Taves 2017; a curmudgeon’s drive-by view

Discussion in 'Shows and Gatherings' started by billfort, Nov 9, 2017.

  1. billfort

    billfort Administrator

    This isn’t much of an overview of the 2017 Taves event (Toronto Consumer Electronics Show) as I only went as a last-minute decision and had limited time – I just focused on things that interested me so didn’t give a lot of the show a fair shot. Since my audio and electronics world has an increasingly narrower focus as I grow older, this is more of a niche audio guy’s random thoughts on a show that (hopefully) appeals to a much broader audience than me; a big dose of FWIW here.

    This year the show was moved to the Toronto Congress Centre which is one of the reasons I almost didn’t go – this place is a huge multi-event shared warehouse type space near the airport that I didn’t think would bode well for an audio show – the last show I attended there was a massive open hall machinery and manufacturing show. Even though I was greeted by extremely loud jets taking off close overhead, I was pleasantly surprised by the layout once inside; a mix of static open-air displays, very nice large demo spaces for the big $$ systems and these weird garden-shed rooms where I sometimes found some nice sound.

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    These booths appeared to be made from 2x4 wood framing, drywall outside and plywood inside with heavy black drapes and what appeared to be quilted moving blankets on the walls. Acoustics seemed better than expected (but certainly leaning ‘dead’) with a little noise bleed-through, especially around the thin hollow-core doors. I guess I’d call them ‘uncomfortably’ intimate – dark, hot and humid, especially when there were big tube amps or crowds in there.

    I quickly visited several very expensive system rooms that sometimes had nice sound to my ear, sometimes bad, but were mostly just forgettable. To be honest, my days of being impressed by gold/chrome/massive Rube Goldberg turntable creations that cost like a luxury car in systems that cost like a large Toronto home are way past me, so I tended to quickly look, listen a little, smile and exit.

    Following are few that made an impression for one reason or another;

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    These big JBL K2s were very pretty and sounded incredibly good on some material with huge dynamics, ease and presence, then slid into thin, aggressive, cardboard cut-out like presentation with a simple change of the cut being played. I found this very weird and I don’t know how to explain it other than good recording/bad recording (all digital that I heard). I think I really like them but I also really didn’t like them – some serious Jekyll and Hyde stuff here and since the price of this system (the JBLs are about $80k and the Levinson amp/pre about $70k) is nothing I’d ever consider anyway, I just noted it as ‘odd’ and moved on.
     

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  2. billfort

    billfort Administrator

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    This room (in one of the funky sheds) featured the Acapella La Campanella partially horn loaded speakers at the comparatively bargain price of $31k ( :) ), and what was noteworthy here to me was the music and how damn good it sounded. Listened to a ‘non audiophile show’ live recording of Dean Martin, that was mesmerizing – full scale, huge image, dynamic, nuanced, subtle and sweet that swung to big and bold, the best I’ve heard a stereo do what sounded like the real thing in a long time. I should have stayed in there longer but maybe I was afraid the spell would be broken with more cuts – like that JBL system.

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    A reasonably priced, small room friendly surprise – the Neat Acoustics Iota Xplorer speakers on PS Audio electronics – I think the Iotas are about $1500/pr. A nice, big, open sound that really filled that ‘realistic’ sized space with music. Good bass, extended on top, smooth, sweet and non-fatiguing – I think I stayed in this room longer than any other (except for Frank’s!) just to listen to what was being played – bling and impressive price tags nowhere to be found.

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    Yes, I’m biased, it’s 2A3s on a modern, buyable 15” co-axial horn type speaker (that does a lot of what I like so much about a good Altec 604), but the room I enjoyed most, the one where I felt ‘at home’ and ready to settle in to enjoy music, was Frank Fazzalari’s Coherent Audio room. When I was there a Triode Labs 2A3 amp was on his largest wide-baffle 15” Coherents (Baetis digital player to an AudioNote Kit DAC) and even though it was uncomfortably hot in there (another of the padded cell rooms) the music absolutely sucked me in.

    Huge enveloping soundfield, big tone, deep, fast, articulate bass and a midrange that contributed hugely to the uncanny presence the music had in the room. This is it for me in a reasonably sized room – a speaker like this, efficient enough to let a great 2A3 amp soar – and it soared in there. Not sure what this system costs (guessing $25k for everything?) but this one made the best music for me at semi-sane prices – best of show for this thrifty curmudgeon.
     

