Noam’s show report: http://wallofsound.ca/audioreviews/taves-2014-show-report/
Tim’s show report, Part I: http://www.6moons.com/industryfeatures/taves2014/3.html
and Part II: http://www.6moons.com/industryfeatures/taves20142/1.html
Noam: So Tim, what were some of your favourite room(s) at Taves?
Tim: To my ears, three rooms stuck out. The speakers in these rooms all used wooden enclosures or panels, they all spun vinyl (and some CD, with equal success), and they were all smooth, coherent and musical. I refer to the Audio Alliance/Planet of Sound room featuring the new Harbeth Super HL5 Plus speakers powered by Accuphase and Air Tight, the Grant Fidelity room featuring the PureAudioProject open baffle speakers, and the Coup de Foudre room with the Line Magnetic LM755i voice coil speakers and LM 518IA amp. People got lost in the music in these rooms, staying for lengthy listening sessions. These rooms had no major defects, and they had an allure that was irresistable. I have discussed these three rooms in greater detail in part one of my Show Report for 6moons.com in the Industry Features section.
Noam: It’s hard to argue with any of these. Well, actually, I can’t argue with the Harbeth pick, since I missed out on visiting that room! For me, as I’ve already posted, the Charisma room (Modwright/Audio Exclusiv/Well-Tempered/System Audio), the Devine Audio room, the Coherent Speakers room, and the Neat/Naim room were my favourites. But for a number of reasons, not just sonic. If I had to “choose” one room’s system to own, I would have gone with the LM, hands down – I just didn’t feel the vibe as strong in the CdF room, with their source material, etc. So it didn’t make my top four even if it was my #1 (makes sense? no??).
Tim: I agree that the Naim/Neat room was magnificent, probably in my top six or seven rooms. There was some heavy tone and organic bloom to acoustic guitar in that room. I thought the Neat Momentum SX3 bookshelf was wonderful with simple music, but I didn’t spend as much time in this room as I should have. I didn’t hear any loud, dynamic music in this room, but what I did hear, was magnificent.I also liked the Devine Audio room with its interesting hybrid speakers–these things image like crazy and had a rich tonality where guitar is concerned. I thought that the Cyrus Audio/Monitor Audio room, featuring Cyrus’ new Class D amps, had some of the driest, grippiest bass in the Show. This room was organized by the distributor Kevro International.
Noam: I spent considerable time in that room, and while I was there Bob Surgeoner put on some dynamic tracks from a Naim sampler disc. Wow – that system absolutely kicked ass. Those speakers can move some air, they sound huge and yet really fast and composed. Of the systems I really enjoyed and took enough time listening to, this one sounded the most effortless, to me. Now this was with the SX1 floorstander. They weren’t demo-ing the SX3 when I was there on Friday. So ironically, with the SX1 my impression was sort of the opposite of what you say about the SX3: what I thought was, incredible dynamics, and pretty decent tone. My caveat was that “audiophile recordings” were being served up. I want to hear complex/orchestral music on these, and hopefully will be able to review the SX2 soon. But the Neat SX1 speakers far surpassed my expectations.
You mentioned loving the Cyrus/Monitor Audio room – that’s another one I unfortunately missed. I dropped in there at one point and it was really crowded, but I didn’t make it back. That rack holding the Cyrus electronics is pretty wild. Not much WAF there! It reminds me of a giant headphone stand.
Tim: I think that Cyrus stack will appeal to dwellers of small apartments but it won’t cut the mustard for those of us who like to display our tubes or our muscle amps. The SVS room, with the new SVS Prime tower speakers powered by Emotiva’s muscular monos, an Emotiva preamp, and a Marantz Blu-ray/SACD player, was also fabulous. Without doubt, the SVS room wins the award for best sanely priced system. I think the SVS Ultra and Prime towers priced, respectively, at $2,000 and $1,000 including shipping in Canada, are one of audio’s best bargains, right up there with Magnepan and Tekton Design’s offerings. I was also impressed with the inexpensive Emotiva mono amps providing juice.
Noam: Interesting. I have to admit, I don’t lean in that direction much (high power SS). But your remarks make me think I should relook some of these.
Tim: Well, maybe it depends on what you listen to. The SVS room was playing rock or Steely Dan, and that’s all I heard there. For pulsating music like that, the speakers worked very well with the Emotiva amps. How that kit fares with bluegrass or chamber music is another matter. I have no idea how it would sound.
Noam: Yeah, lately I tend to only listen to rock and pop music in the car, where I don’t get analytical about the sound. If I had a system like SVS, or the Neat/Naim, that would be a different story. What other highlights for you?
Tim: The Woo Audio room was stunning, as usual, but I was amazed with the new Allnic HPA-3000 headphone amp that was fed with a modified Garrard 401 turntable and a Nagra VPS phono preamp. This was quite possibly the best headphone set up I have ever heard. Cans were the top three models in the Audez’e line. My favorite was the LCD-3. The phono cartridge was a Dynavector XV1 and the tonearm was a Tri-Planar U12. I have never heard the Getz/Gilberto LP sound this good. The Garrard motor was restored by Matthew Taylor of Audio Grail in the UK. The turntable plinth was made by Russ Collinson of Layers of Beauty, also in the UK. It consists of six layers of cherry wood. The proud and lucky owner of this system is one Mr. David McCallum of Tattersall Sound & Picture. He was demo’ing this fine system in one of the Audio by Mark Jones rooms. To my ears, this headphone system may well have provided the best sound in the Show.
Noam: Now that’s one I really wish I had heard. I couldn’t believe all the Woo amps at TAVES. Perhaps only outnumbered by the vast array of static-display Allnic amps! Both very surprising, to me.
Tim: Woo is a gift to the audiophile community. Every product they make is near the top of its class and priced reasonably.
Noam: Absolutely. Alright, so here’s a tricky one. The speaker, actually the one product, that I was most looking forward to at TAVES, was the PureAudioProject open baffle kit. I love everything about this concept, really. The kit layout is so elegant. And I’ve enjoyed every OB I’ve ever heard. Grant Fidelity is a company I admire and respect, and with Ian’s recent passing, everyone is obviously rooting for Rachel’s success. I guess maybe my expectations were high, but I found the Trio15 TB’s a bit wanting. I can’t quite put my finger on it; they had lots of great attributes, but something there just wasn’t gelling for me. It may have been the room to some extent…Grant’s room wasn’t one of the better layouts. I visited twice, and really tried to hear what this system could do – sometimes a “glimpse” is all a show will give you. But even with all the high end ancillary gear, I still felt the sound was two-dimensional. It seemed to have limitations that I don’t usually associate with full-rangers and good tube gear. What did you love about this demo?
Tim: I loved the way the music flowed effortlessly without grating the senses, even when played loud. There was a sweetness and tonal richness to the sound. I visited the Grant Fidelity room at least five times over two days. It just kept getting better. Admittedly, the bass wasn’t the most articulated but I found the room to be unusually musical.
Noam: . I don’t want to publicly speculate on my ‘hunches’ – I’m glad to hear that you confirmed it several times and also heard incremental improvements. Mainly for me, the music being played (and all the chaos – there was a lot of excitement about these speakers!) didn’t allow me to get much insight. I’m looking forward to hearing them again in a different environment.