What a difference the recording makes. When I first entered the room sponsored by Von Schweikert Audio, Jolida Inc. and United Home Audio, I was surprised to hear really bright sound from what I expected was a master tape played on a UHA Phase 11 open-reel deck ($22,000). But when we switched to another recording, Pat Metheny and Charlie Haden performing “Missouri Sky,” I truly enjoyed the beautiful midrange, edge-free highs, and big presentation of the system. “Very, very nice” was my ultimate assessment.
Having heard at last Randy Bankert’s 97dB-sensitive Sonist Concerto 4 floorstanding loudspeakers ($5895) with electronics and cabling that do them justice, I understand what beautiful sound they are capable of producing. Together with Snake River Audio interconnects and speaker cable ($1100$2449 for a 3m bi-wire pair of speaker cables), whose outer shell shimmers like a snake slithering in the sun, the Hong Kong sourced Increcable TIA-280 80Wpc integrated amplifier, and a Cary CAD-306 Pro SACD/CD player, this system produced solid bass and beautiful highs.
It was a pleasure to make the acquaintance of Bob Neill, a fellow graduate of Amherst College and proprietor of Amherst Audio in Amherst, MA. In a system headlined by JM Reynaud Abscissa loudspeakers ($5500/pair) bi-amped with Crimson 640E monoblock amplifiers ($6000/pair), and completed by the Crimson 710 solid-state preamplifier ($7000), Resolution Audio Cantata ($6500), and Crimson interconnects ($360/1m pair) and bi-wired speaker cable ($1070/8' pair), I enjoyed the kind of cultivated sound that discriminating listeners crave. True, there was some extra resonance in the treble that made piano sound a mite metallic, but the midrange beauty of Antonio Lysy’s cello on Yarlung Records’ recording, Antonio Lysy at the Broad, was very special.
It’s a great name, isn’t it? Your Final System, based in Rochester, NY, is an Internet-based, high-end audio consulting firm specializing in custom USB 2.0 cables and computer music servers that will travel anywhere in the US to set up their music server. Unfortunately, shit happens. YFS’s McIntosh 275 amplifier died right as the show was getting underway, they hunted around until they located Jolida electronics that were fresh out of the box. Given the insufficient break-in time, it’s inappropriate to comment on the sound of a system that also included a customized YFS HD Ref 3 Digital Music Server/Transport ($13,000), Bricasti M1 DAC ($8600), Von Schweikert VR-44 Aktive loudspeakers ($26,000/pair), and YFS cabling (including their REF USB cables ($350 each).
Don’t be scared. No one was busy rounding up illegal aliens during RMAF, thank God, but the combination of the EXD model of the BorderPatrol S20 power amplifier, which came complete with two power supply units ($16,500); BorderPatrol Control Unit EXT1 preamp ($12,250); BorderPatrol DAC EXT1 ($9750); Living Voice Avatar OBX-RW loudspeakers (from $11,750/pair); Tent Labs transport; and Electrofluidics cabling was overdriving the room. There was a captivating illumination to my CD of the Beethoven Violin Concerto, but highs were wiry, and the bass boomed like nobody’s high-end audio business in troubled times. (A common factor in this part of the hotel.)
Audio Note now handles its US sales directly from the UK. The sound in their room may have been warmer than neutral, but it had an immediacy that I enjoy. Here, the vividness of a classic recording of music from Glinka’s Ruslan and Ludmila struggled to triumph over the bass commentary from the adjacent room’s Göbell behemoth. When the booming subsided, Jennifer Warnes emerged triumphant.
Steve (Sze) Leung, a neighbor of Stereophile’s Wes Phillips and a joy to boot, made my day when he played a 45 rpm audiophile pressing of Elvis’ “Are you Lonesome Tonight.” As the great one began to intone the chapters of this teenage melodrama with tongue-in-cheek sincerity, the sound was so vivid and lifelike that images of the night I tried to ask Ellen Schmidt to go steady flooded through my mind.
Vapor Audio’s Rick LaFaver had reason aplenty to smile. Playing MA Recordings’ fabled CD of Sera Una Noche: La Segunda, his system nailed the timbre of instruments spot on. I was amazed at the depth he achieved from his small speakers, and took special note of the realistic decay of the sound of brushes on cymbals and bells being struck. “The hollow resonance of the percussion seems real,” I wrote in my notes.
I’m afraid I hit High Water Sound’s room at the end of the fourth floor at a time when, overwhelmed by how many systems I had left to visit before show’s end, could only muster the words “very nice sound” in my notes. Clearly I owe you an apology, and Jeffrey Catalano’s high-end emporium a visit the next time I’m in New York City.