I moderated two "Ask the Editors" sessions at the NY Show, where reviewers and editors were put on the spot by probing questions from the audience. My thanks to (from left to right): Alan Sircom (HiFi+, not visible), Stephen Mejias (Stereophile), Jeff Dorgay (ToneAudio), Alan Taffel (The Absolute Sound), Michael Fremer (Stereophile and AnalogPlanet.com), Grant Clauser (Electronic House), and Art Dudley (Stereophile and Fretboard Journal) for their often frank and always informative answers.
Was how this Stereophile-sponsored event Saturday and Sunday afternoons was billed. Mikey demonstrated to a packed house how straightforward it is to optimize the performance of an LP player. Close-ups of his work on a VPI turntable fitted with a Soundsmith cartridge were projected on to a screen so all could see what he was doing and why.
I got to know Steve, head of VAS Audio over in New Jersey, after he picked up the Cayin SP-10a that Bob Reina reviewed in our April 2012 issue from the Stereophile Manhattan office. Steve invited me to the back of the VPI/VAS Audio Room to share a cocktail and a cookie where we discussed the hi-fi show business and our audiophile neighbors in Brooklyn and New Jersey. Steve's original home, in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, places him in close proximity to some Stereophile staff, past and present, and his co-exhibitor VPI, led by the Weisfeld family, lives next door to him in Jersey. Hi-fi, like cookies, is more fun when shared with neighbors.
With a sly smile and a little wink, Bill Leebens suggested that I check out Amber Rubarth’s Saturday afternoon set. “She’s stunning,” he said, or something like that. When Bill makes a suggestion, it’s a good idea to follow it, so there I was at 4pm, listening as Rubarth joked that she can only write when she’s sad, and then made us all smile as she sang about happiness and love.
There were no new Abbingdon Music Research products at this show, but distributor Darren Censullo was in attendance at the Audio Doctor suite, where he spoke with excitement about a forthcoming AMR product called the iDac: a USB-friendly converter scheduled to sell for just $350.
At the Audio Doctor in Jersey City, NJ, you’ll find stereo systems set up along just about every wall of the beautiful, old Victorian house. Apparently, the Audio Doctor’s Dave Lalin decided to bring a bit of home to the Waldorf=Astoria, setting up not one, not two, but three fine systems in one of his two large demo suites. Here we see one of those three systemsmy favorite, comprising KEF R900 loudspeakers ($5000/pair), and a trio of Abbingdon Music Research products: the DP-777 D/A processor, used as a preamp/DAC ($5000); AM-777 integrated amplifier, used as a power amp ($5000); and the CD-777 disc player, used as a transport. Contributing to the fine sound were Acoustic System International cables, footers, and resonators. Even standing off to the side of the room, the music was engaging and easy to enjoy. Sitting down in the sweet spot was a greater treat: Ella and Louis sounded divine, their voices rich in texture, tone, and feeling.
Ask the Editors, Round Two on day three of the New York Audio & AV show was decidedly more laid back than Ask the Editors, Round One possibly because there were less panelists clamoring over a single microphone. In fact, I’m not even sure if the microphone was used this time around, since everyone could hear each other clearly in the room.
The Scaena Spiritus 3.4 loudspeaker system ($110,000), which uses separate tubular subwoofer modules to reinforce its line-source arrays of midrange units and Raven ribbon tweeters, sounded better than I had heard them at previous shows. As well as the C-J ART amplifiers mentioned by Art Dudley above, the system comprised a Kronos turntable with its contra-rotating platters, fitted with an SME V-12 tonearm and a Dynavector XV1S cartridge, an AMR tube phono preamp, and a fully loaded dCS Scarlatti digital front-end.
The corner placement required by Audio Note speakers always raises my eyebrowsthere was even a mirror next to one of the speakers!but the sound of Ivan Moravec performing Brahms late piano works, the Op.118 Intermezzi, on a secondhand Turnabout LP, was extraordinarily engaging on the Audio Note AN-E Lexus Signature loudspeakers. This was the last room I visited Saturday night and I didn’t feel the need to visit any more rooms for more music.
"I Want to Take You Higherthe Present and Future of Digital Music Delivery and Playback" was the title of a workshop chaired by Michael Lavorgna (right), editor of Stereophile's sister site AudioStream.com. Michael's panel included (from left to right), Andreas Koch (Playback Designs), Larry Ho (Light Harmonic), Rob Robinson (Channel D/Pure Vinyl/Pure Music), and David Chesky (HDTracks). The hour-long session dispelled much of the technofear surrounding the subject of how to turn a PC or Mac into a true high-end music source.
German amplifier specialists AVM have been in business since 1986, but until now have served only the European market. The company's new owner, Udo Besser, who was with Burmester for many years, has decided to broaden their target and is now exporting their high-end electronics line to the US. Of the products on display at the New York Audio and AV show, I was especially intrigued by the AVM C8: an all-in one package that combines a 150Wpc stereo integrated amp with a phono stage, FM tuner, USB and SPDIF D/A converter, and a (hermetically sealed!) CD drive. The styling is elegant and spare, and the projected price is $4200.
Driving the distinctive Scaena "iso-linear array" loudspeakers in the Audio Doctor suite was a pair of Conrad-Johnson's limited-edition ART amplifiers ($37,000/pair): one of 125 pairs in existence. These ARTs used KT-120 output tubes (the amps are rated at 275Wpc when run with 6550 pentodes) and were operated without their strikingly pretty tube cages.