My first stop for my very first hi-fi show ever was the Woo Audio room, appropriate as most of my listening is done through headphones. Their stalwart Woo Audio 234 MONO monoblock amplifiers, a prototype built to amplify both headphones and loudspeakers, facilitate simple tube switching via a “tube switching key” or TSK. The WA-234 MONO accepts 2A3, 300B, and 45 power tubes, and by the simple twist of the key, you can change your power tube. With some Audeze LCD2 headphones, this system recreated the gentle and sweet reverberations of David Russell’s guitar with ample air surrounding each fingerpick. Also enjoyable was listening through their electrostatic headphone amp, the WES ($7,790), which allowed me to distinguish between Izzy and Slash’s snake-tangled guitars on “Welcome to the Jungle”. Consider me woo-ed.
In a previous post, I talk about the cliché track selections one experiences at a hi-fi show (see “Hotel California”), so I was happy to hear one of my favorite groups, Rodrigo y Gabriela, in the Red Wine Audio Room. Their cover of Metallica’s “Orion” sounded crisp yet subtly refined and represented the true tonality of an acoustic guitar. Playback through Red Wine Audio amplification and Kudos C20 loudspeakers created a wide soundstage.
There’s been lots of excitement slash praise over the Bricasti M1 DAC ($7,995) here at Stereophile from the two Johns (that’s Atkinson and Marks for the kids at home), so I made sure to take my chance to hear this DAC. I was struck by the DAC’s analog sensibilities, committing warmth and space to the music, and enjoyed how the minimum phase filters showcased options for gentler roll-offs at higher frequencies, allowing listeners to choose just how much bite and space surrounding each leading edge they care for. Since the supplied speaker stands were not tall enough for seated listeners, Brian Zolner had to stand his Harbeths on dresser drawers. Check out our reviews of the Bricasti M1 here and here
I will state up-front that the Audio Note AN-E Lexus loudspeakers ($19,000/pair) and accompanying Audio Note gear was not my favorite system at the show. I did not have a favorite, as I particularly enjoyed the sound of many systems including the Sony room, the Innovative Audio room, and the High Water Sound room. Yet, I easily spent the most time at Audio Note. Why?
At 10am on Saturday morning, my first stop was to visit Gideon Schwartz in the AudioArts room. Gideon and I had met the night before and shared hearty handshakes while basking in our Semitic auras. Schwartz welcomed listeners to come spin vinyl in his room, as indicated by his pre-show email, “Please bring your own LP's and it would be my pleasure to play them for you.” And that I did.
I got to know Steve, head of VAS Audio over in New Jersey, after he picked up the Cayin SP-10a that Bob Reina reviewed in our April 2012 issue from the Stereophile Manhattan office. Steve invited me to the back of the VPI/VAS Audio Room to share a cocktail and a cookie where we discussed the hi-fi show business and our audiophile neighbors in Brooklyn and New Jersey. Steve's original home, in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, places him in close proximity to some Stereophile staff, past and present, and his co-exhibitor VPI, led by the Weisfeld family, lives next door to him in Jersey. Hi-fi, like cookies, is more fun when shared with neighbors.
The relaxed and crystal-clear sound of the Legacy Whisper XDs tempted my entire CD collection, but I knew what I really wanted to hear: Phish’s Lawn Boy. Both Page McConnel’s and Trey Anastasio’s nuanced phrasing and John Fishman’s tasteful drumming would shimmer in the clean layout projected by these speakers. Legacy’s Bill Duddleston put on my CD. An audiophile in front of me turns around...
On Day 1 of the New York Audio & AV show, I let the exhibitors play their demo tracks in hopes to hear some cool, new music, but I just ended up hearing Stevie Ray Vaughan, Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries or ZZ Top’s “La Grange” over and over and over again, so on Day 2, I brought my own records.
Before playing “La Villa Strangiato” from side 2 of the Rush LP Hemispheres, On a Higher Note’s Philip O’Hanlon advised me to go get my record cleaned by the Audio Deske Vinyl Cleaner. I told him, “I just did!”
Seconds after playing my There Comes a Time record by Neil Young in the Robyatt Audio room, Charlie King said I should get it cleaned at the Audio Deske cleaner. I told him, “I just did!”
First of all, just how filthy are my records?
Second, this same experience happened to me at least five different times during the New York hifi show. Maybe it is because my records actually are filthy, or maybe it is because that Audio Deske Vinyl Cleaner ($3895), really just is that awesome and easy to use that everyone had to sell it to me.