After the death of a family member, and an early departure from Canada, my normal Sunday Morning Hi Fi has been delayed today. I apologize for that. By next week, things should be back to normal, and I will start posting by 10 a.m. Central. Thanks for reading!
One wouldn’t think that an imaginary dotted line drawn on a map would make such a difference in the high-end world, but it does. This weekend I attended the 4th annual Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show (TAVES) in Toronto, Canada at its new location in the Sheraton Centre Hotel. This year the show moved to downtown Toronto, which looks and feels like a cosmopolitan city bustling with diverse crowds and languages. It’s an interesting setting for a high-end show. Most North American high-end shows are relegated to suburban hotels on the outskirts of a given city, but a downtown location lends a show a certain vibrancy that I enjoy, and definitely makes it easier for newcomers and younger visitors to attend. Prime example: One attendee told me that he and his wife don’t own or know how to drive a car, and that it would have been impossible for them to attend a show in an area lacking public transit.
One of the biggest differences between Canadian high-end shows and American is the amount of young people that are at Canadian shows—both working in the high end and attending the show. When I covered the Montreal Audio Fest (or Salon Son et Image for those of you in Quebec), I was shocked to see that a sizeable portion of the demographic was under 35 years old. Youthful presence was even more pronounced at TAVES, and I attribute most of this to Suave Kajko and Simon Au, the show organizers. Suave is the man in charge of Canada HiF, and is young, passionate, and motivated to bring the high end to the masses. TAVES wasn’t the biggest show if you’re counting just the numbers, but it was the first show that I’ve seen where a fair amount of young people were there because they came of their own volition—and isn’t that the thing that all shows are trying to do?
Now, some of the “means of attraction,” if you will, would be considered tawdry and even a little risqué by some standards (not mine, but some), but if they serve their purpose and bring in newcomers to this fabulous hobby, then it’s all right by me. Besides high-end audio, there were many exhibits that featured the latest technologies, including 3D printing, the Oculus Rift virtual reality system, high-performance computers, advanced digital photography technology, 4K TVs, and a really cool, brand new short-throw 4K projector from Sony ($49,999 USD).
Suave also did his best to reach out to the art community to bring in some very fine artists who showed off their paintings, drawings, and other wares. Probably the biggest buzz, er…awkward confusion was the body painting, a room off to the side of a hallway that featured topless models being painted by a local artist who does such things. Now, body painting has long been embraced by the fans of Sports Illustrated: Swimsuit Edition, but I’m not so sure the high-end audio/technology industry was ready for such a thing. I think it was actually a pretty good way to create some talk and receive some media coverage. All of the major TV broadcasters showed up to interview Suave, and many people who attended the show said that the news coverage was the impetus for their attendance. But, when I entered the body painting room, the few people who actually braved entering the room pretended to flip through books of photographs as they furtively watched the goings-on. I mean, if hanging around topless models isn’t your daily work, it’s probably going to be a bit confusing for people—“to look, or not to look?” kind of thing. I found relegating such a thing to a back room with an “Over 19 Only” sign was more detrimental than anything. I felt as if I were doing something illicit or immoral when I stopped by for 30 seconds, then promptly left. With these kinds of things, they need to be out in the open, or not there at all, otherwise it feels a little sordid.
Anyway, to get back to the point of all of this, these “antics” gave the show a more vibrant, young, and energetic feel. In all honesty, it felt like CES in Las Vegas, where flashing lights and wildness surround the refined environs of the high-end audio industry. I told Suave that TAVES felt like a Canadian CES, and he—very excited—told me that the CBC (Canadian Broadcast Company) just called it “The CES of the North.” Congrats, Suave. In four years, he and Simon have managed to grow the show immensely and to garner a lot of attention.
Young Canadians in the High End
Above: Wynn, founder of Wynn Audio, which distributes such products as TIDAL Audio (the German speaker company), Harmonix, Reimyo, SW Speakers, Acoustic Systems, Telos Audio Design, and Boenicke Audio.
Besides a fair amount of young attendees, there are a lot of young Canadians who are working in the high end and doing their best to revolutionize this industry in order to build the next generation of audiophiles. They are also doing a really good job of it.
One couple is really taking the Canada retail arena by storm—Stacy and Trevor Wong of Update TV and Stereo. They are young, energetic, and now are attempting to open one new retail location every year. When most retailers are shrinking and closing stores (and not just in the high end), Stacy and Trevor already have three locations and are looking to expand even further. Some of their lines are MBL, Aesthetix, Bryston, Devialet, Clearaudio, Focal, Rega, and many more. Just look at the photo of them, and you will see beautiful, young optimism shining forth.
Also, check out the photo of this young man excited to hear what a pair of Audeze headphones can do. As soon as he heard them, his face lit up with excitement.
I will expand upon all of this soon, in a “Part 2” section.