After too long an absence, Harry Weisfeld brought VPI turntables and tonearms to a show in New York, alongside his son and business-partner-to-be Matthew Weisfeld. Here we see Harry with the stunning VPI Classic 4, sized for outsized or even multiple tonearms ($10,000).
After years of exchanging e-mails with Music First’s Harry O’Sullivan, seen here holding his Baby Reference Preamp ($7900), it was a pleasure to finally meet him. My instincts were right: Harry is a cool dude. We chatted about music, gear, New York City, and, of course, beer. As Ariel mentioned, at refreshingly low volumes, the sound in this room was particularly relaxed and inviting, marked by good rhythmic snap and lovely detail and tone. It’s shocking how big a soundstage can be thrown by the little Rogers LS3/5A loudspeakers! We listened to Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side,” which seemed somewhat appropriate, as this was Harry’s first time visiting Manhattan.
Also on hand in the Ultra Systems/Cable Company room was the HiFiMan EF6 ($1599), seen here atop an Oppo BDP-83 modified by Exemplar Audio ($2500). We first saw the EF6 at CES. The 5W, solid-state, class-A design is HiFiMan's answer to the most difficult-to-drive headphones. The Exemplar Audio-modded Oppo has a new linear power supply, upgraded op-amps, and high-quality polypropylene capacitors.
High Water Sound, the New York City-based retailer and distributor, created one of my favorite demonstrations at the show, as much for proprietor Jeffrey Catalano's choice of musicGabor Szabo's instrumental version of Donovan's "Three King Fishers" was playing when I came inas for the exotic and unassailably musical system on display: TW Acustic Raven Black Night turntable ($40,000) and 10.5 tonearm ($5500), Tron Seven GT line-level preamp and phono preamp ($18,000 each), Tron Telstar 211 SET amplifier ($40,000), and the striking Affascinate loudspeaker ($62,000) from Cessaro Horn Acoustics, the latter using an 11" woofer in a back-loaded horn, a proprietary compression driver for the spherical midrange horn, and a modified horn-loaded TAD beryllium tweeter. The sound was tactile, impactful, and thoroughly involving on every recording I heard.
The open and relaxed feel of the orchestral music immediately impressed me upon entry to the Wes Bender Studio room. One showgoer played his demo track of Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Richard Strauss, and immediately again, I was overwhelmed by the size these speakers could create yet how relaxed the remained. Music flowed from their pores (and drivers).
The combination of Wilson Audio loudspeakers, VTL amplifiers, and Peter McGrath's digital recordingsand setup skillshas provided some of the finest music I've heard at literally every show I've attended in the past several years, and this show was no exception. The Wilson Sasha W/Ps ($27,900/pair) were installed along the long wall of one of Innovative's two rooms at the Waldorf=Astoria, and were driven by the VTL MB450 Series III amplifiers ($18,000/pair) and VTL 7.5 Series III preamp ($20,000), all hooked up with Transparent cables. The sound was colorful, dynamic, and tactilestring bounce was especially fineon all selections played, especially a high-resolution excerpt from Carmen that McGrath recorded in Miami not long ago, converted to analog with a dCS Puccini DAC ($18,000).
In the LessLoss Audio room, a gorgeous couple of Kaiser Vivace loudspeakers painted in a Lamborghini Orange finish ($42,500 in painted semi-gloss, add $2500 for the Lambo paint job) paired with electronics from Beyond Frontiers Audio, including their Tulip Tube DAC converter, which runs in a dual mono state with 2 Burr Brown chips, and the Tulip Stereo Integrated amplifier. Tulip, in the designer’s former country of Yugoslavia, is a friendly name for a “good old guy”. Cabling and “ambient field conditioning” in this room were provided by LessLoss, who offered their Anchorwave cables and Blackbody ambient field conditioner. The Blackbody claims to “enhance audio playback quality by modifying the interaction of your gear’s circuitry with the ambient electromagnetic field.”
The larger of the two Audio Doctor rooms at the Waldorf=Astoria featured KEF's Blade speaker driven by Chord monoblocks and a Chord Red Reference digital player. This was my first chance to hear the English manufacturer's $30,000/pair speaker, which has been featured at dealer events the past few months. I was not disappointed: the sound of the Reference Recordings Scheherazade had focus and stability, coupled with an even full-range balance. (Could the array of Shakti Hallograph "candelabra" be responsible for what I heard? Nah!)
In a previous post, I talk about the cliché track selections one experiences at a hi-fi show (see “Hotel California”), so I was happy to hear one of my favorite groups, Rodrigo y Gabriela, in the Red Wine Audio Room. Their cover of Metallica’s “Orion” sounded crisp yet subtly refined and represented the true tonality of an acoustic guitar. Playback through Red Wine Audio amplification and Kudos C20 loudspeakers created a wide soundstage.
The phono-transformer speciality company Bob's Devices (see "Listening" columns passim) was also represented by Ultra Systems. Of the three models seen here, one had already been treated with the above-mentioned WA Quantum Chips.
I had visited the Legacy room at the NY Show hoping to hear the Whisper XD, which had been one of my best sounds at the 2010 Axpona Show. Though I have auditioned this speaker at other shows since then, they had never been set up in rooms that did them justice. However, when I visited the Legacy room, the relatively affordable Focus SE speakers ($8750$9250/pair, depending on finish), set up at the other end of the room from the Whispers, were playing. Driven by Ayon tube amplification, this speaker, which combines a 1" Kapton ribbon tweeter with a 3" Kapton-ribbon midrange unit, two Rohacell-reinforced graphite-cone woofers, and two 12" aluminum-cone subwoofers sounded pleasant enough, but the listening conditions were not sufficiently ideal for me to make a more confident judgment of the speaker's quality.
On Day 1 of the New York Audio & AV show, I let the exhibitors play their demo tracks in hopes to hear some cool, new music, but I just ended up hearing Stevie Ray Vaughan, Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries or ZZ Top’s “La Grange” over and over and over again, so on Day 2, I brought my own records.
My first attempt to enter the room at the NY Audio & AV Show where Liberty Trading was selling vinyl and CDs proved fruitless: There were simply too many people lined up to buy records (which included a number of recent Mobile Fidelity LP titles). Nabil Akhrass, seen here behind the counter, would surely question my use of the words too many.
Furniture designer Robert Lighton used the New York Audio and AV show to debut his first audio product, the RL10 loudspeaker ($20,000/pair), offering a solid wood enclosure (even the rear-firing reflex port is turned from solid wood), 1” fabric-dome tweeter, 10” paper-cone woofer, and a sensitivity rating of 95dB. Selections from Lighton’s impressive collection of jazz LPsone Roland Kirk number in particularsounded tactile and convincing through his speakers and an 8Wpc Audio Note Meishu Silver Signature integrated amp with phono section ($18,850), Audio Note AN S8 phono transformer ($10,800), and Audio Note TT3.5 Reference three-motor turntable ($39,600), the latter using a Sogon-wired Audio Note tonearm ($13,156) and Yamamoto Y-03s cartridge ($1200).