2023 Toronto Audiofest – PART 2

Wynn Audio – TIDAL Audio GmbH, Karan Acoustics,
Goldmund, Kalista, Fono Acustica…

Down on the lowest floor of the show in a large room, I found the room of Wynn Audio. Wynn Audio is a distributor of some of the finest audio brands I’ve come across and this year and two top tier systems were on active demonstration. The attention given to setup was obvious, most noticeably with the large of the two system, a system comprised of the TIDAL Akira Loudspeakers ($358,000 / pr), powered by Karan Acoustics POWERa Monoblocks ($145,000 / pr) controlled by a Karan Acoustics LINEa Preamplifier ($ 55,000). The TIDAL Akira loudspeakers had just recently arrived in Canada – this being their 1st Canadian exhibition.

The digital source was the beautiful and enigmatic Kalista DreamPlay XC SACD / CD Player ($100,000), which is what I was able to hear while we were visting.

The analog source was the Thiele TT-01 ZERO Tracking Error Turntable, with TA-01 ZERO Tracking Tonearm ($41,500) paired with the Karan Acoustics PHONOa Phonostage ($51,000). The system was poised on top of Critical Mass Systems Olympus rack and amp stands: $16,570 / level with an Entreq Pluton and Olympus Infinity Ground Boxes. Cabling was all by a Spanish manufacturer Fono Acustica. These cables were like nothing else I’ve seen, nothing less than jewelry class audio cables that were as much about art as function.

We listened to the track Jazz Variants from the Ozone Percussion Group. The sound was stunning, combining immediacy and impact with weight and grandness. There was a sense of absolute precision in the delivery of the notes, combined with a level of sophistication and finesse that was virtually a live performance. When the percussion came to a climax there was seemingly unlimited dynamic headroom. For me – this TIDAL-Karan-Kalista system with Fono Acustica loom was the most impressive and finest display of high-end audio at the 2023 Toronto Audio Fest.

The second system in an adjacent space within the same room was from Goldmund Sound Systems (Goldmund). This system was made up of Goldmund Mimesis 37S NEXTGEN ($44,500) Preamplifier paired with Goldmund Telos 440 Monoblocks ($42,500) and a Goldmund Eidos Reference SACD: ($280,000), playing through Goldmund Tethys Passive Loudspeakers ($88,000). Entreq Olympus Infinity T Ground Boxes were employed with all Crystal Cable. Listening to Tiger Okoshi’s St. Louis Blues, the sound was exquisitely pristine, with detailed high frequencies that give realism to the cymbals. The percussion was tight, dynamic, and visceral and very lifelike. The overall tone was just a touch to the cooler side which lent to excitement.

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Acora Acoustics and Sonic Artistry – SAT, Lyra, D’Agostino, Innuos, MSA

In a very large room, there were a massive pair of Acora VRC Loudspeakers ($295,000 / pr) powered by a pair of D’Agostino Momentum M400 MxV Monoblock amplifiers ($115,850) with Momentum HD preamp ($58,650) and Momentum Phonostage ($44,850).

The analog setup included a SAT XDI Record Player System with CFI-09TI arm ($415,000) and second SAT LM-12 arm ($57,000), paired with Lyra Atlas (Lambda) Reference cart ($16,500) and Lyra Etna cart ($12,500) respectively. Racking was all by Acora (approx.. $30k). The digital setup included Innuous Phoenix Net ($5,699) with Innuous Statement and Next-Gen PSU ($32,800) serving to a MSB Reference DAC ($75,200).

While in the room the track Stimela was played, and the tone of the saxophone was spot on. There was lifelike presence and holographic imaging. The dynamic peaks were break the walls thunderous yet absent of any break-up in the tweets or mids; rather, just quick, clean, and open. Marcin’s track Kashmir was played with room moving bass, superb control, and texture. And a track by Harry Bellefonte on vinyl sounded sublime, with a life-sized stage conjured up by this utterly capable system. I left this room with a big smile on my face…like I’d received a gift that kept on giving.

