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At any audio show where volumes are pushed beyond reason—without fail that makes it each and every show—you find yourself looking for a small audio oasis; places where you can stop and recover. I agree with Glen that Tri-Cell put together just such a room with Accustic Arts electronic and Joseph Audio monitors. With the Avatar room this was probably one of the most refined systems based on a smaller pair of two-way monitors. The Avatar room won on dynamics and resolution, Tri-Cell on relaxation and a stress-free presentation.

Of course there were disappointments as well. I stopped by Mike Tang’s Feastrex presentation and could not help being amazed by the complete lack of bass or body. Things sounded tremendously fast and resolved in the upper midrange but anything to do with wood or deeper male voices was left behind completely. Perhaps I missed something important. David discussed things with the designer in Chinese to perhaps have a better understanding of what the intent was. For a pair of $4,000 drivers—let’s forget about the enclosure for a second—I felt we were only listening to half a speaker... the upper half.

Following Glen's enthusiastic encouragements I stopped by the Simplify room to be greeted by aural aggression and extremely high playback levels. I ran. Some great classics proved that they could sound as poorly in Toronto as they can anywhere else. Proof was the wasted association of Focal's Utopia with the very elegant Devialet amplifier. The Focals sounded just as disincarnate, fleshless and soulless as they always do and the truly transparent Devialet could do nothing about it. I know that I'm French and that those are French speakers. They also cost an arm, leg and your first-born’s left kidney. For the sake of me I cannot understand why anybody would want to listen to them. I’d rather go without music altogether.

Although I was very intrigued and spent some time with the Martin Logan/Micromega demo, I could not quite nail where my discomfort came from until after the show. The concept itself was very attractive. The Micromega integrated amplifier was equipped with Apple wireless technology to stream files from an Apple device, be it computer or iPad, compressed data or not. The demo ran with uncompressed files streamed via WiFi from the iPad to the amplifier. Disregarding the fact that any audiophile would need two dozens iPads to carry their music collection around, the concept itself was swell.

Unfortunately the sound was somewhat underwhelming. It had been years since last I heard a Martin Logan speaker where you could easily tell apart the woofer from the panel. That’s why I did not easily catch what was bothering me. Ultimately the bottom end sounded like a pump while the upper end sounded like the very open and detailed top end we are used to from electrostats. I am not sure whether the woofers were dialled up too strong or the Micromega couldn’t control that part of the signal. I simply can’t imagine that the speaker company from Kansas would have gone backwards so much on their newer model. This room was an A for concept and C for execution. I think there's potential here but it just did not quite work for me because of that somewhat flabby bottom end and the concomitant disjointed results.

Along similar lines the association of Cary electronics with Waterfall Audio speakers which I know to be extremely musical and expressive sounded terrible the two times I tried to enter. Music was pounding at levels unfit for human beings in an attempt to showcase bass prowess. I did not dedicate a day to TAVES to feel cataclysmic bass. I took time out of my busy schedule to listen to music. That system could have done so very well if it had been given half a chance.

Where Glen heard finesse in the American Sound of Canada association of Esoteric K03, C03, E03 and A03 with Vienna Acoustic The Music speakers, I heard a very chronic lack of body and displeasing grain in the midrange. I don’t think anybody on staff has reviewed more Esoteric gear than I have. I know how these electronics need careful pairing when it comes to cables and speakers if one wants to avoid this exact ultra-lean presentation. My feeling from Saturday was that one can do a lot better with this particular stack of electronics.

On the other hand it might just have been America Sound of Canada’s deliberate trademark sound. Their association of Sonus Faber and NBS electronics sounded similarly disembodied but suffered an additional if major disconnect between the top, middle and bottom frequencies. I was not in the sweet spot which might have explained what I heard. Or not. To finish on a more positive note, manufacturers like Bryston and Totem need to be commended for putting out big demos. Granted they also were amongst the worst offenders at times when it came to boom-boom high volumes but they also were amongst the few large Canadian manufacturers to support the launch of this long awaited event. For that reason alone they must be acknowledged.

B&W, Classé, Gryphon, Wilson, Verity Audio and for the most part simaudio all shone by their absence. Though I know they are not all Canadian still they should have been there. New shows do not pop up out of thin air. They require hard work and support from the major players and corporate brands. I was thus disappointed to see that those players did not see fit to support a new event in a shrinking industry. I know expectations were low but for a first installment I thought it a resounding success. Acoustics were decent for a show, attendance was excellent, exhibitors demonstrated enthusiasm if sometimes over zealousness whilst attendees were passionate. The key forward will be for retailers to actually show their setup abilities. As a potential customer there is no way I'd trust any dealer who failed to make their system sound good at the Méridien. Some folks know how to do it and their rooms stood out. They did not need to push the volume very high to shine either. Those were the ones to pay attention to. That's why I've singled them out...