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Toronto Audiofest 2019

10-27-2019 | By Malcolm J. Gomes | Issue 106

Coherent Audio

Frank Fazzalari is a regular at Toronto audio shows and this year he introduced a Coherent Audio speaker model Platinum 15 Neo BE, with a 150kHz super tweeter ($14,900). According to Frank this beryllium super tweeter really liberates those higher frequencies and makes the sound more airy and relaxed. We were not able to spend enough time in Frank's room to fully verify this claim, but Frank is known to be honest in the way he describes his speakers and so I will take his word for it.

Kevro International

Kevro is one of the most dynamic distributors of audio products in North America. They distribute brands that include Monitor Audio, Roon, Roksan and Rotel. Sheldon Ginn who was promoted to President of Kevro last year, is a very energetic and dynamic personality that describes his products with a great deal of enthusiasm. At this Show, Sheldon proudly presented the new Rotel P5 pre amp ($5299) and the M8 monoblock power amps ($9000). These components drove the Monitor Audio Gold 300 speakers ($9000/pair). The source was the Roksan Xerxes 20 Plus turntable ($5999) with a Sara tonearm ($3699) and Shiraz cartridge ($$5499). Also in the Kevro room was the Roon Nucleus music server running Roon software. This relatively small room had an odd shape and we were told that the Rotel pre and power amps were not broken in fully, so my expectations of the sound quality were not that high. However, when Jeff (Sheldon's brother) started the demo, it blew us away. He played  "Flight of the Cosmic Hippo" by Béla Fleck. The bass reproduction had to be the best that we heard at this Show. It was well controlled, very tuneful and deep enough to feel in our bones. The midrange and highs were equally impressive. If this sound quality is any indication, Rotel is well on its way to regaining the glory that it enjoyed as a premium brand in an age gone by. This whole system costs $55,000 ($35,000 without the turntable). This was, by far, the best sounding under $60,000 system that we heard at this Show.


This relatively small room was packed with visitors when we walked in, and with good reason. It was manned by one of the world's most respected speaker designers—Andrew Jones (TAF25) and it had a really bare bones system that sounded fuller and more glorious than systems that sported two to three times its price and five times its footprint. The system comprised of the DS-S101-G music server/integrated amp ($1200) and the DB Reference speakers ($700). To paraphrase most of the questions from visitors to Andrew; "How on earth did you manage to design such a small and affordable system to generate such great sound." Andrew explained that designing speakers is an exercise of choosing what compromises to make and that he considers himself fortunate to have made the right compromises that deliver this kind of performance at very affordable price levels.

The next room was also ELAC and it was manned by Trevor Kushnier. This room had the ELAC Navis Series ARB51 ($3500/pair) and ARF51 ($7000/pair).  Both these speaker are powered. Unlike most powered speakers, which have Class-D amplification, these speakers have analog amplification for better sound quality. These two speakers also work wirelessly when used with the Discovery Connect wireless transmitter.   

Crown Mountain Imports

Mike Willheim was on hand in this room, demonstrating the ProAc Response D2R bookshelf speakers ($6500) driven by the Norma Revo IPA 140 integrated amp ($9,200) and Revo DS-1 Reference DAC with CD drive ($6800).  All cabling was by Portento Audio. The sound quality in this room was what you would expect for a system in this price range except for the mid-range reproduction that was as smooth and saturated as many systems at twice its price.

Charisma Audio

Bernard Li of Charisma Audio is a regular at Toronto Audio Shows and this year the system he chose to demonstrate consisted of the Capriccio Continuo/ATD Admonitor 311 speakers ($8890) with it dedicated stand ($2,380). Those speakers were driven by Kinki Studio EX-P7 preamp, EX-B7 mono block power amps ($4740/pair), Well Tempered Lab Simplex MKII turntable ($2920), TW Acoustic Raven GT2 turntable ($13,550) with Charisma Audio Musiko tonearm ($3300) and signature one MC cartridge ($5130). For a digital source, Bernard used the Audio Exclusiv P8 tube CD player ($13,440). All cables were by TEO Audio. The sound in this room was very addictive which was borne out by the fact that we spent over 10 minutes waiting for a seat and during that time none of the visitors that were seated, budged from their chairs, so we had to be content doing our listening evaluation standing at the back of the room.  The Capriccio speakers were among the best bookshelf speakers that we heard at this Show.

Gershman Acoustics

The husband and wife team of Eli and Ofra Gershman are always very enthusiastic hosts and make everyone visiting their room, feel welcome. This year the Gershmans demonstrated their Grand Studio II speakers ($11,900) driven by a Krell 300-I integrated amp (US$8000) and VPI 40th Anniversary turntable (US$15,000). Like all Gershman Speakers, the Grand Studio II had a very lively and involving sound that grabs you and pulls you into the music in a way that few other speakers can. The sound was clean, crisp and tonally accurate with a wide sweet spot.

