Among the many SSI rooms sponsored by Canadian distributor Plurison was a ballroomthe Verdun, to be precisewhere the signage promised MartinLogan loudspeakers on demonstration. I stepped a short distance inside and was swallowed by darknessand sound. I followed the latter, turned left, and felt more than saw a row of theater-style seats, most of them filled with people who were enjoying Avatar on a large screen. The sound was indeed impressive, but it was impossible to see, let alone photograph, the gear being demonstrated, and I could locate neither personnel nor literature. Unsure how to illustrate such an experience, I grabbed my chance and, on the way out, photographed the next guy going in.
Bright red Totem Mani-2 loudspeakers, glimpsed through an open door, drew Julia and I into the Amsterdam Room, where products from D-Box Technologies, Digital Projection, Audio Design Associates, Stewart Filmscreen, and Totem were combined to create an exceptionally impressive 3-D home theater demonstration. Leather lounge chairs from Design NS had been equipped to convey a sense of motion to their users' posteriorspresumably these remain perfectly still during most Merchant Ivory filmsso we felt as well as saw as well as heard the action during excerpts from Avatar and The Owls of Ga'Hoole. Julia's face says it all.
Back in 1984, when I still had all my hair and began listening to digital audio (wait a minute...), I was disappointed with the compact disc. Most of that disappointment came from the format's musical performance, which was poor, but a portion of my dismay came from realizing that my days as a hands-on hobbyist were numbered: I was used to selecting and setting up my own turntable, tonearm, and cartridge, but a CD player defied such involvement. Plugging it in and playing it were all that I or most anyone else could do.
Robert Lighton, a noted furniture designer, also runs an appointment-only shop in Manhattan where he sells the products of Audio Note UK, along with the Audio Note-inspired RL-10 loudspeaker ($25,000/pair) that he designed himself. Perhaps more important, as Ariel Bitran has pointed out, Robert Lighton plays good music. Great music. LPs I heard at his NYAS room included Isaac Hayes' Live at the Sahara Tahoe, Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley, and the Shirley Horn Trio's Travelin' Light. I need them all! Thank you, Robert, for playing what I considered the best music of NYAS 2013.
Children, for the most part, are normal human beings who like to make believe that they're extraordinary, just for fun. Adults, on the other hand, are delusional creatures who enjoy pretending that they're normal, simply for their own peace of mind.
At SSI I had the opportunity to hear the slightly more comfortable cousin of the Definitive StudioMonitor 45 loudspeaker that recently impressed Stephen Mejias: the same company's StudioMonitor 65 ($1000/pair). Partnered with a 150Wpc Acurus 2002 integrated amplifier and Bel Canto CD player, the 65s were exceptionally well balanced and pleasantly explicit on Diana Krall's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams." I added it, on the spot, to my cumulative mental list of good-quality affordable loudspeakers.
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.
Dollar for dollar, the TD-M1 wireless loudspeaker system from Eclipse ($1300/pair) was among the most impressive products I heard at SSI. Imported by the American distributor On a Higher Note and displayed at the show by Coup de Foudre, the self-powered TD-M1 system, which includes a built-in digital-to-analog converter, combined Quad-like detail and transparency with exceptional levels of presence and substance. Notably, the system retained those qualities even at very low listening levels.
Computer audio is more than just a pleasant distraction. For the jaded reviewer, USB digital converters and the like are an escape from that humdrum, if only because they bring with them so many variables: myriad combinations of different platforms, storage devices, operating systems, device drivers, media players, codecs, word lengths, sampling rates, connection protocols, and more. Challenging though they may be, computer-audio products are a tonic for reviewers inclined toward apathy.