“To limit yourself to just vinyl,” says Audioarts’ Gideon Schwartz, “would be ridiculous.”
It’s not that Schwartz doesn’t like vinylseveral LPs were scattered about the beautiful demo room, said to have been the office of Leona Helmsleybut he simply believes that a good system should work well with all music formats, and more, should sound good in many different rooms.
Woo Audio’s WA7 Firefly headphone amp ($999) uses a pair of 6C45 power tubes in a single-ended, class-A design, and employs a Texas Instruments PSM5102A 32-bit DAC chip. Around back, a USB input is specified to support 32-bit/192kHz playback, while a single set of RCA jacks are switchable for use as analog inputs or D/A outs.
Dan Clark’s MrSpeakers Mad Dog headphone ($299) starts as a Fostex T50RP, but adds extremely comfortable lamb-leather ear pads, a leather “comfort strap,” revised 3.5mm and 7mm headphone jacks, and modifications to the headphone cups and driver surfaces.
Clark’s goal was to make a closed-back headphone that would perform well at home and on the go. He says that additional upgrades can be made easily over time, so that customers can “treat each purchase as an investment.”
Wow. In the NYAS's always-busy Headzone area, I was extremely impressed by the sound of an AIFF file of Paul Simon’s “Diamonds On the Soles of Her Shoes” played from a MacBook, sent through Meridian’s pretty little Explorer USB DAC ($299), and then to Bowers & Wilkins’ handsome and comfortable P5 headphones ($299). Sponsored by Innovative Audio, this is the kind of sweet, functional, real-world system that is guaranteed to attract more people to the world of high-fidelity sound.
Cardas’ Andy Regan enthusiastically introduced me to his company’s EM5813 Model 2 in-ear monitor ($425; a more efficient, but less refined Model 1 version costs $325). The EM stands for “ear mirror,” as the device was designed to mirror the human ear system; the numbers 5813 are part of the Fibonacci Sequence, which remains integral to all Cardas designs.
A lot of people talk about reaching out to a wider and more diverse audience, bringing young people and (gasp!) even women into the high-fidelity conversation, but the people behind Salon Son et Image are actually doing something about it.
Each morning, before heading to the Palace Hotel, I’d stop at the Stereophile office to check on the state of our current issue and answer any important email. On Friday morning, I noticed an email whose subject line was made of a single intriguing word: cancelled.