middle of their product range. They range from $495 for the basic WooAudio 3, to $4,990 for the fully balanced top-of-the-line WES model.

Also on display is their new WDS-1 D/A converter prototype, with a maximum sampling rate of 24bit/192kHz. It will be priced at around $1,000. When asked whether any of Woo’s products are OEMs, Jack proudly told me these are 100% designed and made in New York.

Furutech Headphone Amp

If tubes are too complicated for one to handle, the all new Alpha Design Labs, a division of Furutech, Cruise Portable 24/96 Headphone Amplifier would be a nice alternative. Housed in a carbon graphite / non-magnetic stainless steel chassis, is a circuit which runs on USB or AC power.

Stay tuned, the MSRP will be announced shortly.

Kensington Room: Bryston, PMC Speakers

You can usually tell which are the better sounding rooms by the buzz generated in the hallways. I bumped into at least four people who told me that I must see the Bryston/PMC room. Four of the guys from my own audiophile group also commented that the Bryston/PMC room was the best sounding at TAVES.

I used to own a pair of their lower-end model (PMC GBLi) in my library and I thought they were great little speakers. As much as I have always liked the way PMCs sounded, I was never a big fan of their looks. They seem to get bigger and boxier as you go higher up in price. Only the heaven knows where the line is drawn on the WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) scale. I know for sure I have pre-approval for a pair of Sonus Faber Amati Futuras, but for PMCs I am not sure.

The Kensington Room is probably one of the biggest room at the show, and as I entered the room I saw the following components: Bryston BDP-1, BDA-1, BP-26/MPS-2, 28BSST2 driving a pair of PMC IB2i. However, I thought it was unusual for a pair of speakers to be placed so high on their stands. Later, I found out they were actually professional studio speaker stands designed to stand behind mixing consoles.

I personally know three friends who are happy campers with the 28BSST amplifiers, and I am very familiar with the way they sound. Not surprisingly, this system on display did not disappoint and the fact that it impressed so many visitors speaks volumes. Obviously, there was no shortage of power with the Brystons and they were in full control of the PMCs. The top-end was non-fatiguing, and it blended nicely with the mids and the lows without any noticeable coherence issues. Despite the fact that speakers were placed fairly close to the back walls, the sound stage did not seem constricted or narrowed. Moreover, the music was tuneful, full bodied and smooth, all of which are qualities which are sometimes difficult to achieve with big solid-state amps and digital sources.

The Bryston/PMC setup was up there with the best, if not the very best.

Bryston brought the whole family of products to display; the representatives were all friendly and knowledgeable.

Room 664: Burmester, ELAC

Burmester gear is stunningly beautiful. I cannot think of any other name which comes close to the Burmester chassis in terms of construction and finish. Whenever I see this gear, there is a constant urge to put a fingerprint on the chrome, leave a mark, or “feel” the metal. They are audio jewellery, eye candy and before I get carried away I should mention that they also make beautiful sound. The presentation was clean, accurate, and elegant

Elac

Here we have the Burmester 001 CD player ($21,995), the 083 Integrated Amplifier ($16,995), the 948 Power Conditioner ($7,995), all connected to a pair of ELAC FS 249 speakers ($6,900). The audio rack ($3,995) and speaker cables (Blu-Copper $4,000) were also by Burmester.

Burmester

Room: 667 Tricell Enterprises – Joseph Audio, Accustic Arts, Clearaudio

Clearaudio Ovation

The all new Clearaudio Ovation turntable was on display at one of Tricell Enterprises’ three showrooms. It’s priced at $5,500 and even comes with the newly designed Clarify arm which is fabricated from carbon fibre, which pivots on its axis with a magnetic bearing.

I have a feeling this table is going to be a strong contender in its price category. I was quite happy with the sound of the system as a whole.

Joseph

Room: 651 Coherent Speakers

Coherence, coherence and more coherence, was the sound that I heard from the Coherence room. The Coherence Model 12 ($8,500) is entirely hand made in Hamilton, Ontario. Everything from the cabinet, the cross over, and even the drivers are hand made by the owner himself. The driver is comprised of a 12” woofer, horn loaded with a 3” compression driver in the middle.

The horn handles the upper frequencies from 800 Hz to 18 kHz, and the woofer handles anything below that range all the way down to 30 Hz.

