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.)
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.
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.]
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.
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.
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.
The Audio Note Corporation of Japanwhich offers products under the surname of that company's founder, the late Hiruyasu Kondohas, in recent years, flown so far under the radar that some feared they were defunct. Now the leaders of Kondo have rededicated themselves to this market, with Rhapsody Music & Cinema as their new US distributor.
Among the smaller systems I heard at NYAS, this nears the top of my list: the Resonessence Labs Invicta D/A converter ($3990), driving the Music First Audio Baby Reference preamplifier ($6990; see Sam Tellig’s rave in the October 2012 issue), the Wells Audio Innamorata power amp ($6000), and most recognizably, Audio Space’s BBC-approved version of the classic (imagine that word in gold leaf) LS-3/5a monitor (only $1790/pair) and SW-1a woofer towers ($1190), with cable by Audience. This setup had exceptional drive and impact: qualities I associate with good transformers, of which the passive Music First preamp has an abundance.