TAVES 2015


Staff member
I started going into this show with somewhat low expectations this year many of the vendors I'd really liked in the past (Coup De Foudre in particular) where not there and I wasn't crazy about the location change and apparent side-focus on things ‘non' audio. I enjoyed the day non-the-less as there were some nice rooms and it's always fun spending time with Erik on audio pursuits.

I won't get into the rooms that I didn't care for as I'm first to admit that my ‘taste' in these things often runs counter to others and I can easily get put-off by things like source material I don't like or too-high volumes which I encountered a lot - even asking a few times to ‘please turn it down a touch so I can listen'.

I apologize for the crappy phone pics here the rooms were often crowded, had equipment set up in front of big bright curtained windows and, well, it's a phone I really should start bringing a real camera to these things.

A surprise; I quite liked the very pretty Yamaha A-S3000 SS integrated (300wpc/MOSFET) on B&W speakers, which I think were either 802 or 803 D3s. In a big, nicely proportioned room these sounded smooth & inviting with a huge soundstage smooth and inviting not being something I remember from these brands in the past. $7k for the amp and $17k (or $22k) for the speakers though.

Surprise again; after running from the room last year on hearing big JBL Synthesis speakers on large heater radiator sized Levinson monos (I mean it was painful) I quite liked the JBL/Levinson system this year. Another big room with maybe a more appropriate pair of JBL Synthesis S4700 on a Mark Levinson 585 integrated amp/DAC.

This was really nice with a deep, rich sound-field, lots of detail and big dynamics lots of big ‘fast' dynamics. I was thinking hey, a very pretty (IMO) modern speaker that does a lot of the stuff I like and in a package that might even work in a room the size of mine. I like that all-in-1-pc Levinson, wonder what those JBLs sound like on good tubes…wonder what they cost…Well, $12k for the Levinson and $20k for the JBLs, gulp, back to reality.

Off to the older hotel next door with the smaller rooms and spaces more like my reality, maybe even more like my wallet size too.

My first ‘oasis' of great sound was the Coherent room Ahhhhh, this was the place. I liked Coherent last year when they brought their 10" co-axials but this year it was their 15" and I really liked these. Frank Fazzalari said he uses a ‘stock' Radian 15"Neodymium magnet coaxial, fitted with Beryllium diaphragms in a large vented box BUT this is a pretty damn special crossover he's rolled. An ‘honest' full-range (35Hz, up to 17KHz), high-efficiency (again, honest 97db 1w/1m) speaker that worked in a smallish room probably about 12 x 18 without the little hallway.

My favorite combination; a big efficient pro-audio sourced paper cone woofer with a co-axially mounted compression driver; dynamics, point-source imaging and real 2-way extension on the top and bottom. These push all the right buttons for me big dynamic sound that was lightning quick, huge, detailed sound-field that filled the room and made the walls disappear to a certain extent. Liquid mids and a sense of effortlessness and presence that had you just listening to the music a real breath of fresh air amongst the big bombastic hifi of the day.

The system around these might have had a lot to do with my comfort level in there but so be it it's just my experience. The DAC used was the same old AudioNote 2.1 kit DAC I have at home (playing redbook and 24/96 source via Jriver) so pretty familiar territory. And the amp; a 300B ‘kit' amp that might have been the surprise of the show for me.

The Elekit TU-8300R is a Japanese circuit-board based kit put together to make assembly a fun and easy experience (IMO) just like the old Heath or modern-day ANK approaches and available from another Canadian company; TheTubeStore. This review tells the tale but I am amazed that this level of sonic performance and flexibility is available for $1k and we are talking about an all-in single-ended tube kit that even lets you mess with pentodes in single-ended mode in addition to the syrupy-sweet goodness of 300Bs. Ok, styling is a little marginal, upgrading and changing things might be tough with those circuit boards and I might want to try other output transformers on there (which it makes easy to do) but it sounded fantastic on those Coherents straight-up.

