Robert Lighton, a noted furniture designer, also runs an appointment-only shop in Manhattan where he sells the products of Audio Note UK, along with the Audio Note-inspired RL-10 loudspeaker ($25,000/pair) that he designed himself. Perhaps more important, as Ariel Bitran has pointed out, Robert Lighton plays good music. Great music. LPs I heard at his NYAS room included Isaac Hayes' Live at the Sahara Tahoe, Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley, and the Shirley Horn Trio's Travelin' Light. I need them all! Thank you, Robert, for playing what I considered the best music of NYAS 2013.
A second, smaller Innovative Audio room held a system made of Wilson Audio’s Sasha W/P loudspeakers ($27,900/pair); Lamm M1.2 Reference hybrid monoblocks ($24, 190/pair); VTL TL-7.5 Series III Reference preamplifier ($20,000) and TP-6.5 Signature phono preamp ($10,500 with moving-coil step-up transformer); Spiral Groove SG2 turntable ($21,000, with Centroid tonearm) and Lyra Kleos MC cartridge ($3000); Transparent cables, power conditioning, and AC cords; and Finite Element Pagode racks and supports.
A lot of people talk about reaching out to a wider and more diverse audience, bringing young people and (gasp!) even women into the high-fidelity conversation, but the people behind Salon Son et Image are actually doing something about it.
At last year's NYAS, the Audio Note room had been a musical joy and learning experience. After a brief hello to music lover, photographer, and Audio Note exhibitor David Cope, we got straight to business with music listening. First on the Audio Note TT Two Deluxe turntable ($3500) was Las Guitarras De Sergio y Eduardo Abreu, where the brothers perform the music of Bach, Scarlatti, Albeniz, and more. Having played this record at least fifteen times in the past four weeks, I noticed immediately that the soundstage was imbalanced. Both guitars were too far to the left, but I refrained from comment.
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.
At the room sponsored by New Jersey dealer CARE Audio, the Allnic T2000 integrated amplifier ($8900), whose tube cages suggest a horizon not unlike that of the Manhattan skyline, drove a pair of MAD Baron loudspeakers ($13,000/pair), itself fed by a Calyx FEMTO D/A converter ($6850) and a Musica Pristina A Cappella server ($6500).
In an effort to control crowds, build anticipation, and give each listener a comfortable chance at the MBL experience, MBL and partnering dealer Sensorium AV provided twenty tickets to each of their hourly shows. MBL upped the ante this year with a multi-channel demonstration.
There was certainly a lot of hype surrounding the room: the long lines waiting to get in the demo, the even longer lines waiting for tickets, and the crushing riffs of Rush’s “YYZ” emanating out into the hallway. Attendees strolled out of the room giggling and carrying gift bags. While all the other rooms at this hi-fi show were the same walk-in, knock on the speakers, and walk-out ordeal, MBL and Sensorium AV wanted to make this an experience to remember.
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.
Coincident Speaker Technology and NYC dealer Audio Loft demonstrated a system made of Coincident’s Pure Reference Extreme loudspeakers ($26,800/pair) driven by Coincident’s 75W Dragon 211PP monoblocks ($10,999/pair), Statement Line Stage ($5499), and Statement Phono ($5999). Source was a VPI Classic 4 ($8000) with a beautiful rosewood base and HR-X 12.7 tonearm mounted with a Dynavector DRT XV-1t cartridge. Cables were Coincident’s own, and the gear was supported by a Steve Blinn Designs Monarch equipment rack.
As a long-term owner of Audio Note AN-E/SPe HE loudspeakers ($9300/pair), I was unsurprisingly pleased to see and hear that model being used at the New York show, where both analog and digital sources drove an M3 Phono preamp ($10,750) and the lovely single-ended 211 Tomei Kinsei amplifier ($58,000), with all Audio Note cabling. While I was there, Audio Note's Dave Cope turned me on to the debut LP, Is Your Love Big Enough?, by the English singer and (very gifted) guitarist Lianne La Havas: a varied and colorful album that also happened to exploit the system's exceptional sense of touch. (Also in typical AN fashion, I found that the same superb musical qualities were evident regardless of where in the room I chose to sit.)
After listening to multi-thousand buck systems in nearly every room during the NYAS, the Audioengine room was a friendly reminder that great sound can be had without spending huge sums of money. In my first time hearing the powered Audioengine A2s ($199/pair), I fell for their appreciative sense of space and tone-full textures. Whether it was Andrea Bocelli or No Doubt, the Audioengines pumped the music with power and yet treated it with respect.
Wow. In the NYAS's always-busy Headzone area, I was extremely impressed by the sound of an AIFF file of Paul Simon’s “Diamonds On the Soles of Her Shoes” played from a MacBook, sent through Meridian’s pretty little Explorer USB DAC ($299), and then to Bowers & Wilkins’ handsome and comfortable P5 headphones ($299). Sponsored by Innovative Audio, this is the kind of sweet, functional, real-world system that is guaranteed to attract more people to the world of high-fidelity sound.
At NYAS 2013, I was more impressed with the French Waterfall loudspeakers than at previous shows. Their Victoria Evo model ($7000 per pair) sounded clear and articulate in the second of two Audio Doctor rooms, demonstrated with an Auralic Vega D/A converter ($3495), Manley 300B preamplifier ($5795), and Aragon 8008 amplifier ($4400); judging from the smiles all around, Dave Lalin of Audio Doctor and Nadine Chaix Dewell and Cedric Aubriot of Waterfall would agree.
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.