Section 1: Introduction
The Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show (TAVES) is returning to the King Edward Hotel in Toronto on the weekend of Nov 1- 3, 2013. In its third year, TAVES 2013 will present over 50 high-end audio manufacturers, distributors, and exhibitors with products from around the world.
The organizers of TAVES 2013 are delighted to announce that they are making a big effort to showcase even more multi-channel Home Theater systems, equipment, and demos at this year’s show than they did in previous years. Two-channel stereo systems will, of course, be strongly represented, but the goal of TAVES is to offer a panoply of high-quality Home Theatre audio/video brands & products to budding AV consumers; and not just esoteric high-end 2-channel brands.
I will be covering the 2013 TAVES for SECRETS. I want to begin the coverage with a preview of this year’s show and a brief history on the King Edward Hotel where TAVES is being held for the third time.
Parts 2 and 3 will feature my on-site coverage from the King Edward Hotel, which will appear in SECRETS in November. My report will feature the exhibitor rooms, information about new products and pricing, and, of course, pictures from TAVES 2013.
Having worked the 2011 and 2012 TAVES extravaganzas for a local Toronto audio distributor, I can happily report that the majestic King Edward Hotel fits the hobby of high-end audio like a finely crafted pair of leather gloves. From the standpoints of logistics, location, style, and access to local bars and restaurants, I can’t think of another venue in all of southern Ontario that would better suit the needs of TAVES’ exhibitors and patrons.
Whether you’re an experienced audiophile who’s invested obscene amounts of money and decades of time into this hobby, or you’re an utter ‘newbie’ to high-end 2-channel or multi-channel audio/video systems, the TAVES 2013 promises to deliver an exciting world of consumer electronics products to see, hear, and experience.
TAVES 2013 Preview
2013 is the third consecutive year that TAVES will be held at the King Edward Hotel in downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Having navigated its way through the current worldwide economic recession better than most cities, Toronto still stands as a vibrant economic market. With a population of more than 5 million consumers in the southern Ontario area located within a 2 hour commute of downtown Toronto, TAVES 2013 offers a glorious opportunity for manufacturers, distributors, and retailers to showcase new consumer electronic products. Notable exhibitors who have already booked rooms for the 2013 TAVES extravaganza include: Bryston, Kimber Kable, Nordost, Paradigm, Sony of Canada, BlueBerry Hill Audio, and Liberty Trading.
Brief History of the King Edward Hotel
The King Edward Hotel is located in downtown Toronto at 37 King Street East. Colloquially known as the ‘King Eddy’, the hotel was designed by Chicago architect Henry Ives Cobb and Toronto architect E. J. Lennox for developer George Gooderham’s Toronto Hotel Company.
The King Eddy was granted its regal name by British monarch and namesake King Edward VII. The hotel first opened its doors in 1903, originally offering 400 rooms and 300 baths. In 1922, an 18-storey addition was grafted onto the 1903 building which added an extra 530 rooms and the magnificent Crystal Ballroom to the original 8 storey structure. The most recent renovation was completed between 1979 and 1981. The King Eddy officially re-opened on May 7th, 1981.
The King Edward Hotel has a fascinating history. Notable dignitaries, luminaries, and cultural figures who have stayed—as well as lived in residency—within the hotel include: Mark Twain, Rudolph Valentino, Louis Armstrong, Elvis Presley, Ernest Hemingway, and Margaret Thatcher.
The Beatles stayed in the King Edward’s Royal Suite during their first visit to Toronto in 1964. Their occupancy resulted in a “commotion” when, in an effort to catch a glimpse of the Fab-Four, 3,000 plus fans packed the streets and swarmed the hotel’s lobby. In 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono stayed in the same Royal Suite the night before their infamous ‘Bed-in for Peace’ began.
Parts of Hollywood film star and musician Jamie Foxx’s movie Bait were filmed at the King Eddy and Britney Spears is known to favour the elegant hotel when visiting Toronto.
Through the 20th century, the King Edward has been the hotel of choice for an impressive number of dignitaries, celebrities, and political figures visiting Toronto. The regal marble corridors resonate with an otherworldly ambiance of craftsmanship and quality which is long-lost to another time and era. This hotel has a historical weight and presence to it which, quite literally, echoes through its grandiose architectural style.
