Monday, January 14, was a difficult day for the abandoned amusement park that is my body. In the morning, I packed two Lamm ML2.2 amplifiers into their wooden crates and wrestled them outside for collection by some unlucky air-freight courier. After that, I backed up my car to the tiny front porch of our house so I could unload a pair of 1966 Altec Valencia loudspeakers I'd collected the day before: in excess of 100 pounds each, just like the crated Lamms, but considerably larger.
Bratty, mollycoddled, and altogether spoiled consumers such as you and I have inflicted on computer audio the same injustice that laparoscopic surgery, antilock brakes, mobile telephones, word processors, e-mail, microwave ovens, and over-the-counter proton-pump inhibitors have suffered at our hands in recent years: In less time than it takes to say "ho-hum," we've knocked it from the pedestal to which all such breakthroughs are entitled and begun taking it for granted.
My friend Jason Victor Serinus asked, reasonably, how I and other Stereophile reporters might rank this most recent outing by the Chester Group against other shows. I said I thought that NYAS 2013 was very well organized and, when all was said and done, gratifyingly well attended. People did their jobs and luck mostly held: Con Ed workers created noise and logistical mayhem as they peeled away the pavement, yet hundreds of audiophiles flocked to the show nonetheless. The men were tearing up the street.
Upon visiting the room of Colleen Cardas Imports, I was impressed by yet another small loudspeaker: the Signature version of the model 1920 mini-monitor ($3450/pair) from British firm MAD (for My Audio Design). The 1920 is described as designer Timothy Jung's take on the classic BBC LS-3/5a theme, and while it didn't sound precisely like that hallowed box, it was pleasing in much the same way when driven by the 65 WpcClass-A Monoblock Reference power amps ($15,500/pair) and Control Preamplifier ($9500) from Pure Audio, a company founded by the previous principals of Plinius. Source components were the Platinum Data CD IV disc transport ($3995) and The Analog D/A converter ($6995) from MSB Technology, while cabling and power-distribution products were by Furutech.
One of the most talked-about exhibitions at NYAS 2013and, indeed, one that impressed me more than mostwas by a newish company called Symbol Audio, specializing in heirloom-quality furnishings that are aimed, it must be said, at non-audiophiles possessed of both good jobs and good taste. The centerpiece of Symbol's room was their Modern Record Console, which combines a high-quality record player from Project, a built-in Apple MacMini with a Meridian Explorer D/A converter, a tubed (push-pull EL84s) integrated amplifier by ENG Vista (with source selections for phono, D/A, and WiFi), and a pair of Omega full-range drivers, supplemented with a self-powered, pedestal-mounted subwoofer. All of this is built into drop-dead-gorgeous cabinetry, bench-built in New Jersey from solid black walnut. Price: $26,500, woodchuck not included.
More evidence that the Bricasti Model 1 D/A converter ($8495), while certainly not cheap, represents quite good value for the money was found in one of the rooms sponsored by New York retailer Sound by Singer. During a conversation about a new power-supply upgrade for the Model 1, I asked Bricasti's Brian Zolner if the new board is retrofittable to older Bricasti units, and he assured me that it isfor just $150. [John Marks will discuss the new power supply in a "Follow-Up" to appear in our July issue.Ed.]
Red Wine Audio of Holden, MA, was the remaining link in the Sound by Singer chain: The aforementioned Bricasti D/A converter was, by means of its own volume control, used to directly drive a pair of Red Wine Liliana monoblock amplifiers ($5995/pair), wherein class-A tubed input stages are mated with class-A/B FET output stages to produce 115Wpc of very sweet-sounding watts. In this pic, Red Wine CEO Vinnie Rossi shows off the innards of his Isabella preamplifier ($3995 without phono-stage option), which uses 6H30 "super tubes," yet also supports all triodes in the 6922 family.
At the room sponsored by New Jersey dealer CARE Audio, the Allnic T2000 integrated amplifier ($8900), whose tube cages suggest a horizon not unlike that of the Manhattan skyline, drove a pair of MAD Baron loudspeakers ($13,000/pair), itself fed by a Calyx FEMTO D/A converter ($6850) and a Musica Pristina A Cappella server ($6500).
In one of two rooms sponsored by New Jersey dealer GTT Audio, YG Acoustics' entry-level loudspeaker, the slim-and-sturdy Carmel ($18,000/pair), was demonstrated with a 125Wpc Model 530 integrated amplifier ($49,000) and Model 540 CD/SACD player ($32,500) from the Swiss firm Soulution Audio, with cabling by New Jersey's own Kubala-Sosna. Here we see YG's Kerry St. James playing Deejay for a room that, throughout Saturday afternoon, appeared never to have an empty seat.
Ariel Bitran is better than I when it comes to photographing shiny, black loudspeakers in rooms with less than generous lighting. Consequently, although I enjoyed the music I heard at the second of two GTT Audio rooms from YG Acoustic Kipod II loudspeakers ($38,800/pair), I succeeded in photographing only the Veloce Saetta monoblock amplifiers ($18,000/pair) that were used to drive them. No loss there: The always interesting Veloce electronicswhich, for this demonstration, included their LS-1 line-level preamplifier ($18,000)represent some very cool technology. Both the tubed (6H30) preamp and the hybrid (tubed input, solid-state output, 400Wpc) amps are battery powered, offering 40-hour listening sessions on a single charge and an estimated battery life of 10 years. A digital file of Hugh Masekela, played from a Luxman DA06 D/A converter ($6000), sounded both open and colorful, and a recording of the Saint-Saens Danse Macabre (orchestra and conductor unknown) had me thinking more about music than gear by the time I had to leave the room.