Renowned journalist (and owner of originally Wilson speakers and now Audio Note speakers) Carl Bernstein (left) and reviewer/set-up specialist Michael Trei, seen browsing the 18th floor during the show's first evening.
Audio Shows give industry professionals the chance to check out products they have read about in magazines. Here, Wilson's Peter McGrath (right) talks to Bricasti's Brian Zolner (The "Bri" in Bricasti) about the latter's M1 D/A processor that so impressed me in the February issue. Feeding data to the M1 was Rega's super- sexy Apollo CD player, which Sam Tellig will be reviewing in the July issue of Stereophile.
The Sony SS-AR2 loudspeakers, described here by JA, were one of my many favorites at the show. Their soundstage extended deep, all the way to 42nd street, and they performed with warmth and polite resolution of high-end frequencies. Some said it was too mellow, but to me it sounded just right. Pictured above are Jonathan Lin and Carlos Giraldo from Sony posing with the SS-AR1 enclosure, reviewed in Stereophile last July.
The relaxed and crystal-clear sound of the Legacy Whisper XDs tempted my entire CD collection, but I knew what I really wanted to hear: Phish’s Lawn Boy. Both Page McConnel’s and Trey Anastasio’s nuanced phrasing and John Fishman’s tasteful drumming would shimmer in the clean layout projected by these speakers. Legacy’s Bill Duddleston put on my CD. An audiophile in front of me turns around...
Sony Electronics launched their new SS-AR2 loudspeaker ($20,000/pair), seen here with the X600.5 mono amplifiers from Pass Labs. The SS-AR2 is a three-way, four-driver floorstander that’s crafted from select Japanese maple laminate (the front baffle) and Finnish birch plywood (the remainder of the cabinet). Twin aluminum-cone woofers are said to extend bass response down to 42Hz.
Sony’s Motoyuki (Yuki) Sugiura adjusts the volume on the Pass Labs preamp. Although the room was a bit too big for the SS-AR2s, the top-octave balance of the 1" soft-dome tweeter being optimized for a smaller acoustic space, these $20,000/pair speakers, derived from the SS-AR1 that so impressed Kalman Rubinson last July, produced one of the best sounds I heard at the 2012 NY Show. Despite the mellow balance, there was a wealth of recorded detail to be heard, with a huge, stable soundstage. Commendably for a speaker with a modest footprint, the sound didn't appreciably harden at high levels. I will be reviewing the SS-AR2 in the November issue of Stereophile.
Andy Singer, the retailer whose name and likeness have come to epitomize the high-end audio scene in New York City, brought two complete systems to the New York Audio Show, the more ambitious of which was built around the Verity Amadis loudspeaker ($30,000/pair). This three-way design uses a separate enclosure for its reflex-loaded woofer, which is then separated from the midrange/high frequency enclosure by means of a specially damped aluminum platform. Fed by a Playback Designs MPS-5 D/A converter with CD/SACD drive ($17,000) and driven by the VAC Statement Mk.IIA preamp ($19,000 including phono section) and VAC Statement 450S stereo amp ($39,000), and with Nordost cabling throughout, the Verity Amadis sounded open, clear, and nicely textured.
The Soundsmith room featured a hot and clean vinyl sound as played back with the Hyperion cartridge ($7500), which uses a cactus spine cantilever, routed to their affordable MCP2 phono preamp ($699), reviewed by Michael Fremer in our October 2011 issue and March 2012 issue. Pricing on the Hyperion includes a 10 year warranty and re-tipping. Playback came out of Soundsmith’s potent Dragonfly speakers ($2,000). While I certainly heard enough Stevie Ray Vaughan at this audio show to make me wish I had crashed that helicopter myself, the blues master’s slides exhibited a natural attack and decay that brought the man and his dirty Stratocaster to that very room in the Waldorf, a more than welcome revival.
Robin Wyatt of Robyatt Audio did something that hadn't been done at a major audio show in decades: He demonstrated with a pair of Quad ESL loudspeakerscreating, in the process, the sort of sound that led my weak and easily led brain to conclude that I was hearing the best sound of the show within my first hour of attendance. The ESLs, which had been restored by Quad expert Wayne Picquet (also in "Listening" columns passim), were driven by a pair of Miyajima OTL 2010 amplifiers ($10,000 each), which provide 22Wpc when used as monoblocks with their defeatable feedback circuits enabled. Wiring was by Tel Wire. The preamp was a one-off custom unit by fellow upstate New Yorker Charles King, and the sound, apart from the fact that the Quads made a little too much bass (!) for the squarish room, was glorious.
At 10am on Saturday morning, my first stop was to visit Gideon Schwartz in the AudioArts room. Gideon and I had met the night before and shared hearty handshakes while basking in our Semitic auras. Schwartz welcomed listeners to come spin vinyl in his room, as indicated by his pre-show email, “Please bring your own LP's and it would be my pleasure to play them for you.” And that I did.
I had seen and heard a prototype of the Light Harmonic's Da Vinci DAC at the 2011 Axpona Show, but the 2012 NY Show saw the debut of the production version of this unique $20,000 DAC, which handle data with sample rates up to 384kHz over an asynchronous USB 2.0 link. Demmed in a system comprising Wilson Sasha W/P speakers, driven by a Pass Labs X100.5 amplifier and XP20 preamp, with all-MIT cabling, wit data sourced from an iPad-controlled Mac mini, the Da Vinci produced a sound that thrilled. A 384k-sampled recording of voice and acoustic guitar by Cookie Marenco sounded palpably real. I am planning on reviewing the Da Vinci in the late fall.
Bill Leebens, who serves as Vice President of the Chester Groupthe organization that produced the New York Audio and AV Showdid a hell of a job getting this thing off the ground, alongside the Chester Group’s Roy Bird, Justin Bird, and Scott Humphrey, not to mention the enduringly beloved publicist Lucette Nicoll and T.H.E. Show's Richard Beers. Leebens, seen here in one of the Waldorf's intimate little rooms, is an audio industry stalwart whom I’ve known for years yet never actually met!
Manhattan retailer Innovative Audio had two rooms at the Show, one active, featuring Wilson Sasha speakers driven by VTL amplification and a dCS digital front-end, the other passive, featuring displays of equipment from companies handled by Innovative, like Dynaudio, Meridian, and, as can be seen in the photo, Dan D'Agostino. Dan, resting his elbow on a Wilson Duette speaker, which will be reviewed in our June issue, took showgoers through the design of his jewel-like Momentum monoblock power amplifier ($50,000/pair), as well as the new stereo amplifier derived from it and the Dan D'Agostino preamplifier, to be launched at next month's Munich Show. One of the joys of high-end audio shows is the accessibility audiophiles can enjoy to superstar engineers like Dan.
In the Audio Note UK room, managing director Peter Qvortrup demonstrated the company’s new Jinro Shochu power amplifier ($32,250). This is essentially a Jinro integrated amp (see Stereophile’s April 2011 issue) without the volume control and with a single pair of true balanced inputs. During my visit the combination of Jinro Shochu and Audio Note AN-E Lexus Signature loudspeakers ($19,000/pair) sounded natural, engaging, and just plain musical on selections by those two great exponents of British music, Vaughan Williams and Led Zeppelin.
The YG Anat III Professional Signature speakers ($119,000/pair) in the GTT room had an attractive titanium finish. I thought a 45rpm test pressing of the Doors' "Riders on the Storm" sounding astonishing, especially John Densmore's drums, which, although recorded in mono in the right channel, had a combination of weight, realistic highs, and authority that I hadn't heard before from this over-familiar track.