If the organizers of TAVES 2013 had decided to hold the event at some poorly constructed airport hotel, or a noisy open-concept 21st century convention centre, this ambiance would be sorely missing; and TAVES’ visitors would see it, feel it, and, perhaps most importantly, hear it.
High-end audio is a luxury hobby by anyone’s standards. Holding the 2013 TAVES at such a romantic venue as the King Eddy adds a regal atmosphere, historical richness, architectural warmth, and old-world charm which, for the most part, isn’t commonly seen in the Toronto area. High-end audio is one of a very few industries where artisanal craftsmanship still exists; heck… even prospers.
Exhibitors who attended the 2011 and 2012 TAVE shows, and are returning for TAVES 2013, love the King Eddy’s larger-than-average rooms; and the uniqueness and variety of the room layouts and sizes. Whether showcasing leading-edge Home Theater gear with massive flat-panel television screens or seeking smaller rooms for a more intimate and home-like setting to demonstrate jaw-dropping, cutting edge, 2-channel technology, the King Edward Hotel can readily accommodate everyone’s wants and needs. Germane to its 1903 design-build date, thick walls and excellent acoustics come standard in every room the King Eddy offers.
Several live music performances are planned for Friday and Saturday. Local Toronto band the Ray Montford Trio will be playing both Friday and Saturday and the admission is FREE to all three concerts with the purchase of a TAVES 2013 ticket.
Roy Gregory, founder of British audio magazine HiFi+, will be holding a FREE set-up and fine-tuning workshop for 2-channel systems. Multi-channel Home Theater set-up and tweaking demonstrations will also be held at various times during the 3-day event. A number of exhibitors will be selling CDs, vinyl records, cables, equipment stands, Blu-ray discs, and ancillary products. So… bring some coin for audio goodies.
Liberty Trading – Revolver speakers & MasterSound tube amps in the Pall Mall / Palm Court Room – 2011 TAVES
For more details about TAVES 2013 and for a list of exhibitors, check the 2013 TAVES website at: http://taveshow.com
Check back in early November for my on-site TAVES 2013 coverage!
(Information about the King Eddy Hotel from Wikapedia)
TAVES Show Coverage – From the Floor
Following up on my preview of the 2013 Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show (TAVES), held at the King Edward Hotel in Toronto over the weekend of Nov 1st – 3rd, 2013, this section covers the exhibitors debuting new products, vendors selling goods, and highlights of this year’s show. As TAVES 2013 occurred after RMAF and CEDIA, I will be focusing on Canadian manufacturers, premieres for Canadian products, and some of the Canadian companies that did not attend the recent US consumer electronics trade shows.
The Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show (TAVES) returned to the King Edward Hotel in Toronto on the weekend of Nov 1st – 3rd, 2013. In its third year, TAVES 2013 presented 65+ high-end audio and video exhibitors, showcasing 250+ different brands, and offered the Canadian debut of dozens of new products.
At last year’s 2012 TAVES, the ratio between Home Theatre and 2-channel systems was 10% to 90%. For 2013, TAVES added far more multi-channel set-ups and saw a 20% Home Theatre to 80% 2-channel differential. More than 20 vendors sold CDs, SA-CDs, Blu-Ray discs, vinyl records, cables, DIY kits, finished components, speakers, stands, and all manner of tweaks.
I don’t have the official attendance figures, but from my man-on-the-scene perspective, the show’s rooms were extremely busy. As I am focusing on Canadian products, if I missed, or couldn’t get into, some of the rooms on any of the floors, I extend my apologies.
Entering the King Edward Hotel on the ground floor, visitors were greeted by a single sports-car red Focal Grande Utopia loudspeaker. Although it wasn’t hooked up to any components, the eye-catching Utopia was set-up on a rotating platform. Positioned behind the massive Focal speaker, four Harley Davidson motorcycles with upgraded on-board sound systems were on display for guests to drool over.
On the second floor, Bryston displayed an enormous number of products in the Kensington Room. For TAVES 2013, Bryston debuted their new BUC-1 USB-to-SPDIF digital converter (MSRP $795). As Canadian as hockey legend Guy Lafleur sipping a double-double from Tim Hortons, Bryston offers 20-year fully transferrable warranties on all of their products.
Samsung of Canada showcased the Canadian premier of their new 55 inch OLED curved screen television (projected MSRP: $10,000) in the Pall Mall Room.
