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.
As a long-term owner of Audio Note AN-E/SPe HE loudspeakers ($9300/pair), I was unsurprisingly pleased to see and hear that model being used at the New York show, where both analog and digital sources drove an M3 Phono preamp ($10,750) and the lovely single-ended 211 Tomei Kinsei amplifier ($58,000), with all Audio Note cabling. While I was there, Audio Note's Dave Cope turned me on to the debut LP, Is Your Love Big Enough?, by the English singer and (very gifted) guitarist Lianne La Havas: a varied and colorful album that also happened to exploit the system's exceptional sense of touch. (Also in typical AN fashion, I found that the same superb musical qualities were evident regardless of where in the room I chose to sit.)
I was intrigued by the new MartinLogan Dynamo 1500X subwoofer ($1595), but even more so in a relatively humble accessory that M-L offers to buyers of their current subwoofers: the Perfect Bass Kit or PBK ($100), comprising a stand plus a USB microphone, the latter to connect between your woofer and your PC in order to optimize positioning and setup.
I've written before about the Washington state-based company Sjöfn HiFi and their remarkable little loudspeaker called the Clue ($999/pair): an inexplicably huge-sounding thing that does a far better job than average of putting across force, feel, and fun. The Sjöfn room at NYAS, sponsored by Outreach A/V of Westfield, New Jersey, went even further, with a double pair of Clues driven by a humble NAD integrated amplifier with a built-in D/A converter, itself fed by an Oppo Blu-Ray player and Squeezebox (offstage). A piece called Concerto for Jazz Drummer and Full Orchestra, written by composer/conductor Harold Farberman and performed with the great drummer Louie Bellson, sounded colorful and wild, just as it should have. That alone motivated me to request, finally, a pair of the Clue for review.
Let's just come out and say it: loudspeaker designer Jeff Joseph, of Joseph Audio, always makes a good sound, and his system's performance at this venue was no exception: organic, open, natural, un-spectacular, un-bombastic, and just plain lovely. The speakers in question were the Joseph Audio Pulsars ($7000/pair), driven by a Unison Unico 50 amplifier ($1450), fed by a Lynx Hilo D/A converter (street price: $2500) and a laptop equipped with Channel D's Pure Music software ($129). Cables were by Cardas.
Here's Channel D's Rob Robinson, who reminded visitors to the room he shared with Joseph Audio that the fine-sounding 24/192 vinyl drops we enjoyed therein (Priscilla Ahn's "A Good Day" comes to mind) were done using his Pure Vinyl software, with RIAA equalization performed in the digital domain.
Tentatively named the JMW-3D (the suffix refers to the modeling technology used to create its high-tech tooling), VPI's new one-piece tonearm wand/headshell/bearing housing is molded from epoxy resin, which promises to resist sound-coloring resonances while remaining comparatively immune to the problem of energy storage. Although pricing has yet to be determined, VPI's Harry Weisfeld suggests that the arm may be expensive at first, although he hopes that prices may moderate as the production process itself becomes less expensive. The new arm is seen here on a prototype of the VPI Classic Direct, a direct-drive turntable based on the Classic chassis (projected price: ca $20,000).
As an unabashed fan of amplifiers that use EL34 output tubes in Ultralinear circuitsan output architecture that, to my ears, almost always sounds colorful, well-textured, and believably lushI was delighted that, in the VPI suite, a trio (!) of Joseph Audio Pearl loudspeakers were powered by a trio (!) of Citation 2 monoblock amplifiers from VAS Audio ($3000/pairwhich, I guess, translates into $4500 for three). The Citation 2, which offers 50Wpc in Ultralinear but can also be switched to triode mode for 25Wpc, also uses 12AX7 and 12AU7 small-signal tubes, plus a 5AR4 rectifier, and its specially wound output transformers are said to be vacuum-potted.
At NYAS 2013, I was more impressed with the French Waterfall loudspeakers than at previous shows. Their Victoria Evo model ($7000 per pair) sounded clear and articulate in the second of two Audio Doctor rooms, demonstrated with an Auralic Vega D/A converter ($3495), Manley 300B preamplifier ($5795), and Aragon 8008 amplifier ($4400); judging from the smiles all around, Dave Lalin of Audio Doctor and Nadine Chaix Dewell and Cedric Aubriot of Waterfall would agree.
Audio Doctor also demonstrated a relatively affordable (there goes that bar of soap again) Euro-fi system, with Waterfall Hurricane loudspeakers ($1600/pair), an Electrocompaniet 6DS integrated amplifier ($7500, offstage), and an Electrocompaniet EMC-1UP Red Book CD player ($7290).