Rear shot of the Burmester 909 stereo amplifier ($73,495).
Last year, Burmester relegated their loudspeakers and amplifiers to the grand ballroom of the Waldorf=Astoria, which made their gear easy to see but less accessible to listen to in a concentrated setting. At the New York Palace, Rutherford Audio, the North American distributor for Burmester, hosted their own listening room on the fourth floor with a diverse range of music ranging from Verdi to Infected Mushroom.
Innovative Audio Video Showrooms, a New York City hi-fi gallery hosted two rooms this year: one room with an ultimate-truth to recording digital playback system and the ultra-smooth analog room.
Scott Haggart, a passionate Innovative employee and expert hi-fi demo deliverer was in the midst of a presentation upon my arrival. Haggart treats his work with serious care, and as anyone who has experienced one of his demos can attest to, he guides the listeners patiently through the exact gear that they are listening to and details about the music, a skill not many exhibitors at this hi-fi show demonstrated.
Simplifi Audio room would be a priority on my first day since I missed them entirely last year where they apparently kicked much booty. Hosted by the amicable duo of Daniel Weiss of Weiss Audio and Tim Ryan of Simplifi Audio, a San Diego-based distributor, their large room was devoted to three different systems that were demoed throughout the weekend. The one I heard and pictured above is the Klangwerk Ella 2-way active speaker system ($7,495) fed by the Weiss DAC202 ($6966) and Weiss MAN301 Network Player ($9083; $12,262 with internal DAC), and Integrita Audiophile Music Server (approximately $6000).
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.
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.
Colleen Murphy, whose first serious system was built around a pair of Klipschorns, prefers vinyl to all other formatsnot just for the superior sound, but for other, less tangible qualities. “It’s almost a ritual,” she said at NYAS 2013. “The inconvenience is one of the things that makes us give ourselves over to it.”
Colleen “Cosmo” Murphy, the record-store clerk-turned-internationally known DJ-turned-analog impresario, has set out to change the way we listen, one roomful at a time; based on my experiences at NYAS 2013, she is bound to succeed. I had heard that Ms. Murphy is as sound- and music-savvy as she is lovely, and I can only say those observations don’t do her justice. “Today, music is treated almost as aural wallpaper, as a cheap commodity,” Murphy bemoaned in her opening remarks before spinning the Japanese vinyl version of David Bowie’s Hunky Dory on a truly grand system, including a Spiral Groove SG1.1 turntable with Centroid tonearm and a Lyra Atlas cartridge; a VTL TP 6.5 phono preamp (with integral step-up transformer); VTL’s TL 7.5 line-level preamp and Siegfried monoblock amps; Wilson Audio MAXX 3 loudspeakers and Opus series cabling from Transparent. (When I visited the Classic Album Sundays room, early on the show’s first day, exact pricing details weren’t yet available; suffice it to say, everything was rather expensive.)
It had already been a long week at Stereophile. I trucked through three thirteen-hour workdays plugging in code for the Recommended Components iPad app and had my first dentist appointment in five years. Holes had been burned through my eyes and scraped through my teeth. Luckily, my ears were still there dangling. But the rain, the rain, THE RAIN! I could have done without the rain this morning.
The audiophile press seemed a surprisingly patient bunch. After following the incredibly well indicated signs placed by the Chester Group to the Fourth Floor of the New York Palace, reporters and photographers waited subserviently in a four-person line to receive our press badges. At the counter, Art Dudley, columnist and Editor-at-Large for Stereophile, and Jeff Dorgay, publisher at Tone Audio, chummed it up.
From Tsunehisa Kimura's Toshi Wa Sawayakana Asa Wo Mukaeru (The City Welcomes a Fresh Morning)
As Jason Victor Serinus reported, the New York Audio Show will take place this Friday through Sunday at the Palace Hotel (455 Madison Avenue, at 50th Street) and will host some 250 high-performance audio brands and several interesting seminars.
But the New York Audio Show is not the only audio-related event to take place in Manhattan this weekend. Two major NYC dealers, Lyric Hi-Fi & Video and Stereo Exchange, will hold their own special events, separate from the NYAS. Both events are free to the public and will feature product demonstrations, discounted pricing on demo equipment, and ample time for Q&A with manufacturer representatives.
Each morning, before heading to the Palace Hotel, I’d stop at the Stereophile office to check on the state of our current issue and answer any important email. On Friday morning, I noticed an email whose subject line was made of a single intriguing word: cancelled.
Woo Audio’s WA7 Firefly headphone amp ($999) uses a pair of 6C45 power tubes in a single-ended, class-A design, and employs a Texas Instruments PSM5102A 32-bit DAC chip. Around back, a USB input is specified to support 32-bit/192kHz playback, while a single set of RCA jacks are switchable for use as analog inputs or D/A outs.