Offering a screen resolution on par with an IMAX level of quality and the option of watching two different programs at the same time on the entire screen, (via use of special glasses with built-in earphones), Samsung’s rep Jeff Ingram described the OLED as a “marriage saver.”
While I’m not sure that a TV can increase the longevity of any marriage, I can happily report that the picture quality was absolutely stunning. While blitzkreiging my way through the King Eddy’s corridors, I repeatedly overheard visitors describing the new Samsung OLED as the best picture at the entire 2013 TAVES.
Cambridge Music Audio and Worldwide Wholesales had a Blue Circle, HiDiamond, and Casta 2-channel system set-up in the 2nd floor Park Lane room.
Blue Circle Audio is a local Canadian manufacturer based out of southern Ontario. For TAVES 2013, they had a BC60X1 A/C power filter (MSRP $12,000) and a BC140T (MSRP $5,500) driving Italian Casta speakers through Italian-made HiDiamond interconnects and speaker cables.
Audio Sensibility is a Toronto-based specialist cable maker. Head cable guru Steven Huang explained that their Statement Power Distribution Box (MSRP $650) is milled out of a solid block of aircraft-grade aluminum, uses cryo-treated 12-guage Ohno Continuous Cast (OCC) wiring, and, instead of using cheaper brass fittings, employs Japanese-made phosphor-bronze A/C receptacles.
Audio Sensibility sell direct to the public and do not use a conventional retail distribution network. According to Mr. Huang, the savings brought forth through this ‘direct sales’ business model result in being able to bring a much higher level of quality to budding audiophiles and videophiles at a far more sensible price.
Bernard Li from local Toronto retailer Charisma Audio showcased the ultra-quiet Hannl rotary brush vinyl record cleaning system (MSRP $2,999).
The busiest room on the entire 2nd Floor was Toronto distributor Liberty Trading. Selling stacks of CDs, SA-CDs, vinyl records, stands, cables, components, and loudspeakers, business was brisk and visitor traffic in the Palm Court room, as expected, came in waves.
Liberty also had components from April Music and Burson playing music through floorstanding Quad 25L loudspeakers. This 2-channel system included: a Roksan Radius TT, an April Music Stello CDA-500 CD-player (MSRP $2,995), a Burson Conductor Headphone amp / DAC / Pre-amp (MSRP $1,850), a pair of Burson TimeKeeper mono-block solid state amplifiers (MSRP $2,500 / ea amp), and a pair of LSA-2 floorstanding loudspeakers (MSRP $7,000).
Toronto-based specialist cable maker Gutwire premiered their new USBe-1 USB cable. Gutwire’s Herbert Wong was delighted to announce that, instead of using low quality off-the-shelf computer parts, Gutwire is the first company in the entire world to manufacture their own “audiophile grade” connectors for a USB cable. The shell of Gutwire’s USB connector is made out of beryllium copper and the pins out of 4-N gold-plated copper. The USBe-1 comes in a 1.2m length (MSRP $299), a 2m length (MSRP $349), and a 3m length (MSRP $399). Custom lengths can also be made to order.
Numerous free seminars on Home Theatre set-up, digital downloads, and getting better sound out of 2-channel systems were hosted by a number of experts in the field in various rooms on the 2nd Floor at TAVES 2013.
The first room I visited on the 8th Floor had a 2-channel tube system. Tube Magic Canada premiered their new Class “A” IAM-98 integrated tube amplifier. Constructed in Richmond Hill, a suburb just north of Toronto, the IAM-98 is an auto-biasing, ultra-linear, push-pull integrated tube amp that delivers 40w / channel of pure class “A” tube power.
Incorporating Hammond output transformers, Mundorf silver-in-oil capacitors, Dale resistors, and point-to-point Belden silver-plated wiring underneath its main circuit board, the KT-88 based IAM-98 offered stellar sonics.
Canadian distributor Plurison had a wide array of 2-channel and multi-channel home theatre systems set-up in seven different hotel rooms in what TAVES’ organizers had dubbed “The Plurison Zone”. Even early on the first day of the show, Friday 01 November, all of Plurison’s rooms were swamped with visitors.
In Plurison’s Pathos room, they had a 2-channel vinyl rig playing music that featured a Rega P-8 with a new cut-out plinth, an Ethos Pre-amp, a Pathos Integrated amplifier, and a pair of Martin Logan hybrid electrostatic speakers.