Room 219: Reference 3A

Over at the Reference 3A room, Tash Goka over Divergent Technologies (Canadian distributor of Antique Sound Labs, Chang Lightspeed, Copland, JJ Electronics, and Reference 3A) had a pre-production turntable on display. He said that along with a partner in Hong Kong, he is “seriously thinking” about introducing a production model of the Perpetual Technology turntable to the public very soon. Lets hope this happens because at an MSRP of $3000 including a 9” Opera Consonance tonearm, it looks like plenty of table for the money. The 12” arm will cost $300 dollars more.

The turntable has an interesting feature, it comes with four “magnetic repulsion” isolation feet. I suspect these magnetic feet could very well be the ultimate solution to a common problem faced by those with solid, non-suspension tables sitting on bouncy floors. The turntable in my study had a problem with bouncy floors and I had to tip-toe around when it was playing. The problem was solved when I finally pulled trigger on a $3,500 Minus-K laboratory grade isolation device for my turntable. However, it was hardly a practical solution as the platform cost more than the turntable.

According to Tash, these magnetic feet can be sold separately at approximately $225 for a set of four. They have a load capacity of 20 lbs. A smaller version with a lighter capacity is also available for $175.

Will this product be the ultimate solution? I’ll have to get my hands on a set from Tash.

Room 670: Mike Tang Audio

If I have to choose a favourite dealer at TAVES, I think will have to choose Mike Tang. The reason I say this is because he isn’t really a dealer in the absolute sense. He is “sort of” a dealer, “maybe” a manufacturer, “probably“ a designer, and “could be” a distributor. Mostly, he is none of the above which is probably why I like him.

His room is somewhat bizarre, somewhat unconventional, and downright messy.

“Do you have a showroom?”
“Nope.”

“Do you stock inventory?”
“Maybe.”

“Are you selling anything?”
“Probably.”

“So what are you doing here?” I asked.

The answer Mike gave me was the same as what he wrote on his website. “I am here to share my passion, my creation, my invention, my hobby and my love for audio. I am here to show off my inventions and to meet audiophiles. I am not in it for the money and I don’t really care if I don’t sell anything.” said Mike.

This man foots the bill himself, I like this sort of guy and I wish I can see more of his type! Unfortunately, Mike is also the sort of guy who never gets media coverage, well, except this time. We spent half an hour chatting with each other and at the end, Mike was nice enough to offer me an invitation to his house.

Here is Mike’s invention No. 1 – An audio rack build for and attached to a Thorens turntable. Mike explained that he had fiddled with the Thorens turntable for many years and the best solution is to build it right into the audio rack. “It isn’t exactly for sale, but if you would like one I’ll build one for you.”

Interesting.

Here is Mike’s invention No. 2 – An unnamed tonearm which I’ll call “Mike’s Tonearm”, made especially for the DECCA cantileverless cartridge. However, don’t be confused, the DIY looking arm at the back is not Mike’s tonearm, it’s actually the precision-machined tonearm with the DECCA cartridge attached.

Here is Mike’s invention No. 3 – Sound absorption panels, which I’ll call Mike’s Panels. Again, there is more than meets the eye with these panels as they are not arbitrarily designed by trial and error. Behind each of the tiny slots on the panel are individual compartments. According to Mike, he has measured the frequency response of each of the compartments with a microphone and a spectrum analyzer, and each panel can be tailor made to absorb or reflect certain frequencies.

As for the prices for the above inventions, I am not sure. I am also not sure whether Mike himself is sure about the prices, so let’s just say we never talked about it.

Room 212: Avatar Acoustics , Tri-art Audio

No, those are not record clamps sitting on top of isolation devices, its actually an amplifier. Here is another interesting product on display by Tri-Art audio, which was sharing the room with Avatar Acoustics. Tri-Art audio is a Canadian company featuring interesting looking, Class D – battery powered amplifiers housed in concrete blocks. Available in stereo or monoblock sets.

Darren Censullo, who by the way, is a former F-16 fighter pilot, now runs Avatar Acoustics. Avatar represents products such as Tri-Art AMR, Dr. Feickert Analog Turntables and Protractors, as well as their own line of AC outlets and Power Conditioners.

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