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.
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!
I will state up-front that the Audio Note AN-E Lexus loudspeakers ($19,000/pair) and accompanying Audio Note gear was not my favorite system at the show. I did not have a favorite, as I particularly enjoyed the sound of many systems including the Sony room, the Innovative Audio room, and the High Water Sound room. Yet, I easily spent the most time at Audio Note. Why?
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.
Friday night at the NY Audio & AV Show, Stereophile sponsored a concert featuring Attention Screen, the jazz quartet led by reviewer Bob Reina (right). In the four improvisations lasting almost an hour, covering musical genres that ranged from the blues through space music to salsa, Bob had a blast playing a rather nice Steinway piano. Drummer Mark Flynn provided some of the most intelligent percussion I have heard, playing in lock step with bassist Chris Jones, yet taking risks that propelled the music forward, outward, and upward. The Steinway was provided by Peter Becker, of NYC dealer Klavierhaus. It was brought in specifically for the show and sponsored by the ever-generous Robin Wyatt of Robyatt Audio, who also sponsored the Elio Villafranca concert.
A Legacy Audio Whisper XD loudspeaker ($20,500$22,500/pair, depending on finish) stands next to a life-size picture of a Legacy Audio Whisper XD loudspeaker. One of these has eight drivers, dual 500-watt ICE subwoofer amplifiers, and a 24-bit room-correction processor. The other does not.
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.
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).
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).
Some of the nicest analog playback I heard at the show came courtesy of GTT Audio, in whose suite the reliably well-dressed Philip O'Hanlon spun vinyl on a Brinkmann Balance turntable ($24,000, closest to camera) with Brinkmann 12.1 tonearm ($7500) and an Air Tight PC1 Supreme cartridge ($15,000). Of special delight were selections from Ray LaMontagne's God Willin' & the Creek Don't Rise and advance pressings from the forthcoming LP reissue series, by Analogue Productions, of the Doors catalog. The rest of the system featured YG's Anat III Professional Signature speakers ($119,000/pair) driven by Soulution 501 monoblocks ($55,000/pair), a Soulution 750 phono stage ($25,000), Soulution 720 preamp ($45,000), all wired with Kubala-Sosna Elation cables.
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.
While Art Dudley was photographing the new VPI Classic 4 turntable, Stereophile illustrator Jeff Wong (right) cornered Michael Fremer and asked him to autograph Michael's mid-1970s stand-up comedy album, I Can Take a Joke.
The Scaena Spiritus 3.4 loudspeaker system ($110,000), which uses separate tubular subwoofer modules to reinforce its line-source arrays of midrange units and Raven ribbon tweeters, sounded better than I had heard them at previous shows. As well as the C-J ART amplifiers mentioned by Art Dudley above, the system comprised a Kronos turntable with its contra-rotating platters, fitted with an SME V-12 tonearm and a Dynavector XV1S cartridge, an AMR tube phono preamp, and a fully loaded dCS Scarlatti digital front-end.