Canadian importer AudioSpace had a 2-channel set-up which featured a Nottingham Space 294A based vinyl rig (MSRP $3,189), a Prima Luna pre-amp (MSRP $3,000), a Prima Luna tube power amp (MSRP $3,500), and a pair of Usher Mini-Dancer 2 loudspeakers (MSRP $4,500).
Although I’d intended to focus my coverage solely on Canadian products, a few US exhibitors should be mentioned.
George Counnas of Thousand Oaks, California’s Zesto Audio showcased Zesto’s new BIA tube amplifier (MSRP $12,500 USD). This KT-88 based, auto-biasing, tube amp delivers 60w / channel of tube power. Combined within a Japanese TechDAS Airforce One turntable, a Graham Phantom Elite tonearm (MSRP $83,500 USD), Zesto’s Anndros tube phono-stage (MSRP $43,000 USD), Zesto’s Leto tube pre-amp (MSRP $7,000 USD), and Joseph Audio loudspeakers, from an aesthetic standpoint, this awesome 2-channel system looked like it was styled for the flight-deck of the Millennium Falcon.
Thankfully Zesto’s products are available in Canada through local importer Tri-Cell Enterprises.
Another triumph of American ingenuity, Jeff Joseph of Joseph Audio happily showcased his new Pearl-3 loudspeakers (MSRP $31,500). Combined with a Brinkmann Bardo turntable, a German Thoress tube phono-stage, a 135w / channel Accustic Arts integrated amp, and Cardas Clear cabling, the sound in the Joseph Audio room was superb.
Just as I’d repeatedly overheard TAVES’ visitors talking about the other-worldly picture quality of Samsung Canada’s 55″ OLED curved screen TV on the 2nd floor, the one name I kept overhearing in the hallways and corridors of the Kind Eddy was the “Joseph Audio” room.
Returning to Canadian products, Ceol Audio debuted an, as of yet, un-named proto-type tube phono-stage and tube pre-amplifier in the Kronos Audio Turntable (MSRP $32,000) / Avant-Garde horn loudspeakers room. Conceived by design-engineer Glen Dolick who unleashed many stellar products with now defunct Canadian tube giant Sonic Frontiers, Ceol’s future in ultra high-end audio circles glows as brightly as the tubes their gear uses.
Quebec-based company Import HiFi’s Jean-Marie Suard and his son Baptiste had a full complement of French BC Acoustique gear set-up in a 2-channel system. The BC Acoustique room featured an EX-602 CD player (MSRP $350), a solid-state EX-555 pre-amp (MSRP $799), an EX-888 tube amp (MSRP $2,149), and a pair of BC’s ACT A3.5 loudspeakers (MSRP $4,000).
Canadian loudspeaker specialist manufacturer Reference 3A showcased their new Nefes B.E. loudspeakers (MSRP $9,950) in the Canadian debut of these 130-pound floorstanding behemoths. Designed and built in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada by Tash Goka of Divergent Technologies, the Nefes BE has no cross-over network. The Nefes BE uses two 8 inch, full-range, woven carbon-fiber drivers and a single pure Beryllium tweeter assembly in a D’Appolito array.
Tri-Cell Enterprises had a stunning Modwright-based 2-channel system actively playing music. This rig included a Marantz SA-11 S3 SA-CD player (MSRP $4,500), a Modwright LS-1100 pre-amplifier (MSRP $4,500), a pair of 150 w/ch solid state Modwright KWA-150 mono-block amplifiers (MSRP $7,500), a pair of Danish Pandion-2 speakers (MSRP $5,500), and Kimber KS-6063 (MSRP $11,000) speaker cables.
Nordost debuted a number of different products, including the Canadian premieres of their Valhalla-2 cable line, their Sort Fut resonance control device (MSRP $350 ea / Fut), and their 4 different Sort Kone resonance control cones (MSRP $350 / ea Kone). These Sort Kones are constructed out of 4 uniquely different combinations of materials. Accordingly, they have 4 different MSRP tags.
In terms of higher-end A/V equipment, Sony of Canada premiered their 65″ curved screen LED television (MSRP $4,500) in a system that featured Sony’s HAP-Z1ES DSD DAC (MSRP $2,000) and a pair of Sony’s ES-tower loudspeakers (MSRP $13,000). Sony of Canada also debuted their new 4K format television, the X850A (projected MSRP $14,000).
The Canadian debut of the new Play Station 4 (MSRP $499) was a huge hit. The room the new PS-4 gaming device was being premiered in was so busy, that I could not even get into it.