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  3. billfort

    billfort Administrator

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    A surprise ‘sort of’ static display finding; some very interesting kits from from Japan’s Elekit via their NA distributor VKMusic. I loved the sound of their (now discontinued?) TU-8300R 300B kit when I heard it a few years ago in the Coherent room, but the new version looks to reach even higher and has the option of upgrading to Lundal OTs. A quick look at the DIY instruction sheet and kit parts had me thinking hell, I could do this, and I believe it would come in at just under $2k with the Lundal OTs (without 300B tubes) – could be a major bargain piece if you need more than 2A3. :)

    Another surprise was the Sun Valley 211/845 SET pictured above – in kit form! This is interesting in a kind of scary way for me as it brings an 845 that appears to be very well designed and spec’d out down to a price that I might even be able to afford. A nicely packaged kit and impressive instruction sheets but it’s still a transmitter tube SET with >1000 volts under the cover – is this something I’d really want to tackle myself? I think no, but maybe if I had expert help…

    Random thoughts (no pictures);

    There was lots of $$$ turntables in $$$$ systems, expensive wires, headphones, portable audio, drones, phone accessories, electric toys & cars, home automation, TVs, home theatre, etc., but the audio that draws me in is getting thinner and thinner every year. No Reference 3A, Audionote, ANK, ‘alternative’ dealers like Coup De Foudre, fewer dealers with well put together systems at lower price points - just less ‘audio’. I know this is catering to the masses and more about what/who a show like this is aimed at, but this old curmudgeon really misses some of the stuff that I loved about the Taves shows in past. I better get over it because it’s worse every year and I don’t see that changing – especially now that it’s left the relm of plentiful real world sized rooms in hotels and moved to a big convention center where audio is either in the very nice (and I assume expensive) large conference rooms that are nothing like my space, or in weird garden sheds.

    When this show was downtown there was music nearby – but there is none of that near the airport. When downtown, I jumped from the show to the Rex across the street for live jazz which was great for rest and re-tuning the ears – broke up the day and really helped separate the good from the not-so-good when returning to the show. Some of the best shows I’ve ever attended had some element of live music incorporated or close by, but this one felt really lacking to me without that option.

    I didn’t see anyone selling CDs or SACDs – kind of a surprise and I missed that, as I always came home with a handful in the past. There was new vinyl being sold but limited selection and mostly in the $40>$100 range – not for me at those prices. I was surprised by what seems a growing business – selling used, graded vinyl in new plastic wrappers - at prices that I found pretty shocking; up to $100/LP, sometimes even more. With vinyl now ‘cool’ again I get it and the bins were very crowded with flip shoppers, but I’m tapping-out at these prices and didn’t see many others ponying up either. I sure hope vinyl doesn’t slide into oblivion (again), this time because it’s popularity (and a little business greed) puts the music out of reach for people.

    So some surprises, some nice music and more to be discouraged about – typical audio (sorry, electronics…) show in Toronto these days. And I’ll probably go back next year.
     

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  4. airdronian

    airdronian Junior Member

    Nice report billfort. I'd have been keen on the Coherent as well, plus the Neat Iotas. We have a local dealer now carrying Neat, so I'll be able to have a listen at some point.
     
  5. MikeT.

    MikeT. Senior Member

    I really wish I could get an ear on Coherent Audio loudspeakers here in the US. I think they demo at a few shows so I’ll have to plan around that.

    Excellent reviews. Thanks for posting!
     
  6. billfort

    billfort Administrator

    Thanks guys, it was fun visiting the show, for the most part anyway. :)

    I didn't get a chance to hear Frank/Coherent's new compact monitors (they sure look interesting) but I have heard their smaller floor-standers before and really like them - something about this driver layout in smaller rooms suits my ear I guess.

    The Iotas were a real surprise - wouldn't work in my system but I'd like to hear more of them, they were nice.
     
  7. guiller

    guiller Active Member

    Many thanks for your report!
     
  8. TubeHiFiNut

    TubeHiFiNut Administrator

    Great report, Bill. :)

    I've been jonesing for a pair of Frank's speakers for some time.

    One day..... :)
     

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