The Viola electronics on display included their four-chassis, dual-mono Solo preamplifier ($45,000) and Bravo II stereo amp ($59,000). The latter is supplied in two chassis, and provides 700Wpc channel into 4 ohms: the nominal impedance of the TAD CR1s. DAC was the highly regarded Bricasti M1.
The TAD CR1 (for Compact Reference) loudspeaker ($37,000/pair) was demonstrated with Viola amplification and a digital front end comprising the Weiss Man301 server ($9000) and Weiss Medea+ D-to-A converter ($19,000). The CR1, which has been on the market for a little over three years, has a rated sensitivity of 86dB and uses the same type of CST coincident driver as featured in the company's flagship Reference One loudspeaker. The TAD had satisfying bass extension for such a relatively small enclosure, but the system was being played way too loud for my comfort, so I can't offer a more nuanced appraisal. JA, however, was very impressed when he reviewed the CR1 last January.
Waiting for an opportunity to photograph recordist Todd Garfinkle, of MA Recordings, was no small task: Just one hour into the New York show on Friday, his exhibit was jammed with eager music buyers, and I had to wait several (enjoyable) minutes before the crowd thinned enough that he could take a break.
Robert Stein of Ultra Systems (and of the innovative retail outlet The Cable Company) introduced an accessory called the WA Quantum Chip. Available in different sizes, ranging in price from $7.50 to $65 each, the German-made WA Chip is a removable sticker that contains an impregnated film, which is reportedly subjected to a special treatment. Sized for everything from fuses to cell phones to speakers, WA Chips are claimed to increase component efficiency and current flow, for audibly enhanced performance.
Robin Wyatt of Robyatt Audio did something that hadn't been done at a major audio show in decades: He demonstrated with a pair of Quad ESL loudspeakerscreating, in the process, the sort of sound that led my weak and easily led brain to conclude that I was hearing the best sound of the show within my first hour of attendance. The ESLs, which had been restored by Quad expert Wayne Picquet (also in "Listening" columns passim), were driven by a pair of Miyajima OTL 2010 amplifiers ($10,000 each), which provide 22Wpc when used as monoblocks with their defeatable feedback circuits enabled. Wiring was by Tel Wire. The preamp was a one-off custom unit by fellow upstate New Yorker Charles King, and the sound, apart from the fact that the Quads made a little too much bass (!) for the squarish room, was glorious.
Here's the Vinyl Cleaner ($3895), a new type of LP washing machine made in Germany by Audio Desk Systeme Glass (they make a popular CD edge-trimmer you've no doubt seen) and distributed in the US by Ultra Systems. Described by Robert Stein as "the only way you can really clean the bottom of a record groove," the Vinyl Cleaner uses ultrasonic waves to separate dirt and vinyl from one another, and dries the disc with a fan instead of a vacuum (the latter induces static, according to the designer). Watch for Michael Fremer's review in an upcoming episode of "Analog Corner."
My first attempt to enter the room at the NY Audio & AV Show where Liberty Trading was selling vinyl and CDs proved fruitless: There were simply too many people lined up to buy records (which included a number of recent Mobile Fidelity LP titles). Nabil Akhrass, seen here behind the counter, would surely question my use of the words too many.
The record player used in the Robyatt suite was the Anatase (price available upon request) from Oswalds Mill Audio: an original Lenco motor unit updated with a custom-made bearing and idler wheel assembly, and wedded to a massive slate plinth. The primary arm was the excellent Thomas Schick Tonearm ($1675), used with various Miyajima cartridges.