Vimberg, Goldman, Metronome

In this room, Kenneth Cheung demonstrated the Vimberg Mino Speakers ($41,000) driven by the Goldman 590 integrated amp ($33,000) and the Metronome AQWO CD/SACD player ($22,000).  Vimberg speakers are made in the same factory that makes Tidal speakers and is marketed as a more affordable option to Tidal, although their prices could hardly be described as 'affordable'. Although the Vimberg speakers sounded quite good, they are definitely not in the same class as Tidal.  

Skogrand, Muraudio. Triangle Art

This was one of the most popular rooms at the Show and it featured the Muraudio SP1 ($16,400) demonstrated by Murray Harmon, the new Triangle Art Anubis turntable ($14,995) designed by Tom Vu and cables by Skogrand, hand built by Knut Skogrand. The Anubis made it worldwide debut at this Show and it fed the Triangle Art Reference Phono Stage ($14,995) Reference Preamp ($18,995) and the TA260S power amps ($20,000).  This room definitely had one of the five best sounds at the Show. The music here flowed effortlessly and with such incredible ease, even at very loud volumes. Also, unlike, any other room at the Show, you could detect a very well defined sound stage from almost any seat in the room.

Sonic Artistry

This room featured the Stenheim Alumine 3 speakers, ($40,000), darTZeel CTH-8500 MKII integrated amp ($35,000), Wolf Audio Alpha 3 streaming server ($8000), Brinkman Audio Nyquist II DAC ($20,000) and Synergistic Research Galileo Series cables, power conditioning, SE grounding block, HFTs and Blue Fuses. Jean-Pascal Panchard, the CEO of Sonic Artistry demonstrated this system, which had a truly splendid sound. The highs were airy, the midrange was beautifully saturated and the bass was strong without being overpowering.     


Vince Bruzzese, the owner of Totem, always seems to be bursting with enthusiasm when demonstrating his Totem Speakers. This year, he proudly demonstrated his new Element  Fire V2 Speakers ($8000). I am always surprised as how large a sound stage Totem speakers can throw despite their relatively diminutive size and the Element Fire 2, true to form, sounded more like a big floor stander rather than a medium size bookshelf speaker.

ExaSound Audio Design

George Klissarov, the President of ExaSound gave us a demo of his system that consisted of the Magnepan 3.7i (US$6000/pair), that was driven by a Parasound Halo A51 amplifier (US$4795) and fed by a ExaSound e38MKII DAC (US$4000), Gamma music server (US$2500) and Sigma streamer (US$750). George also announced the debut of his PlayPoint DM dual mono DAC and network audio server (US$8500). The sound in this room was quite holographic with a wide and deep sound stage.

Red Leaf Audio

David Jensen the owner of Red Leaf Audio, had some highly reputed brands in his room which included the Wilson Benesch Act 1 Evolution Speakers ($50,000), AVM Ovation SA 8.2 power amp ($20,000), PA 8.2 preamp ($23,000), Synthosis Roma 69DC tube DAC ($3500), an Audience AR12T conditioner ($12,000) and Gekko Silver Cables. The sound quality was what you would expect for components in this price category although voices sounded a bit veiled.

Wynn Audio

Wynn Wong the owner of Wynn Audio always does things in grand style. I will never forget the sound of the millions dollar system that he put together for a Toronto audio show a few years ago. It was no different this time round. Acoustically, he had one of the best rooms at the Toronto Audiofest and he made sure that the superb system that he assembled for it was perfectly dialed in. If I had to choose one room at this Show to spend a whole day in, it would be this room. I used to play the piano for a rock band and I have a great mental reference of what a piano sound like in a live setting. Wynn's system reproduced a beautiful piano sonata with such incredible realism and presence; it took my breath away. Female vocals were also rendered with such body and emotion; it gave me goose bumps. It was an easy decision to give Wynn Wong's room my vote for "Best Sound of the Show" for a second year in a row. Congratulations Wynn!   

Audio Teens Room

Unique to the Toronto Audiofest 2019 was the addition of an Audio Teens Room that featured components that the teens of today usually gravitate to. It was also manned by three teens that appropriately spoke authentic teen lingo when they described the various components in this room. The sound was not exactly audiophile quality but it is commendable that the organizers of this Audiofest made an attempt to cater to teen in the hope to turning them into audiophiles sometime in the future,

Lifetime Achievement Awards

This year the Toronto Audiofest organizers awarded three Lifetime Achievement Awards. The award recipients were Robert Deutsch of Stereophile, James Tanner of Bryston and Ernie Fisher of Inner Ear.