The third and final part of our survey of Canadian manufacturers covers some truly remarkable companies, some marching to the beat of a very different drummer.
Let’s take a look at them in alphabetical order.
Aurum Acoustics www.aurumacoustics.com
First up is Newfoundland’s Aurum Acoustics, manufacturers of an active tube-based system which is amongst the most musical you will ever encounter. Aurum is the brainchild of Derrick Moss. He believes strongly in active speakers – where three separate amps directly drive the three drive units of each speaker without hindrance from the customary passive crossovers, taking full advantage of the output of each amplifier. The Integris Active 300B is a three box system consisting of the power amps in one box and the left and right speaker boxes. Two of these amplifiers per side are based around the impressive 300B tube in a single ended triode (SET) configuration, while the third (driving the bass) was originally based around the 6SN7 tube. This year Aurum has replaced the tube amp driving the bass units with a UCD Class D transistor-based configuration. While the new bass amp still outputs the same 100 watts, the purity and dynamics are improved. Existing units may be upgraded. An active electronic crossover uses precisely specified Cardas polypropylene film capacitors and metal film resistors working with the line level signals before amplification. Feeding the Integris Active 300B amp is the Integris CDP CD Player/Preamp, available separately for $13,500. There are also two new option boards available for the Integris CDP – a phono input ($2500) and a headphone output ($1000). Placing the crossover away from the speakers has the added benefit of reducing adverse effects from the vibration of the speaker drive units. Add a turntable of your choice and pair of fine headphones like the AKG K701 and you have a complete high end tube-based system with just 3 components (turntable, CD/Preamp, Power amp), plus speakers. What a delightful change from the usual high end complement of turntable + phono amp + preamp + dual monoblocs + CD player, with all the associated cables that go with six boxes.
Blue Circle Audio www.bluecircle.com
Innerkip, Ontario is home to Blue Circle Audio, manufacturer of a range of electronics and cables developed by designer Gilbert Yeung. Best known for its amplifiers with the distinguishing ring of blue light on the fascia, Blue Circle now offers power line conditioners, DA converters, phono preamps, preamps, power amps and integrated amps. Some of these designs are tube based, some are silicon based and some are hybrid (a combination of the two). Blue Circle even makes speakers. One of its most ambitious products is the BC703 phono stage, which runs $6,995. It offers five levels of gain for moving coil cartridges (from 66 dB to 82 dB) and an RIAA curve accuracy to within 0.1 dB. The only control on the front panel is for muting. Inside you can set gold plated jumpers for fine control over gain, impedance and capacitance and on the back there are separate inputs for MM and MC cartridges (for maximum separation of circuitry) with separate ground, balanced or unbalanced outputs, a ground lift switch and a grounding connector. For those that need it, you can switch in a rumble filter to protect wide-bandwidth speakers. The BC703 uses an external power supply to produce clean DC power. Blue Circle claims this is the quietest phono preamp made. A stainless steel faceplate is standard, but you can also order a purpleheart/walnut finish. The SB90T Hybrid Stereo Amplifier sports clean looks from all angles and musters 90 watts per channel (wpc) into 8 ohms and 135 wpc into 4 ohms in a 40 pound cabinet that sells for $3295. For $100 less you can buy the SB100S Power Amplifier which comes in a similar looking package, putting out 100 wpc into 8 ohms, and 150 wpc into 4 ohms.
EMM Labs www.emmlabs.com
Calgary is home to Ed Meitner’s EMM Labs, a company that serves the professional recording engineer as well as the well heeled audiophile. Their most popular audiophile product is the CDSA SE CD/SACD Player, now in Mk II form and retailing at $11,500 US. Ed Meitner is a leading authority – some would say the leading authority on the design of Digital to Analog and Analog to Digital Converters. The CDSA upsamples humble CD audio to twice the SACD standard sampling rate, and converts this digital signal to analog in a discreet (rather than on chip) dual differential DAC. It also features an aerospace-grade composite laminate circuit board, with highly polished copper traces which reduce the adverse impact of skin effects. At this price, you don’t get any digital inputs, and you only get two-channel analog output, but if you’re not looking for surround sound and you don’t need those digital inputs, the sound is truly world class. If you need these things then you’ll need to look at a combination of the CDSD SE Drive ($9,900 US) and the DAC6e SE ($13,500 US), a 6-channel DAC and preamplifier. For the very best in two channel performance, check out the new TSD1 CD/SACD Transport ($11,000 US) and the matching DAC2 Stereo DAC ($9,500 US). These components communicate via a special high speed DSD mechanism (EMM Link) which works with the MFAST asynchronous locking mechanism to eliminate jitter. The DAC2 also works its magic with more conventional sources or computers via AES/EBU, USB, TosLink (dual), Coax and EMM Expansion Port inputs. EMM Labs also offers a line of high performance interconnect cables based on their proprietary IsoPath technology. These cables punch well above their weight, and will run you $895 US for a one meter length (balanced or unbalanced).
