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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

TORONTO AUDIOPHILE 8 | September's High-End Audio Roundup

By Anthony Kershaw on September 9, 2017

Toronto's Audiophile brings you news of the most recent high end audio hardware and software, much of it available for audition in Toronto.
Toronto’s Audiophile brings you news of the most recent high end audio hardware and software, much of it available for audition in Toronto.

This month, a mirror that can sing to back to you, group funding for high-end audio, a turntable sporting a golf ball, the return of reel-to-reel tapes, and a delightful DAC.

Viio Vezzo Bluetooth Mirror

Photo courtesy Viio Mirrors
Photo courtesy Viio Mirrors

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” If you buy this new Bluetooth mirror, it may be able to tell you.

I thought light bulbs and shower heads were the last bastions of odd Bluetooth products, but Viio emailed to alert me of this interesting speaker.

The large, heavy mirror does not fog, sports an LED light surround, will play back from any Bluetooth source from dual speakers, including hands-free phone calls, and works on battery or a charge.

Comes in three sizes, priced from $395 to $695 USD.

Check them out here.

Kickstarter

Crowdfunding has become very popular with the internet generation. Kickstarter has a good reputation and seems to attract a different clientele than sites like GoFundMe and Indiegogo. A lot of high-end audio startups are choosing this creative route, even legacy companies wishing to promote more adventurous products.

Check out the website, punch in your favourite type of kit or design topology, and see what pops up.

For a “donation,” you’re betting the company will produce the product (many do not), and you will receive an associated gift. The higher the pledge, the better the gift. It’s a fun way to support startups and have some skin in the game.

Check them out here.

Well Tempered Labs Simplex Turntable

Well Tempered Labs Simplex Turntable
Photo courtesy Well Tempered Labs

Bill Firebaugh, the designer of the Well Tempered Labs (WTL) Turntable, is a real firebrand. His belt-driven designs feature wobbly platters, sand filled tonearms, and dental floss as belts. Yet, his designs work. Brilliantly well.

His newest designs, aimed at stabilising the tonearm and removing spurious resonances and lateral movement, feature a golf ball in a tub of goo! Stay with me, here.

Firebaugh reckons the spherical shape and the general high-quality manufacture of golf balls and the Corning liquid in which the ball floats represent his best effort yet to rid the table of any sort of resonance interference.

I recently reviewed the Simplex Turntable, his Chinese-made, budget ‘table. I admit to be fascinated by his designs ever since one of our writing staff demonstrated the amazing sound of his original WTL Turntable over twenty years ago. As the platter got up to speed, the wobble disappeared and gave a rock-solid image of the vinyl being played. Even the metal disc submerged in the Corning fluid (the disc now replaced by the golf ball) intrigued rather than shocked. The truth was in the sound. And it was superb—dynamic, clear with vibrant mids, ethereal highs, and very well controlled bass.

The same can be said for the much cheaper Simplex. If you are looking for a turntable and want to take a walk on the wild side, check out the WTL Simplex Turntable at Toronto’s Charisma Audio. Price: $1,999 USD. You can read my detailed review here.

The return of reel-to-reel tapes

Photo courtesy United Home Audio
Photo courtesy United Home Audio

When I was a teenager and living in Montreal, my musician father would take me around the corner to a house owned by a local musical legend—Karl Balaban was in his 80s and long retired from playing violin in the Wiener Philharmoniker. He was very kind, and a patient teacher. Everytime I went to his house, I’d beg him to play his live recording of Der Rosenkavalier at the Staatsoper with Solti conducting. He always obliged. The performance, of course, was magnificent, but only later as my audiophile predilections formed, did I recall the incredibly natural sound of the recording. It was played on his old Ampex reel-to-reel player.

Reel-to-reel was the preferred method of recording studios to get the best recording for the “master tape.” Audiophiles have long known the superiority of this format—yes, even better fidelity than our beloved vinyl. As always with hardware sources, the problem was the availability of software. As vinyl and the cassette took over the rocking 60s, convenience was king. Bye-bye reel-to-reel.

Nothing like an unfinished auditory love affair to pique an audiophile’s interest. For well-heeled audiophiles, reel-to-reel machines are making a bit of a comeback. It used to be that only classic refurbs were available from manufacturers like Tandberg, Akai, Tascam, etc. Now, companies like United Home Audio (UHA) and others are making new decks based upon classic designs. I’ve heard them at audio shows and they sound spectacular.

The decks are making appearances in more and more rooms at audio shows. TAVES Consumer Electronics Show is coming up in Toronto. Be sure to check out the rooms for a reel-to-reel. I think you’ll be very impressed. To begin, check out UHA (a bit of a 90s disaster, but you’ll get lots of info about decks, prices, and lots of links to where to purchase hardware and software).

Mojo Audio Mystique v3 DAC

Photo courtesy Mojo Audio
Photo courtesy Mojo Audio

Benjamin Zwickel, owner and designer of New Mexico’s Mojo Audio, has been on a quest to make digital audio sound musical. He wants the warmth and immediacy of vinyl with the accuracy afforded by the best digital kit—specifically, the Digital (to) Analogue Converter (DAC). He began his quest with the Mystique DAC, which was very well reviewed, then on to the v2, which received even more raves. The third version is leaps and bounds ahead of v2.

The v3 has incredible resolving power yet retains a lot of the warmth audiophiles love about the best vinyl. Strings have flesh and bone to their sound and vocals connect with the listener on a much deeper emotional level. It’s a benchmark digital product. Many contemporary DACs (usually inexpensive chip sets as a base) retain the scrawny strings of the original digital world and lack the communicative powers of great vocalists.

The Mojo Audio Mystique v3 DAC doesn’t come cheap. At $4,999 USD it’s a considerable investment. But if you listen to a lot of streaming content (TidalHiFi, especially), FLAC digital files or CDs, and you want to make a considerable jump in sound quality, I urge you to give this remarkable DAC a listen in your system.

You can check them out at Mojo Audio.

Keep Up with Toronto Audiophile HERE.

Anthony Kershaw

Anthony Kershaw is publisher of Audiophilia, the leading online magazine since 1997 for high-end audio and music. Anthony has performed as flutist or conductor with the finest ensembles in Europe and North America. He was a scholarship student at Trinity College of Music, London, where he was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship, and won the Chamber Music Prize (awarded by Sir Yehudi Menuhin) and the Guild Prize as the conservatoire’s Gold Medal winner.
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