This year, the surprising lack of SRV (and overabundance of easy listening) made me glad to hear his perennial cover of “Little Wing” through Sony’s new and more “affordable” SS-NA2ES floorstanding loudspeakers ($10,000/pair) through Pass Labs amplification. Last year’s system impressed me thoroughly, striking a balance between romance and detail. This year’s system favored speed and attack accenting flourishes I had never heard before in SRV’s Hendrix cover but sounding a bit cool on “Breaking Silence” by Janice Ian.
The intriguing sonics and gorgeous décor of Gideon Schwartz’s Audio Arts room were easily noticed by anyone who entered. Just in front of me, a little boy took pictures with his iPhone of the imposing yet luxurious Zellaton Studio Reference One loudspeakers ($52,750/pair). Schwartz’s room, the Chairman’s Office as indicated by New York Palace signs, used to be the office for hotel inheritor and tyrant manager Leona Helmsley. Dusty multi-colored hard-bound books lined the dark mahogany shelves next to daintily painted ceramic pots centered by the wonderfully symmetrical American-crafted Audio Strata racks.
rrill Wettasingh of Merrill Audio says his class-D Veritas Monoblock amplifiers are "not for tube lovers." The crimson or black chassis is made of a solid 60lb billet of aluminum. Allowing only spade connection for the "best and biggest" sound, these 400 watt (8 ohms) power-houses seek "audio purity" rather than coloration, according to Wettasingh.
Few hi-fi brands seem to have the omnipresence in the consumer electric goods market as MartinLogan, likely because of their affordable prices and non-invasive aesthetics. Yet, I’ve never gotten a chance to hear them, only see them inside a Best Buy. I found a Grateful Dead Dick’s Picks from 5/22/77 in Pembroke Pines, Florida in their stack of CDs.
At last year's NYAS, the Audio Note room had been a musical joy and learning experience. After a brief hello to music lover, photographer, and Audio Note exhibitor David Cope, we got straight to business with music listening. First on the Audio Note TT Two Deluxe turntable ($3500) was Las Guitarras De Sergio y Eduardo Abreu, where the brothers perform the music of Bach, Scarlatti, Albeniz, and more. Having played this record at least fifteen times in the past four weeks, I noticed immediately that the soundstage was imbalanced. Both guitars were too far to the left, but I refrained from comment.
Simplifi Audio room would be a priority on my first day since I missed them entirely last year where they apparently kicked much booty. Hosted by the amicable duo of Daniel Weiss of Weiss Audio and Tim Ryan of Simplifi Audio, a San Diego-based distributor, their large room was devoted to three different systems that were demoed throughout the weekend. The one I heard and pictured above is the Klangwerk Ella 2-way active speaker system ($7,495) fed by the Weiss DAC202 ($6966) and Weiss MAN301 Network Player ($9083; $12,262 with internal DAC), and Integrita Audiophile Music Server (approximately $6000).
Innovative Audio Video Showrooms, a New York City hi-fi gallery hosted two rooms this year: one room with an ultimate-truth to recording digital playback system and the ultra-smooth analog room.
Scott Haggart, a passionate Innovative employee and expert hi-fi demo deliverer was in the midst of a presentation upon my arrival. Haggart treats his work with serious care, and as anyone who has experienced one of his demos can attest to, he guides the listeners patiently through the exact gear that they are listening to and details about the music, a skill not many exhibitors at this hi-fi show demonstrated.
Rear shot of the Burmester 909 stereo amplifier ($73,495).
Last year, Burmester relegated their loudspeakers and amplifiers to the grand ballroom of the Waldorf=Astoria, which made their gear easy to see but less accessible to listen to in a concentrated setting. At the New York Palace, Rutherford Audio, the North American distributor for Burmester, hosted their own listening room on the fourth floor with a diverse range of music ranging from Verdi to Infected Mushroom.
My first stop on Day One was just around the corner from the pressroom: Ciamara’s big-time system with the massive TAD Reference One loudspeakers ($80,000/pair). Ciamara’s young and passionate Chairman and CEO Sanjay Patel welcomed me with a smile. Patel established his New York City shop five years ago by hiring a team of engineers to focus their efforts on the craft of high-end audio home installations.
The audiophile press seemed a surprisingly patient bunch. After following the incredibly well indicated signs placed by the Chester Group to the Fourth Floor of the New York Palace, reporters and photographers waited subserviently in a four-person line to receive our press badges. At the counter, Art Dudley, columnist and Editor-at-Large for Stereophile, and Jeff Dorgay, publisher at Tone Audio, chummed it up.
It had already been a long week at Stereophile. I trucked through three thirteen-hour workdays plugging in code for the Recommended Components iPad app and had my first dentist appointment in five years. Holes had been burned through my eyes and scraped through my teeth. Luckily, my ears were still there dangling. But the rain, the rain, THE RAIN! I could have done without the rain this morning.
I scuttled furiously from bedroom to living room. DVDs without cases, puzzles with missing pieces, and random pairs long Ragnell scissors (why do we even have these???) strewed across a cascade of coffee tinted MDF shelves. This hand-me-down Brobdingnagian entertainment center would be the new home for my hi-fi, chipped away but yearning for gear. Like any man on a mission, I needed my soundtrack, my “Eye of the Tiger”, my “Don’t Stop Believing”, my “Bootylicious”, but what would be my source?
The promise of happiness is elusive. Is it found in the 10-hour workday? Maybe it’s spotted sunbathing on the Portuguese shoreline. Or is it found in a wider soundstage? Sartre teaches, "In life, a man commits himself and draws his own portrait, outside of which there is nothing." So if your actions define who you are, and if you love what you do, then will you find content?