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September 28th: The perils of turntables
      As already noted, there were more turntables than ever at TAVES, and that's in line with what I've observed at other shows. Turntables, tone arms and cartridges are fragile things, however.  Ask the people from Kingston's Tri-Art.
      The bamboo turntable at left is a prototype of a new model from TriArt. The company, you may recall, is known for unusual amplifiers and preamplifiers with rock faces, tucked into wood cubes.
      The new table had a wood arm, though the production version will come with a Rega arm, and is expected to start at $2000. But alas, it had a broken wire, and couldn't be played. The TriArt electronics sounded very nice, however. I was mildly disappointed to learn that they'll be available in more traditional dress for conservative clients, as you can see at right. This two-piece device is a power amplifier and its companion rechargeable battery. They're handsome, but I'd go for the ones with the rock faces.


September 28th: Loudspeakers at TAVES
      It is inevitable that an audio show will have more speakers than anything else, because the world seems to have more speakers than anything else. So let's begin with some loudspeakers.
      At left it James Tanner, who has been going to shows for as long as we can recall (and UHF is "only" 30 years old!). He is of course with Bryston, famous for amplifiers, and more recently, for digital products such as a music streamer and a converter. And now loudspeakers. That's one of them next to James.
      It's the Model T. James originally thought of the name because "you could have it in any color as long as it's black." In fact there are several finishes available, as you can see. That's the flagship version, which will sell for some $6495. The model T is assembled by Canadian speaker company Axiom, which is a partner in the design. The brand is Bryston's, however.
      Gershman had brought its ubiquitous Black Swans, its impressive top speakers, but it was proudly showing off its new Idol loudspeaker, designed to cost just $3000. It's a floorstanding speaker with a small footprint. Coupled to an inexpensive Cambridge integrated amplifier and an Esoteric CD player, it sounded more than a little interesting.
      Its size made us think of our Living Voice Avatar, which are of course the speakers in our Alpha reference system (we've thought of reviewing the Idols against the Avatars). But we also heard the Living Voice Auditoriums, the "economy" version. A pair costs about double the price of the Idols, but half the price of our Avatars. We heard them with vinyl (Eartha Kitt), and liked them quite a lot.
      We saw and heard the latest version of the Reference 3a Grand Veenas. The speaker has lost its now-unavailable super tweeter ("we preferred to put the money where we might be likely to hear it," said Tash. The other change is a stepped phase plug in the centre of both the woofers and the midrange. What we heard was superb, as usual.
      We spent some time with Jeff Joseph of Joseph Audio. Jeff came to Montreal a while back and liked the show so much that he returned. Now he's coming to Toronto as well. His Perspective speaker (that's the floorstanding one) will be reviewed in UHF No. 93.
      The French speaker maker Cabasse, which for years had been brought in by a single Montreal dealer, now has its own distribution arm, Cabasse Canada. It was showing one model, the Pacific 3 SA, which costs $22,000 in its semi-active version. Cabasse has a wide range of interesting speakers, and we're looking forward to hearing them more often.
      Every show has its lot of unusual-looking speakers, and truth to tell we love them. We love them when they're good, and we love them when they're bad because then we can mnake fun of them. The Blueberry Hill speakers are ones we like.
      They need to be seen to be believed, and then they nees to be heard to be believed. The bottom section (which is optional, but we don't see the point of omitting it) includes two subwoofers, servo-controlled, facing each other, one looking up, the other looking down. They produce power, but it's controlled power. The midrange is bipolar (there's a second driver at the rear), and all the drivers can be oriented or moved back and forth individually. The result is awesome.
      Where are these speakers made? Toronto. Where are they sold? You  buy from the manufacturer.
      We also heard the Atohm speaker, which is from France, and sounds truly excellent. The name could be a problem, since a lot of people seem to want to spell it "Athome." No argument about the sound, though, which has an appealing clarity and dynamic power.
      We heard a number of CD players used as sources in the rooms, but their numbers continue to shrink. We saw a lot more Apple MacBook Pros than CD players. That's logical, because so many exhibitors were showing new digital-to-analog converters, or products with built-in DAC's. There were also numerous turntables, as vinyl continues on its comeback tour.
      Was TAVES as big as last year? We guessed it perhaps wasn't, but we ran across Michel Plante and Sarah Tremblay, who run the Montreal show and helped launch this one last year. They were just touring this time, and by their count the number of exhibitors was exactly the same.
      But it should have been higher, not the same. TAVES should not be treading water when it's only in its second year. Last year we talked to several possible exhibitors who sat out the first year to see whether the Toronto show curse was lifted, and it would be a success. Well, it was a success. Time to get aboard. If you think it's going to crash and burn, that could turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
      And nobody wants that.


September 24th: TAVES' downtown location
     The long-ago organizers of the failed Toronto shows mostly didn't get this, but it's not really a Toronto show if you hold it in Markham or Mississauga. A great show of this sort belongs downtown. Near good public transportation, preferably the subway. The first TAVES scored its first hit by landing the King Edward. It's near Toronto's main drag, and it sits atop the King subway station.
     This picture, by the way, is of the hotel when it opened, in 1903. Yes, King Edward VII was then the reigning monarch. Set up as luxury digs, it has been well-maintained, and it remains a classy destination today. We don't know what TAVES is paying to be in the King Eddie, but we suspect it's worth every penny.
     Show hours on Friday are 11 am to 9 pm. On Saturday the show runs 10 am to 6 pm, and on the last day from 10 am to 5 pm. A three-day pass costs $30, and there are special prices for both students and seniors. Other info is on the TAVES site.
     We'll be covering the show on this blog, as we did last year, and there'll be a report with more depth in issue No. 93 of UHF.
     As you can see, this blog runs in inverse order, with new entries always at the top.


September 23rd: Another Toronto show
     The first TAVES (it stands for Toronto Audio-Visual Entertainment Show), last year, was seen in an experiment. Toronto had a long history of mediocre and failed high end shows. Was it because previous shows (which date from years ago) were poorly executed, as of course they were, or is it that Toronto, despite its large population, is a bad hi-fi town?
     We had always favored the first explanation, truth to tell, and TAVES 2011 largely proved us right. With much better execution, drawing in part on the resources of the very successful long-running Montreal show, it was pretty much a success. And it even came as a surprise to many observers. Some of those observers were skeptical enough to sit out the first TAVES. We shall see how many have since decided to jump aboard.
     There is, however, a difference between the two TAVES editions. The two Montreal organizers, Michel Plante and Sarah Tremblay participated in setting it up, and it was hard to cross the hotel's central hall without seeing one of them. They had brought with them their well-developed signage and logistics systems. Will TAVES without them be as good? We shall see.
     TAVES opens Friday the 28th at the King Edward Hotel in downtown Toronto, at 37 King St.

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