The show started before the show started: Julia and I were having morning tea in our room on the 7th floor when we heard a familiar and compelling voice: not Amanda McBroom or Jacintha but Lhasa de Sela a real recording artist! The music turned out to be coming from one of two exhibit rooms sponsored by New Jersey retailer Woodbridge Audio, whose proprietor also had the audacity to play such non-audiophile fare as the Andrews Sisters and Michael Hedges. Think of it! The system in Woodbridge's tonier room had an estimated total value of $125k and included a VPI TNT HRX record player with Koetsu Urushi Black cartridge, Mark Levinson electronics (including the majestic No.53 amplifiers), and a pair of Revel Ultima Salon2 loudspeakers, with MIT cabling, Richard Gray power accessories, and ASC Tube Traps.
One might argue that there are more research-driven engineering innovations in the Linkwitz Lab Orion-4 than in most other high-end loudspeakers which is remarkable, considering that it sells for less than $15,000/pairbut at the Axpona show I found it easy to forget all of that and simply enjoy the speaker's musical prowess. Driven by Bryston amplifiers and fed by an Auraliti L1000 digital music player and MSB D/A processor, the Linkwitz loudspeakers disappeared into their own wide, deep, and mildly recessed (as opposed to in-your-face) soundfield. In addition to being spatially convincing, the Orion-4s sounded open, clear, and appropriately colorful: one of the finest demonstrations at the show.
Like many exhibitors at Axpona, Joseph Audio was playing files from a laptop for their dems. In this case, Jeff Joseph was using Pure Music on his MacBook Pro and feeding a short USB link to Bel Canto's LightLink converter (reviewed by Erick Lichte in the June issue), which in turn fed the audio data via a low-jitter ST optical link to the Bel Canto DAC3.5VB, which also acted as the system preamp. Power amplifiers were a pair of Bel Canto Ref.500 monoblocks and speakers were Joseph's own stand-mounted Pulsars ($7000/pair). The sound of Jeff's rip of Louis Armstrong's "St. James Infirmary," a long-term staple in Joseph dems, was visceral. (Another iPhone photoforgive the grainy quality, due to the lack of light.)
In Channel D's own room at Axpona, Rob Robinson demmed the latest version of his Pure Vinyl LP ripping program and Pure Music audio file player program for me. One of the new features of Pure Music v1.8 is the ability to play DSD files as well as hi-rez PCM, and to emphasize that fact, I photographed the display of Rob's Playback Designs MPD-3 D/A converter ($6500) to show that it was receiving DSD data via USB2.0.
Despite the small room, the musicDavid Elias's "Freedom on the Freeway"sounded excellent, with an analog-like ease to the presentation. The rest of the system comprised Joseph Pulsar speakers ($7000/pair) driven by a Hegel H20 amplifier. Blue Coast and 2L are already offering DSD files for download, and I understand that there are many live concerts available from tapes via bit torrent sites.
After Peter Lyngdorf left Tact, he went into partnership with the Steinway piano company to make a line of expensive speakers aimed not at audiophiles but at well-heeled music lovers. I was impressed by what I heard of the first of this line, which incorporates Lyngdorf's RoomPerfect acoustic correction, when I auditioned it in Manhattan a couple of years back, so I wasn't surprised when Steve Guttenberg button-holed me and told to go listen in the SteinwayLyngdorf room at Axpona.
The S-Series subwoofer-satellite system ($22,100) was producing a big sound with the tiny satellites stood on a credenza against the wall behind them. Incorporating RoomPerfect correction, the speakers also use digital signal processing to produce a flat response, which Peter Lyngdorf explained allowed him to optimize the drive-units for maximum sensitivity. The two small subwoofers were placed in the room corners, with a crossover frequency (depending on the room correction necessary) around 200Hz
Steinway-Lyngdorf's S-Series loudspeaker is tiny, at just 10.2" H by 7.8" W and 3.1" D. (My apologies for the grainy photo but the battery in my camera gave out and I had to resort to my iPhone 3GS for this shot.)
As with other Shows, the New York Axpona was an opportunity for music-lovers to sock up on audiophile recordings. The Affinia's Hotel's mezzanine floor was packed with vendors, from HDTracks and Chesky on the left in my photograph to MA on the right. (That's MA's Todd Garfinkle, whose prowess as a recording engineer has little equal, on the right at the back. The gentleman in the green shirt with his back to the camera is none other than audio writer Steve Guttenberg, who both contributes to Stereophile and has an entertaining audio blog on CNet.
Cardas Audio used Axpona NY to introduce their new Clear cable line, with loudspeaker cables ranging in price from $1200 to $6000 for an 8' pair, and interconnects ranging from $695 to $1200 for a 1m pair. The cables at the top of that rangecalled Clear Beyondwere put to good use in a system comprising the Unison Research CDE CD player ($4000) and S6 integrated amplifier ($5000). The latter, which uses parallel single-ended EL-34s, seemed to be a lot of amp for the moneyand sounded fine driving a pair of Opera Grand Callas loudspeakers ($10,000/pair).
The DP-77 D/A converter ($4995) from the English firm AMR that had impressed JA at the Atlanta Axpona in April made its New York debut at the Show, playing music files streamed from a German Purist NAS ($3000), with iPad-based controller software from the same firm. Amps were solid-state monoblocks from Absoluta (approximately $14,000/pair), and the loudspeakers were a fascinating design called the Ray ($6000/pair) from the Danish firm Davone, which are shown on the photo. The Ray is a two-way reflex-loaded speaker using coaxial driverit sounded amazingly well-balanced and musical in the smallish room. ASI room-tuning accessories were used throughout.
Axpona New York, held at Manhattan's Affinia Hotel opposite Madison Square Garden June 2425, was my daughter Julia's first audio Show. She and I followed the sound of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young singing "Déjà Vu"more real music!to the Empire Room, where Wharfedale Airedale loudspeakers were being driven by monoblock amps from a new company called Audio Power Labs. Each 833TNT amplifier uses a pair of 833 transmitter tubes, operated in push-pull and driven by a 6550 pentode. Inter-stage transformers take the place of coupling capacitors, and replacement tubes are said to be plentifuland reasonably cheap, at about $175 each. The 833TNT itself, which delivers 200W, costs a bit more than that, though: approximately $175,000/pair.