I think the Coherent Neodymium 15" with the Beryllium diaphragms are up around $10k (sorry, forgot to get that info) but after thinking a couple of $25k-$35k systems where OK ‘considering' this or that, this system seemed like the winner to me at maybe $15k. Or I wonder if Frank sells those crossovers by themselves…

My favorite room this year.


Staff member
Another very comfortable place for me ANK (used to be AudioNote Kits) where the system featured a Canadian made zavfino turntable, CD spinner stuck in the corner, their new L5 Dac5.1, L3 Phono stage, L5 Mentor 2.0 pre-amp and their EL34 monoblocks (think I got that all right). Speakers where certainly something different the MA30 ‘kit' speaker from Mundorf - which are available as a parts kit (about $1750) or with very shiny finished cabinets for an additional $750.

I love the look and feel of the ANK components which have to be some of the most unique and best turned-out tube pieces around these days hard to believe these are ‘kits' and I'd love to build another one (I've built one of their DACs). These bad pictures don't do them justice (but their website sure does) and it's worth noting that they are positively huge the DAC and phone-stage are monsters. And even as kits these aren't for the faint-of-heart price-wise I think the system without speakers and turntable would have been over $16k.

The turntable didn't get much play while I was in there but the digital was sounding VERY nice and I had a somewhat unique opportunity to listen to several cuts from a local guitarist I've heard many times live Ray Montford. The system was really nailing this material and portrayed Ray's masterful guitar playing in a truly lifelike way really took me away for a while.

The speakers were nice with laser sharp detail, extended highs, lots of ‘air' and a solid image but I though a little lacking in the bass with a somewhat ‘thick' quality that didn't match so well to my ears with that zippy light-speed tweeter. I bet many would love the sound of these but they just weren't entirely to my tastes.

Now if I could have dragged those Coherents or Reference 3A Taksims down to this room…

And if I wanted to explore a different direction in audio, it would probably be something starting in the Reference 3A room.

I just love these somewhat ‘conventional' speakers (at least compared to co-axials & horns) and can honestly say that in all the years I've heard them in shows & showrooms, even across most of their model range, I've consistently liked them, with this year being more of the same.

I'm not so big on their styling of late but man, do they sound fantastic. We first listened to their new Taksim model which had all the good stuff I like in the De Capo but with big, dynamic bass. These are pretty efficient but I don't think they'd work with a 2a3 a 300B might be fantastic but an 845 SET, EL84 or EL34 push-pull is probably a better choice.

I can't think of any conventional layout 2-way (woofer + tweeter above) that loads a room with sweet music the way these do. All the hifi stuff is there like tight bass, a silky smooth midrange and way extended highs but the thing you notice is that you ‘don't' notice this it's just all so right, balanced, and out of the way. This is a speaker I think I could live very comfortably with probably my favorite speaker of the show.

A shocker in this room was when Erik asked to hear the little Dulcet BE for a taste of what might realistically fit in his new room. Just incredible how ‘big' and open they sounded giving up very little of what the big guys delivered. If there is a ‘house' sound to the 3A line it's a damn comfortable home in my mind and the Dulcet delivered all but the lowest bass and sense of dynamic ease of the Taksim. By comparison, these were omissions of scale more than anything else and I bet these would be perfect for a small space, maybe even better than the Taksim.

A great system in this room really helped too with a Copeland CTA 305 pre-amp and an exaSound DAC a piece that is really proving to be a favorite of mine. (Can't remember the amp but maybe Erik caught it). Source material was a mix of redbook and DSD with DSD really bringing these speakers alive (IMO). We listened to some decidedly ‘non-audiophile' material in there too like some Elvis re-mastered for DSD and some off-beat blues that I noticed on Tash Goka's laptop that I was pretty familiar with and it all came across great.

I would have liked to have spent some more time in this room it was such a comfortable, enjoyable listen.