Each morning, before heading to the Palace Hotel, I’d stop at the Stereophile office to check on the state of our current issue and answer any important email. On Friday morning, I noticed an email whose subject line was made of a single intriguing word: cancelled.
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.
In one of two rooms sponsored by New Jersey dealer Audio Doctor, Jay Rein of distributor Bluebird Music demonstrated an impressive system comprising KEF Blade loudspeakers ($30,000/pair), Chord SPM 14000 Mk.II mono amplifiers ($86,000/pair), the Chord CPA 8000 Reference preamp ($45,000), a Manley Steelhead phono preamp ($8000), and the Kronos turntable (starting at $32,000)a combination on which Neil Young’s Comes a Time album sounded so good, I can scarcely wait to hear it again when I get home. While there I also enjoyed some music filesappropriately, my friend Michael Lavorgna of Audiostream.com had the seat next to minecourtesy of the Chord DSX-1000 ($13,000), a music streamer that incorporates the same company’s well-received QBD 76 D/A converter.
Beauty of Sound also imports and distributes Ikeda tonearms and phono cartridges, used at the show in tandem with a Triangle Art Signature turntable ($12,500). Seen here are the Ikeda IT-407 arm ($6500) and Kai cartridge ($7500); I have in hand a review sample of the former, and will report on it soon. Also in the Beauty of Sound system but not seen here were the Tube Guru all-tube Reference Phono preamplifier ($5400) and Rick Schultz’s High Fidelity cables, which, I’m told, use a patented magnetic signal-transfer technology. Sadly, the aforementioned Leonardo loudspeakers, which sounded great, proved too glossy and black for my camera.
Suggesting that a $10,000 amplifier might represent decent value for the money is, when done within earshot of the most aggressive audiophiles, not unlike dropping the soap in the prison shower; nevertheless, the snappily named 6C33C SE amp from the Budapest firm Tube Guru, the price of which breaks the five-figure barrier by one penny, impressed me as a good buy for what it is. And what it is is a handmade all-tube stereo power amp that gets 14Wpc from its nominal indirectly heated power triodes. The 6C33C SE, which is imported by Beauty of Sound, sounded shockingly good driving the planar-plus-ribbon Model 8 loudspeakers ($65,000 per pair) from Leonardo Audio, the latter imported by Laufer Teknik.
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.
Colleen “Cosmo” Murphy, the record-store clerk-turned-internationally known DJ-turned-analog impresario, has set out to change the way we listen, one roomful at a time; based on my experiences at NYAS 2013, she is bound to succeed. I had heard that Ms. Murphy is as sound- and music-savvy as she is lovely, and I can only say those observations don’t do her justice. “Today, music is treated almost as aural wallpaper, as a cheap commodity,” Murphy bemoaned in her opening remarks before spinning the Japanese vinyl version of David Bowie’s Hunky Dory on a truly grand system, including a Spiral Groove SG1.1 turntable with Centroid tonearm and a Lyra Atlas cartridge; a VTL TP 6.5 phono preamp (with integral step-up transformer); VTL’s TL 7.5 line-level preamp and Siegfried monoblock amps; Wilson Audio MAXX 3 loudspeakers and Opus series cabling from Transparent. (When I visited the Classic Album Sundays room, early on the show’s first day, exact pricing details weren’t yet available; suffice it to say, everything was rather expensive.)
Colleen Murphy, whose first serious system was built around a pair of Klipschorns, prefers vinyl to all other formatsnot just for the superior sound, but for other, less tangible qualities. “It’s almost a ritual,” she said at NYAS 2013. “The inconvenience is one of the things that makes us give ourselves over to it.”
Among the finest aspects of the site selected for the Chester Group’s New York Audio Show was the view from the New York Palace hotel. As you can see from this glimpse through the window at the exhibit of Well Rounded Sound (to whom I’ll return shortly), one side of the Palace looks out on the neo-gothic Cathedral of St. Patrick, dwarfed by other architectural marvels in this concrete canyon: serious sights for serious listening.
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.