While there were many exciting cost-no-object systems on display, the New York Audio Show was also home to refreshingly small and simple systems that nevertheless offered exceptional performance.
KEF’s beautiful LS50 loudspeakers ($1500/pair) were partnered with Audio Electronics’ Constellation tube preamp ($1495), Hercules power amp ($1895), and Lightning DAC ($1295). Wireworld provided the cabling. The music, which came from a laptop, sounded forceful, dynamic, colorful, and present.
If I could have taken home any system from the New York Audio Show, it would have been this one.
I got to hear KEF’s X300A powered desktop speaker ($800/pair) when I visited the company late last year. Now the system has found its way to the States. KEF's animated brand ambassador, Johan Coorg, gave a characteristically colorful demo.
The X300A uses KEF's Uni-Q point-source driver array and places twin class-A/B amplifiers and a high-quality toroidal transformer in each cabinet. Further, each speaker has an internal 24-bit/96kHz asynchronous DAC. The signal flows not through standard speaker wire, but via a "digital inter-speaker connection," or USB link. According to Coorg, this is to ensure that high-quality sound is carried through the entire signal chain.
Dupuy Acoustique, a brand relatively new to me, gave an effective demonstration of its Daisy Reflector ($995; patent pending), first seen at SSI in Montreala “phase-restoration device,” whose internal cabinetry and foam have been computer-modeled and CNC-machined for optimal performance.
Because I know Wes Bender and E.A.R.’s Dan Meinwald are always open to new sounds, I took the opportunity in the Wes Bender Studio room to play the title cut from Aidan Baker’s latest release, Already Drowning.
Music Hall’s Roy Hall was excited about his new a15.3 integrated amplifier and matching c-dac15.3 CD player/DAC combo. Just as any good integrated amplifier should, the 50Wpc a15.3 includes a headphone output, front-panel mini-jack input, moving-magnet phono stage, and remote control. The one-box c-dac15.3 combines a three-input (optical, coax, USB-B) Wolfson DAC section with a CD player, itself based around a Burr-Brown 24-bit/192kHz-capable DAC. Build quality seemed excellent. Each unit will sell for $549. Music Hall just keeps churning out interesting, affordable products. I’ll look forward to learning more about these units later this year.
Cardas’ Andy Regan enthusiastically introduced me to his company’s EM5813 Model 2 in-ear monitor ($425; a more efficient, but less refined Model 1 version costs $325). The EM stands for “ear mirror,” as the device was designed to mirror the human ear system; the numbers 5813 are part of the Fibonacci Sequence, which remains integral to all Cardas designs.
Wow. In the NYAS's always-busy Headzone area, I was extremely impressed by the sound of an AIFF file of Paul Simon’s “Diamonds On the Soles of Her Shoes” played from a MacBook, sent through Meridian’s pretty little Explorer USB DAC ($299), and then to Bowers & Wilkins’ handsome and comfortable P5 headphones ($299). Sponsored by Innovative Audio, this is the kind of sweet, functional, real-world system that is guaranteed to attract more people to the world of high-fidelity sound.