Up on the 9th floor, local Greater Toronto Area purveyors of fine high-end gear Audio Eden had a Canadian-based Sim Audio 2-channel system set-up. This gorgeous looking and sounding system featured Sim Audio’s Moon 750D CD player (MSRP $13,000), the Moon 850P solid state pre-amp (MSRP $28,000), the Moon 880 solid state mono-block amplifiers (MSRP $42,000), Dutch Kharma S7 speakers (MSRP $20,000), and a 2m pair of Nordost Valhalla-2 speaker cables (MSRP $12,000).
Calgary Alberta based Onda Systems Inc. craft audiophile cables out of pure, solid-core, silver (Ag). The Onda room had a 2-channel system playing beautiful music, with an Aesthetix Romulus CD player (MSRP $7,000), a Modwright KWI-200 solid state integrated amplifier (MSRP $5,500), Chario Sonnet bookshelf speakers (MSRP $6,500 with stands), and Onda cabling.
Given the exceptional level of 3-dimensional, layered, holographic, walk-through sound that this 2-channel system produced, I was surprised to learn that Onda were using cables from their “entry-level” Rush line. The 1.0m Onda Rush interconnects (MSRP $1,900 / 1.0m pair), 5ft Onda Rush A/C power cords (MSRP $1,900 / ea cord), and 8ft Onda Rush speaker cables (MSRP $3,800) produced one of the best sounds I heard at TAVES 2013 in any 2-channel system; at any price point.
Local Toronto retailer / custom integrator Audio Excellence proudly showcased McIntosh’s hybrid MCD-550 SA-CD player (MSRP $7,000) in its Canadian premiere. Their 2-channel room also featured a McIntosh C-48 tube pre-amp (MSRP $5,000), a McIntosh D-100 (MSRP $$2,500), a pair of McIntosh MC-601 tube mono-block amplifiers (MSRP $14,500), and KEF LS-50 bookshelf speakers (MSRP $1,500)
Audio Note Canada demonstrated a vast array of tube DIY kits for home-building tube DACs, tube pre-amps, tube amps, and even speakers. For TAVES 2013, Audio Note brought finished versions their DAC 2.1B (MSRP $1,525), a L-3 tube phono-stage (MSRP $1,400), and a L-3 tube pre-amplifier (MSRP $2,000). Audio Note had a pair of 20w/ch, 300B single-ended mono-block tube amplifiers (MSRP $6,850) actively playing music. For comparison, they also brought a pair of 35w/ch EL-34 based, class A/B, tube amplifiers (MSRP $3,750). The bang for the buck that Audio Note’s tube gear delivers could clearly be heard through their 98db KIT-03 high-efficiency loudspeakers (MSRP $4,000).
Celebrating their 20th anniversary, Canadian high-end audio manufacturer Focus Audio proudly displayed a 2-channel system featuring their Sonata integrated amplifier (MSRP $12,000) and a pair of their own FP-90 SE loudspeakers (MSRP $9,500).
Rutherford Audio booked the entire Rock Star Suite on the 9th floor to display their brands. Visitors entering the expansive multi-room suite were greeted by a number of loudspeakers from German manufacturer ELAC.
Nestled further back in the Rock Star Suite’s main bedroom, Rutherford Audio had a system comprised entirely of German Burmester products. This 2-channel, solid-state, lottery-win system included a Burmester 948 A/C power conditioner, a 089 CD player, a 088 pre-amp, a 911 amplifier, and 961 Mk-3 speakers. Including Burmester’s in-house manufactured equipment rack and cabling, the MSRP for this entire system was $144,750; plus applicable taxes. I am going to have to start charging more money for these articles if I am ever going have a hope of owning a complete Burmester system.
More Canadian than hockey legend Jean Béliveau eating a steaming plate of poutine on St. Catherine Street during a Montréal Canadiens hockey riot in the midst of the Stanley Cup playoffs, Montreal-based specialist retailer Coup de Foudre showcased a 2-channel system with a Luxman DA-06 DAC (MSRP $5,000), a Spectral DMC-15SS pre-amplifier (MSRP $6,000), a Spectral DMA-200S solid state power amplifier (MSRP $7,000), and the Canadian debut of a pair of Avalon Compass loudspeakers (MSRP $35,000). Sacré Bleu did this system sound good!