Audioengine’s new A5+ ($399/pair in gloss black and white; add $70/pair for bamboo) adds a remote control, RCA and mini-jack inputs, a rear-panel USB charge port, rear-panel heatsink, upgraded speaker binding posts, and a variable preamp audio output. In addition, the A5’s large circular ports have been replaced by narrow slotted ports, said to provide a smoother, cleaner low end. (Who doesn't want that?)
Wes Bender’s been in the hi-fi business for a long time and he’s finally decided to open up his own shop. Wes Bender Studio NYC is perhaps the newest audio salon in New York. I say “perhaps” because new hi-fi dealers seem to be popping up like mad around here. I can't keep up. This is a good thing. The more good places we have to listen, the better chance we have of growing.
I hope this doesn’t gross you out or make you cancel your subscription or anything, but SEXY (in all caps) is the first word that came to my mind when I walked into the room hosted by Tone Imports, DeVore Fidelity, Well Tempered Labs, and the Box Furniture Co.
There was a lot of pretty stuff to look at and listen to in here.
Audioarts also presented a system comprising BMC amplification (supported by a SolidSteel stand) and Zellaton loudspeakers ($24,950/pair). Every Zellaton driver is completely handmade and takes up to three weeks to produce. The speaker cabinet uses a semi-open construction meant to minimize cabinet resonances.
Tempo Distribution's John Quick was putting an LP on the Basis 2200 turntable (fitted with the Basis Vector 4 tonearm and My Sonic Labs Eminence EX cartridge)when I went into his room. He was showing off Musical Fidelity's new M1 VINL (no "Y") phono preamp ($1199), which has the same form factor as the M1 DAC and a front-panel display to show which of 10 resistive loadings (MC) or capacitive loadings (MM) has been selected. The sound of vinyl in this room, with the Musical Fidelity M6 500i 500Wpc integrated amp ($7000) driving Verity Leonore floorstanding speakers ($16,000/pair), was clean, clear and full-range.
But what I enjoyed most in this room was a live 24/48 recording of Tori Amos singing and playing piano at the Montreux Jazz Festival,played from John's laptop running Amarra and sending USB data to the dCS U-Clock interface for the Puccini player used as a DAC. Ms. Amos sounded vividly real.
One of Colorado dealer Listen-Up's rooms at RMAF featured Musical Fidelity gear, including the M1 CLiC network player ($1999) that Jon Iverson will soon be reviewing for Stereophile. But what caught my attention in this room was the cute Penaudio Cenya speaker ($3995/pair), a two-way stand-mount that uses premium SEAS drive-units. We have been impressed by Penaudio speakers in the past, so it was good to hear that Tempo Distribution will now be importing these Scandinavian speakers, which use a unique cabinet construction combining MDF and plywood, in the US. The sound of John Lee Hooker dueting with Van Morison was surprisingly full-bodied considering the diminutive size of the speakers.
The sound of the Harbeth Compact 7 speakers, driven by an LFD integrated amplifier via TellurideQ cables was as musically communicative as I was expecting. But then I saw the triangular Stein Magic Diamond sitting on top of the speaker cabinet and knew I was in the presence of serious audio strangeness. Sam Tellig wrote about the Stein devices in his September 2011 issue column: "The Harmonizers, Magic Stones, and Magic Diamonds helped make the room boundaries disappear and the venue of each recording matter more. It was as if sound flowed more freely through the air."
But the sound in this room did have some special magic to it.
Doshi Audio was new to me, but the sound the Doshi Jhor 90W monoblock amp ($18,995/pair) was getting from Wilson Sasha W/P speakers withshudderan MP3 of Porcupine Tree was impressive. I was relieved, however, when a Milt Jackson LP, featuring Ray Brown playing a bowed solo version of Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight," went on the SME 20/3 turntable fitted with a Koetsu Onyx cartridge and SME Series V tonearm. The rest of the system included Doshi's own Alaap v2.1 full-function preamplifier ($14,995), a Wadia S7i CD player and 171i iPod Dock, with Transparent Audio cables used throughout.
And the names? "Jhor" and "Alaap," Nick Doshi explained to me, are two of three parts of the Indian raga musical form.
Dynaudio’s Mike Mannousselis always brings a ton of awesome music to hi-fi shows, and this time he played a track called “Suzanne” by Asobi Seksu, a band I once booked to play at Uncle Joe’s, a small but dearly loved dive bar in downtown Jersey City.
Their politically incorrect poster may have raised some hackles, but it has to be admitted that Odyssey was making some great sounds in their room at RMAF. Klaus Bunge was showing off the Kismet Reference Monitor standmounts ($2500/pair including stands), which use a Scanspeak beryllium-dome tweeter, driving the speakers with the two-chassis Odyssey Reference Line amplifier ($3500), which combines a tubed input stage with solid-state output. I listened to that old audiophile classic, Radka Toneef singing Jim Webb's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress," and the tangibility and solidity of the imaging was to be marveled at, given that wide-baffle speakers tend not to throw a stable, well-defined soundstage.
I know audiophiles are not supposed to like Diana Krall. But the singer/pianist has true jazz instincts. Her version of Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You," played back an open-reel tape on a Right Sound-modified Studer A80, with the Usher Dancer Mini 2 speakers ($4999/pair) driven by Usher amps and connected with JPS Aluminata cables was gripping. Undoubtedly contributing to the quality of the sound was the fact that, like many exhibitors, Usher had made a serious attempt to modify the acoustics of their room at RMAF with acoustic treatments.