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.
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.
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).
I've noted the typically spacious, airy sound of Reimyo electronics at previous shows, and at NYAS 2013 the brand followed suit. Playing through a pair of Combak Audio's single-driver Bravo loudspeakers (ca $8000/pair), themselves supported by Combak Dinosaur stands ($4000/pair not including feet, the latter represented by options too numerous to list here), the Reimyo gear did a lovely job with the classic Fritz Reiner/Chicago Symphony Orchestra Scheherazade. (NB: The astonishing trumpeter on that 1960 recording, Bud Herseth, died only days ago.) Reimyo products in use included the CDT-777 CD transport (ca $12,000), the CAT-777 preamp (ca $20,000), and the KAP-777 monoblock amplifiers ($27,000/pair). I was given to understand that Wynn Audio, which sponsored this room, now distributes Reimyo and Combak in the US.
"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.
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."
Suggesting that a $10,000 amplifier might represent decent value for the money is, when done within earshot of the most aggressive audiophiles, not unlike dropping the soap in the prison shower; nevertheless, the snappily named 6C33C SE amp from the Budapest firm Tube Guru, the price of which breaks the five-figure barrier by one penny, impressed me as a good buy for what it is. And what it is is a handmade all-tube stereo power amp that gets 14Wpc from its nominal indirectly heated power triodes. The 6C33C SE, which is imported by Beauty of Sound, sounded shockingly good driving the planar-plus-ribbon Model 8 loudspeakers ($65,000 per pair) from Leonardo Audio, the latter imported by Laufer Teknik.
Beauty of Sound also imports and distributes Ikeda tonearms and phono cartridges, used at the show in tandem with a Triangle Art Signature turntable ($12,500). Seen here are the Ikeda IT-407 arm ($6500) and Kai cartridge ($7500); I have in hand a review sample of the former, and will report on it soon. Also in the Beauty of Sound system but not seen here were the Tube Guru all-tube Reference Phono preamplifier ($5400) and Rick Schultz’s High Fidelity cables, which, I’m told, use a patented magnetic signal-transfer technology. Sadly, the aforementioned Leonardo loudspeakers, which sounded great, proved too glossy and black for my camera.
In one of two rooms sponsored by New Jersey dealer Audio Doctor, Jay Rein of distributor Bluebird Music demonstrated an impressive system comprising KEF Blade loudspeakers ($30,000/pair), Chord SPM 14000 Mk.II mono amplifiers ($86,000/pair), the Chord CPA 8000 Reference preamp ($45,000), a Manley Steelhead phono preamp ($8000), and the Kronos turntable (starting at $32,000)a combination on which Neil Young’s Comes a Time album sounded so good, I can scarcely wait to hear it again when I get home. While there I also enjoyed some music filesappropriately, my friend Michael Lavorgna of Audiostream.com had the seat next to minecourtesy of the Chord DSX-1000 ($13,000), a music streamer that incorporates the same company’s well-received QBD 76 D/A converter.