Toronto Audiofest – October 18 – 20, 2019

Out of the ashes of the Toronto Audio Video Show (TAVES), thankfully Toronto Audiofest has risen to take its spot as the premier audio show in southern Ontario. This was the second (of hopefully many more) year of the show and I could easily tell that it was substantially bigger and better than last year. So I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday morning and afternoon than listening to some of the very best there is today in two-channel and personal audio!

Auris and Questyle Amplifiers

I finally got to hear the Questyle CMA600I amplifier ($1,299 US) and I was very impressed with what I had heard. The Auris Euterpe ($1,699 US) was incredible as well. More on Auris gear later.

Woo Audio Room:

The ETHER 2s ($1,999 US) still amaze me on just how light they are! They almost disappear on my head. Thankfully the good folks at Woo Audio brought a plethora of amplifiers and headphones to this show. Their new WA11 Topaz ($1,399 US) was just brilliant with this setup!

This was likely my favourite setup that I got to experience at the show. Both the Abyss Phi TC ($4,995) and Diana Phi ($3,995 US) powered by the venerable WA33 balanced tube amplifier ($7,999 US) by Woo Audio. Simply magical and the most transparent sound available at the show to my ears!.
The MYSHPERE 3 headphones ($3,999) were truly an experience! I would classify them more as ear-speakers and they sound big and brilliant and the Woo WA11 Topaz played them superbly!
The newly released 3ES Electrostatic amplifier ($8,999 US) by Woo was quite special with both the Stax flagship headphones: SR-009 ($3,799) and SR-009S ($4,235 US). Simply amazing clarity and speed from what we had to come to expect from Stax. This was my first experience with the new SR-009S and I loved them! In fact, having to choose, I’d take the “S” version over the originals.
Here is a similar setup, but with the SR009S and SR-007 Mk2 headphones ($2,100 US) with Stax’s flagship the SRM-T8000 ($5,800 US). This was a fantastic amplifier too, but in the end, I preferred the Woo Audio 3ES with a bigger sound and blacker background.

Auris Audio / EarMen

The Headonia flagship headphone amplifier by Auris ($7,399 US) really, really impressed me! This 2A3 based tube amplifier drove the Hifiman HE1000SE ($3,499 US) with complete ease and sounded incredibly transparent and open. Just a lovely experience!

The Auris Nirvana ($5,799 US) was not only a work of art to look at, but the sound was equally impressive. Driving the Hifiman Susvara ($6,000 US) is no small feat, but the Nirvana did so brilliantly! If not for it’s bigger brother the Headphonia, the Nirvana would have completely stolen my heart!
EarMen: A newly announced venture by the owners of Auris are going to bring some very cool (and portable) options to the world of personal audio. The Sparrow particularly looked like something that could fit in your pocket for travel and still offer a true audiophile experience. I’m looking forward to hearing more from EarMen.

Audeze:

The two best gaming headsets I’ve ever heard! The Audeze LCD-GX ($899 US) and Mobius ($399 US). I can think of no better way to raise your gaming experience with either of these headphones!

The LCD-2 Classic ($799 US) was brilliant! I’ve owned the LCD-2 (when they first came out) and I’m glad to see these planars that revolutionized personal audio continue to be refreshed and supported by Audeze.

Grado Headphones:

I finally got to experience the newly released and limited run of the Grado White Album inspired White Headphones ($795 US). They sounded big and energetic and if you love the Grado sound, you will love these headphones – they ROCK!

Some other brilliant GH and Prestige Series headphones from Grado…and through the years I think I might have owned most of them!

Sony Electronics:

The Sony MDR-Z7M2 headphones ($599 US) and their flagship amplifier/DAC ($2,199 US)…simply amazing personal audio from Sony!

FiiO:

With lots of new products coming to market, I was absolutely floored with the new M11 Pro ($649 US). I’m hoping to get a review sample in to cover because with FiiO you get incredible performance without having to break the bank!
The FA7 ($629 Cdn) was equally as impressive as the M11 Pro and together they offered incredibly transparent portable sound. Again amazing value AND performance from FiiO!

iFi Audio

The iFi Audio stack (Pro iDSD + Pro iCAN) [$2,499 US + $1,799 US respectively] was not only very good looking but also sounded clean, fast, and transparent. The HE1000s never had it so good!

Focal:

The Focal Stellia ($2,999 US) closed-back headphones and the newly released ARCHE ($2,499 US) were a brilliant pairing! I certainly love my Focal Utopia headphones, but the Stellia might be one of the very best closed-back flagship headphones that I’ve experienced!
The Focal Clear ($1,499 US) and SPL Phonitor II ($2,499 US) were a brilliant match! The Focal Clear are one of the very best sub $2000 pairs of dynamic headphones out there and when paired with this amplifier, they sounded absolutely stunning!

I had a fantastic day at the Toronto Audiofest and if you live the GTA (greater Toronto region), I strongly recommend that you come out next year and support this show! Everything from amazing two-channel setups from Paradigm, to Totem and more, were there (toronto audiofest) and there was plenty to see and hear!

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Peter Pialis

By day, I’m a husband, father and professional engineer. But by night, I’m an audiophile and music junkie. Many say that music is food for the soul and nothing works better for me than Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Rush and Miles Davis. For the past 25 years I’ve been on an audio journey that continues to this day.

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