Oracle Audio www.oracle-audio.com
Oracle Audio makes its home in Sherbrooke, Quebec and is coming up to its 30th anniversary. It made an early reputation for its superb line of Delphi turntables, still in production in Mk V form. Oracle claims simplicity of design through a combination of knowledge and common sense. The aim is to provide top performance through “Groove Isolation”, which keeps motor noise and airbound and other vibrations away from the point of contact of the stylus on the disk. The Mk V suspension system is a highly sophisticated device combining seven different mechanical filters, all working as a whole to efficiently control unwanted vibrations. A unique main bearing system incorporates six precision surfaced nylon setscrews for maximum rotational accuracy. Oracle has chosen a dual current low voltage AC synchronous motor, not only smooth and quiet but the most stable made. The platter is a 4 kilogram device of great rigidity in which most of the weight is distributed around the periphery to maximize momentum. A platter mat of advanced polymer and a record clamp (an Oracle innovation) prevent vibration of the vinyl record itself. Finally the platter, subchassis and tonearm assembly are suspended on three towers. Each tower is a complex device combining seven different mechanical filters to control unwanted vibration. You can upgrade the Oracle Delphi by replacing the regular power supply with the Turbo Mk V Power Supply. You can complete the package with an Oracle/SME tonearm and an Oracle Thalia cartridge. The Delphi is available with an acrylic base or a much heavier granite base. Oracle has offerings on the digital side too. The same principles of isolation and vibration control through multiple approaches apply here, as well as the stunning physical appearance. This time there are four suspension towers and the disc clamping mechanism which involves magnetism and a slight vacuum is said to be key to the high performance of the unit, available both with (CD 2500 Player) and without (CD 2000 Transport) an integral DAC. Lower cost alternatives are the CD 1500 Player and CD 1000 Transport. Oracle also makes a phono preamp (Temple PH 1000), a DAC/Preamp (DAC 1000), a Power amp (P 1000) and an Integrated Amp (SI 1000), all with performance to match and looks to kill. To complete your all Oracle system, consider the Prophecy speakers.
Raysonic Audio www.raysonicaudio.com
Toronto’s Raysonic Audio is in a slightly different category from the other Canadian companies, since its products are designed in Canada but all manufacturing takes place in its factory in Taishang City, China. Raysonic’s product range includes CD players, integrated amplifiers, a preamplifier and a mono-block power amplifier. Its products, all tube based, have very attractive designs and are cost effective. We reviewed a Raysonic CD player and an integrated amplifier in the past – you can visit www.canadahifi.com to read the reviews.
Ultralink Products, Inc., headquartered in Markham, Ontario is a leading manufacturer of high-performance audio and video cables, interconnects and UltraPower power accessories. Marketed in over 62 countries around the world, the Ultralink brand is Canada’s market share leader for premium connectivity products. Much of the corporation’s growth and significant product innovations are devoted to the world’s transition to DTV (digital television), the popularity of home DVD and multi-channel audio applications. Ultralink purchased XLO Electric in 2002. The XLO brand, founded by the genial Roger Skoff, offers a variety of high end cables including the formidable Unlimited and Limited ranges. Roger is still actively designing cables for both UltraLink and XLO and is one of the most respected experts in the field. In 2008, Ultralink/XLO launched a new brand called Argentum Acoustics, which focuses exclusively on 2-channel analog audio. The Argentum lineup consists of speaker cables, line-level and balanced interconnects, digital cables and power cords. An innovative feature of the speaker cables is that they are terminated with interchangeable spade lugs or banana plugs.
Wyetech Labs www.wyetechlabs.com
If you’re in the market for single ended triode amplification, few can compete with Roger Hebert’s Wyetech Labs, and perhaps none can match the full bandwidth sound Roger has achieved in his designs. Wyetech is based in Ottawa and has been in business since 1996, selling a range of three power amps and three preamps factory direct. Preamp prices range from $2580 for the Coral through to $9600 for the Opal. The 18 wpc Topaz 211C Stereo Power Amp is $11,300 with Valve Art 211 tubes or $11,800 for NOS GE 211 / VT-4C tubes, while a pair of 13 wpc Onyx Monoblocs are $4900 and a pair of Sapphire Monoblocs run $7800 (all prices in $US). You get a 5 year warranty on the amps (10 years on top of the line Opal and Topaz units) and 1 year on the tubes. These amps are built like tanks, and you won’t find them too easy to move around. Topaz weighs in at 102 pounds. They are far from the most beautiful components ever developed, but you will certainly be the only one on your street with a Wyetech, and it will last a lifetime. Just how wide a bandwidth can Roger offer from a pure single ended triode configuration? How about ruler flat from 20 Hz to 100,000 Hz for the Opal and 16 Hz to 22,000 Hz for the Topaz! www.wyetechlabs.com
At the end of this three part survey, I’m stunned at what an impressive list this has been. I’m wondering if there is another country that can match the concentration of audio manufacturers per million of population. Oh Canada, indeed!
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