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.)
The TAD CR1 (for Compact Reference) loudspeaker ($37,000/pair) was demonstrated with Viola amplification and a digital front end comprising the Weiss Man301 server ($9000) and Weiss Medea+ D-to-A converter ($19,000). The CR1, which has been on the market for a little over three years, has a rated sensitivity of 86dB and uses the same type of CST coincident driver as featured in the company's flagship Reference One loudspeaker. The TAD had satisfying bass extension for such a relatively small enclosure, but the system was being played way too loud for my comfort, so I can't offer a more nuanced appraisal. JA, however, was very impressed when he reviewed the CR1 last January.
Working alongside Steve Silberman of AudioQuest, Wavelength Audio’s Gordon Rankin offered a series of talks on computer audio for Mac users, while Jim Hillegass, the founder and CEO of JRiver Inc., offered corresponding seminars for users of Windows-based computers. My schedule allowed me to hear only a brief portion of Gordon Rankin’s Saturday seminarand, regrettably, none of Jim Hillegass’s talksyet even so, I learned things I’d never come close to knowing before. (An exemplary gem: When it comes to RFI rejection, Apple’s laptop computers are considerably better made than the company’s desktop models.)
California-based Constellation Audio, represented by the well-known engineer Peter Madnick, supplied the amplification for the Magico Q3 loudspeakers. On audition were their Virgo preamplifier ($19,000) and Centaur amplifier ($24,000), set up with elegant looking (and apparently effective) loudspeaker cables and interconnects from Argento Audio of Denmark. Source components were the C1 D/A converter and D1 disc transport from CH Precision of Switzerland.
Cable manufacturer JPS Labs is now connected (sorry) with the Canadian importer AudioScape Canada, which also distributes amplifiers and CD players from PrimaLuna, turntables from Dual, loudspeakers from Usher, and other delights. At Salon Son et Image, Joe Skubinski of JPS unveiled a new version of his popular Digital AC power cord, now called Digital AC-X. The cable's filter network has now been upgraded to handle higher frequencies than before, but the price remains the same: $399 for a 2-meter run. Sweet!
Happily, the big Coup de Foudre also included an analog front: a combination turntable and tonearm package from German manufacturer AMG, bundled with a Benz LP phono cartridge ($21,500 for the package).
The VTL MB185 Series IIIs, which sounded great driving the Wilson Sophia Series 3 loudspeakers, offer a choice between XLR and RCA inputsand, according to designer Luke Manley, they can develop fully balanced performance with single-ended inputs. Their EL34-based output sections can also be switched between triode and tetrode operation.
The Montreal audio-video store Coup de Foudre has a reputation for assembling ambitious music systems in the Hilton's Longueuil salon during SSI. Although this year was no exception, the cost of that system had been scaled-back somewhat for 2012with interesting results.
The loudspeaker of choice was the Wilson Audio Specialties Sophia Series 3 ($18,550 per pair in Macadamia finishwhich bore a striking resemblance to the metallic brown paint on my long-gone 1985 Alfa-Romeo GTV6). Wilson Audio's Peter McGrath, also the recordist behind most of the music selections I enjoyed in that room, said there have been no running changes in the Sophia since the introduction of the Series 3.
Living with a brand-new Cyrus amp was a pleasantly nostalgic thing to do, even from the start: It arrived in a clean and downright attractive carton that seemed designed specifically to contain a brand-new Cyrus amplifier. Think of it! And I haven't even mentioned the nice owner's manual or the balance control or the headphone jack. As I said: the good old days.