The Sony SS-AR2 loudspeakers, described here by JA, were one of my many favorites at the show. Their soundstage extended deep, all the way to 42nd street, and they performed with warmth and polite resolution of high-end frequencies. Some said it was too mellow, but to me it sounded just right. Pictured above are Jonathan Lin and Carlos Giraldo from Sony posing with the SS-AR1 enclosure, reviewed in Stereophile last July.
The relaxed and crystal-clear sound of the Legacy Whisper XDs tempted my entire CD collection, but I knew what I really wanted to hear: Phish’s Lawn Boy. Both Page McConnel’s and Trey Anastasio’s nuanced phrasing and John Fishman’s tasteful drumming would shimmer in the clean layout projected by these speakers. Legacy’s Bill Duddleston put on my CD. An audiophile in front of me turns around...
Today, Sony announced an end to production on all MiniDisc players. In a few years, MiniDisc production will cease as well. I know what you're asking yourself: "They still make those things?". But the MiniDisc was cool, if slightly deficient, and like many extinct formats, to some music lovers, it meant a lot.
The Soundsmith room featured a hot and clean vinyl sound as played back with the Hyperion cartridge ($7500), which uses a cactus spine cantilever, routed to their affordable MCP2 phono preamp ($699), reviewed by Michael Fremer in our October 2011 issue and March 2012 issue. Pricing on the Hyperion includes a 10 year warranty and re-tipping. Playback came out of Soundsmith’s potent Dragonfly speakers ($2,000). While I certainly heard enough Stevie Ray Vaughan at this audio show to make me wish I had crashed that helicopter myself, the blues master’s slides exhibited a natural attack and decay that brought the man and his dirty Stratocaster to that very room in the Waldorf, a more than welcome revival.
There it was again, that damned canned jazz. This time it poured out in buckets from the tremendous Spendor Classic SP100R2 loudspeaker ($11,500/pair) pumped by the 160 Watt JA 200 Monoblocks from Jadis ($25,995/pair). This had to be stopped.
This year, the surprising lack of SRV (and overabundance of easy listening) made me glad to hear his perennial cover of “Little Wing” through Sony’s new and more “affordable” SS-NA2ES floorstanding loudspeakers ($10,000/pair) through Pass Labs amplification. Last year’s system impressed me thoroughly, striking a balance between romance and detail. This year’s system favored speed and attack accenting flourishes I had never heard before in SRV’s Hendrix cover but sounding a bit cool on “Breaking Silence” by Janice Ian.
It opens in a field or maybe an orchestra house. Pastoral and slow-moving strings set the stage. Written as a musical accompaniment to Sebastian Hartmann’s theater adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Apparat’s Krieg Und Frieden is desolate yet tinged with reflection and hope, like Wyeth’s Christina’s World or the ending to a Kurosawa film. Harmonies in continuous ascent intersect with subdued blasts of air and dirt. The occasional soulful vocal provides a lyrical back-story to the desolation: “Deserted hopes / Deserted eyes / Deserted souls / Deserted lies,” and then an alternative, “Turn a light on, Turn a light on.” Like Tolstoy’s work, the listener is never sure if the music is about suffering or the triumph within the pain.
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.