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.
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.
"Glad," a jazz-tinged instrumental by the English band Traffic, sounded great on a Gamut-intensive system from Woodbridge Stereo. Therein, the enormous Gamut S-9 loudspeakers ($101,999/pair in optional ash finish) were impressive, but I enjoyed even more the Gamut S-5 speakers ($30,000/pair), which did a nice job with the song's propulsive, almost Motown-esque beat. Other gear in the system included the Gamut D 150 integrated amplifier ($11,700), Pass Labs XP25 phono preamplifier (ca $10,000), and a prototype version of VPI's forthcoming Vanquish direct-drive turntable (price TBD), with VPI's similarly prototypical epoxy-resin JMW tonearm and a Soundsmith moving-iron phono cartridge. Very nice stuff.
Once hailed as the most expensive amplifier in domestic audioa distinction that has long since passed by the wayside, even when one accounts for inflationthe legendary Audio Note (Japan) Ongaku was put through its paces in the Kondo room. Though designed as an integrated ampits stereo pair of 211 tubes, run single-ended, offer 27Wpcthis Ongaku was being used as a power amplifier, by means of its direct inputs. Pricing information was unavailable at the time of my visit.
In one of three NYAS rooms sponsored by the Manhattan dealer Rhapsody Music & Cinema, a pair of Vivid G3 Giya loudspeakers ($40,000/pair) sounded colorful, spacious, and well-textured with a pair of mono amps ($15,000) and a line-level preamp ($10,000) from the new Dutch company Mola Mola. (The company’s chief designer, late of Philips BV, is said to be the originator of “universal Class-D.”) Digital files supplied by Vivid’s and Mola Mola’s distributor, the reliable Philip O’Hanlonhe never fails to make my Top Five list of people who bring the best music to the showwere played on Luxman’s DSD-friendly DA06 converter ($6000).
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.
Andy Regan of Cardas Audio saw me near the 10th-floor elevators and asked, "Do you have an iPod or an iPhone?" I said that I did, and Andy handed me a leather pouch upon which the Cardas logo had been printed. Inside was an obviously well-made pair of earbuds. "Give 'em a try."
Heard at the NYAS with a Leben CS600 integrated amplifier and an Arcam CD73 CD player, the smartly styled desktop loudspeakers from Well Rounded Sound impressed me far more than at previous shows. Their standard Corgi model ($799/pair), used in parallel with a pair of their passive Woof 4 woofers ($399 each) were surprisingly engaging on the Jimmy Cobb Quartet's Jazz in the Key of Blue: explicit without being bright, with decent color and impact. At NYAS 2013, Well Rounded also debuted two new models: the Jack Terrier SE ($349/pair, shown on the left) and the Corgi Mini ($399/pair, shown on the right).
Raidho D1 loudspeakers from Denmark ($20,000/pair), Merrill Veritas amplifiers from Colorado ($12,000/pair), a Kondo G-70 line-level preamplifier from Japan ($35,000), and a Pi Greco Sinfonia CD player from Italy ($15,000) managed to get along nicely in one of the Rhapsody Music and Cinema rooms.