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Lenbrook – DALI, NAD, PSB, Bluesound

The audio product distributor Lenbrook had a couple rooms at the Toronto Audio Fest.

Room 1 :

The large room was setup with a pair of DALI EPIKORE 11 ($80k/pr) loudspeakers, which are a 4½-way floorstander with four 8” woofers, a 6½” mid and the EVO-K Hybrid Tweeter module.

This was the first North American demonstration of this loudspeaker and it was paired with a NAD stack, including the new Masters M66 BluOS Streaming DAC-Preamplifier ($7,499) with a pair of M23 hybrid digital stereo amplifiers, running in mono ($4,899.99/ea). Listening to Bob Dylan’s Man In the Long Black Coat the sound was warm, solid and grounded if not just slightly dark and polite. Ari Kaplan’s Change on the Rise left me with a similar impression of a relaxed and laid-back sound.

On static display was a full set of Bluesound streaming / amplifier products including the new NODE X 10th Anniversary edition streamer ($999) that Anthony from TED Publications just recently reviewed.

Room 2 :

The second room, with sound by Lenbrook, was a modest sized hotel room but it was packed with a selection of PSB speaker models. Three models of PSB speakers were on demo rotation and they included from largest to smallest – the Imagine T65 Tower ($2,699 / pr); the Imaging T54 Tower ($2,099 / pr) and; last but not least, the Alpha iQ Streaming Powered Speakers with BluOS ($1,699 / pr). Listing to some Arctic Monkeys with the T65 in play, I was amazed at just how good the bass sounded with the speaker so compromised in placement, right up against the wall. I mean, the bass was incredible for a rather demure speaker, it was full, tight and snappy. Another shock was when they moved to the tiny Alpha iQ active standmouts, the sound was considerably greater than their sound should be, while also being room filling and well dispersed.

Anthony and I ran into the legendary Paul Barton, founder of PSB at the show. During our short chat, he mentioned that his own recommendation for greatest bang for buck among the PSB Loudspeaker line would be the Imagine T65 Tower; from what we hear at the show, I was convinced of the truth in that claim.

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MOON by Simaudio (MOON) :

MOON executives – Costa Koulisakis and Dominique Poupart were in their room to take questions and support the North American exhibition of the all-new MOON North Collection of high-end audio components – including: 681 Network Player / DAC; 641 Integrated Amplifier; 791 Network Player / Preamplifier; 761 Power Amplifier; 891 Network Player / Preamplifier; and 861 Power Amplifier (prices on MOON website).

The North Collection introduces several brand-new innovations including new MHP power supply for North integrated amplifiers that provides full galvanic isolation between digital and analog (1st time for MOON); new M-VOL3 electronic gain control and, the MDCA (Moon Distortion Cancelling Amplifier) circuit. Also, with the North Collection, ALL feedback has been eliminated – not even local feedback is used making it truly zero feedback for the highest fidelity. Gone is full silver and full black – just two-tone will be produced.

I must mention that the new North Collection introduces a gorgeous new, contemporary styled, and technologically advanced high-end remote control, the BRM-1 Intelligent Remote Control. It’s a piece of artwork on its own.

Two systems were on demo, both had a lifestyle focused implementation. The main system consisted of a North Series 791 Network Player / Preamplifier $21,000 CAD and; new 761 Power Amplifier $18,500 CAD, playing through a pair of B&W 801 D4 Loudspeakers. The sound was incredibly smooth and silky with textured bass and natural midrange. I found myself relaxing, while my attention was held firm with the immense amount of holistic detail that was delivered.

The second system was an implementation of the MOON 250i V2 integrated amplifier ($2900) with the 280 D Streaming DAC ($4,800), with a pair of the Voice 22 standmount loudspeakers ($4,000).

Part 3 coming soon…