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).
Before playing “La Villa Strangiato” from side 2 of the Rush LP Hemispheres, On a Higher Note’s Philip O’Hanlon advised me to go get my record cleaned by the Audio Deske Vinyl Cleaner. I told him, “I just did!”
Seconds after playing my There Comes a Time record by Neil Young in the Robyatt Audio room, Charlie King said I should get it cleaned at the Audio Deske cleaner. I told him, “I just did!”
First of all, just how filthy are my records?
Second, this same experience happened to me at least five different times during the New York hifi show. Maybe it is because my records actually are filthy, or maybe it is because that Audio Deske Vinyl Cleaner ($3895), really just is that awesome and easy to use that everyone had to sell it to me.
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 "Beyond Frontiers" refers to the fact that the company's designer was responsible for some of the well-respected Sonic Frontiers products from a decade ago. This is the Beyond Frontiers tubed balanced D/A processor, which was being used as the source in the LessLoss room.
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!)
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.
As well as providing the sound for the seminar room, which was where a recorded music concert, titled "Euphoria at the Waldorf," was presented Friday and Saturday evenings, The Tweak Studio's exhibit room also featured components from the premium German manufacturer Burmester: a pair of 380 Mk.2 speakers driven by a 911 power amplifier and an 088 preamp. Source was a Walker turntable and arm fitted with a Soundsmith Sussuro Hyperion cartridge. There was much to admire in this system's reproduction of Louis Armstrong singing "St. James Infirmary," but as was the case with so many of the rooms at the Waldorf, the presentation was marred by over-ripe room acoustics.
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.
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.
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 dipolar Gradient speakers from Finland being demmed in the SimpliFi suite had an advantage over conventional speakers at the NY Show, in that they better coped with the Waldorf=Astoria's often-problematic room acoustics. Partnered with Bladelius electronics and DNM cabling, the Revolution speakers (right) were paired with the matching Radiant subwoofer (center), which features two 12" drivers to produce uncolored, full-range low frequencies. Stephen Mejias was sufficiently impressed to look up from his notebook. The white speaker is Gradient's Helsinki 1.5, which Art Dudley reviewed in August 2010
From an email’s distance, Jeff Catalano and his dealership High Water Sound seemed an enigmatic business in my mind, selling esoteric hi-fi from a downtown NYC loft. So, I was a little intimidated to visit his room, but to my surprise, Catalano is as non-elusive as you can get, beaming with joy about hi-fi and music and even wearing a Triumph shirt(!), the true sign of an everyman. He tells me he is committed to selling gear that brings the most emotion out the music.