Ricky Yan of Ovation Audio put together an incredibly musical system centered around the acclaimed ProAc D20Rs at $5'399. Hegel did duty on the electronics and Mr. Yan had a long line of Acoustic Solid turntables at his disposal serviced by a Roma phono stage. The room was a refuge of music against the staid bombast circulating in many other rooms.

Plurison were pulling in crowds more to look than listen to their offerings. Their room was well lit and the products immensely colourful with lots of visual appeal. Those hopeful of a listening session with the Devialet Phantom found it on static display. Likewise the incredibly effective Isoacoustics isolation products. Micromega and Focal were making some music but the exhibitors abstained from the audio level competition game.  

Aside from hosting the live recitals this year, PMC/Audio Alchemy/XLO Electric were doing bang-up presentations of their PMC 25.26 at 16'000/pr, with a guest appearance of the pro series IB 1S monitor. The Audio Alchemy electronics proved a good match using a Hegel source and the combo belted out music with the power and authenticity of some of England’s finest. I also dearly wanted to have a listen to one of the new acclaimed Lumin Audiophile Network Players which were fired up and waiting in the room, but as luck would have it, the remote app device was running errant in a pocket somewhere in the far hallways. Such is life with modern technology.  

Simcoe Sound utilized the motto of 'keep it simple' to great effect. The Totem Fire loudspeakers at $6'500 Cdn were visually arresting and their sonic output was lean, propulsive and entertaining. The Icon Audio PS3 Mk II tube phono stage and Stereo 60 MkIII tube integrated put meat on the bones and exuberance into the mids at a pricing of $4'600 and $6'100 respectively. Analog was provided by a Rega RPG/Benz Ace cartridge combo at $4700 for both. The Bryston BDP2 did digital duty.    

Sonic Artistry/BIS Audio/Davone/Charisma Audio/Audio Union International collaborated to bring some strikingly fresh product to the fore. This was my first encounter with the Davone loudspeakers, ranging between $2'100 to $9'995 Canadian for the pair. The unique bent wood designs give new meaning to the term 'Danish modern'. Lest you think that the virtues stopped at striking visual appeal, the performance had all the traditional hallmarks of wide, deep and stable soundstaging, dimensionality and credible tonal balance. Score this as a win/win situation on décor versus sonics. Charisma supplied their Reference 2 MC and Codia Stage 3000 rack. Audio Union brought their $52'000 Helix 1 table and tone arms to the mix. Devialet supplied the monoblocks and integrated amplification. Too many cooks can sometimes ruin the dish. In this collaboration it was Master Chef material.

On the gauntlet line of tables, Stillpoints  were busy showing their well-known isolation feet but adding new directions to their repertoire, product to combat cable noise as well a product to fine tune piano resonance.  

Summit HiFi were drawing in a wealth of listeners into their 2 rooms. Summit assembles gear that sonically overachieves at modest price points. Even their most expensive offerings come in at accessible dollars. Their big room centered around the Dynaudio Excite X38 at $5'499 Cdn using an Emotiva XPA-2 Gen 3 amp and XSP-1 Gen 2 pre pairing at below $2'800 with a Nuprime DAC-10 at $1999 and Kimber Cable all  round. While the system was doing a creditable job, it was the lower priced room next that drew most attention. The $369/pr Elac B5 bookshelf speakers and alternative system matched the room perfectly. The system was comprised of the Emotiva ERC-3 CD Transport/DAC at $749 and the BasX PT100 Pre and BasX A-300 amp coming in at just under $1'050 for the two. The system punched way above its weight drawing in packed crowds and since Summit had a discounted show special on the little Elacs, I doubt there was any stock left by closing Sunday.

The Gramophone Distribution Co. offered 2 rooms featuring their Melco Audio Music Servers at $2'800 or $5'500 depending on capacity. One room went with the gorgeous Marten Design Mingus Quintet speakers at $60'000 backed by a Musical Fidelity Vista integrated and matching CD and a Chord Audio Hugo DAC. The other went with ATC SCM40A and SCM40P (active vs. passive) at $14'000 versus $7'650 respectively. This room used the Moon 280D DAC and 260D CD transport feeding ATC electronics. Both rooms did magnificent jobs conveying the beauty of music. ATC did an A/B comparison of active vs. passive versions of the ATC SCM40. The differences were obvious, with the passive achieving a more laid-back and distant presentation and the active being considerably more direct and dynamic. It's rare to have the opportunity to hear such a demonstration.

Toronto Home of the Audiophile were hosting the Gershman Acoustics Grande Avant Garde at the $13'000 mark. The store has a strong depth of product to bring to the show and amplification duty was traded between the impressive Pass Labs electronics and a pair of the FirstWatt SIT-2 stereo power amps. Audio Note CD transport and DAC 3.1 were on hand as was an alternative selection of PS Perfect Wave and Berkeley Audio Design DAC digital. Clearaudio did analog duty. In my listening session with the First Watt combo, the Gershmans were expressive, full-bodied and amazingly dynamic. Their presentation has seen many 'best of' awards and certainly deserved to be on the short list.  

Totem concentrated on two systems this year, one bigger, one smaller. The performance of their big rig was pretty much beyond reproach as would be expected but the introduction of their new model Sky was something special. At $1'850 it can dance with a surprising level of dynamic and frequency range plus manage a huge soundstage. This is all thanks to a hefty 5¼ inch woofer with very long throw married to a tweeter that’s smooth and extended. Owner Vince Bruzzese has built a well engineered product that is placement friendly and thrives even in tight boundary situations including tabletop application. It performed exceedingly well here and in the bookshelf category the Sky may indeed be the limit.