I've written before about the Washington state-based company Sjöfn HiFi and their remarkable little loudspeaker called the Clue ($999/pair): an inexplicably huge-sounding thing that does a far better job than average of putting across force, feel, and fun. The Sjöfn room at NYAS, sponsored by Outreach A/V of Westfield, New Jersey, went even further, with a double pair of Clues driven by a humble NAD integrated amplifier with a built-in D/A converter, itself fed by an Oppo Blu-Ray player and Squeezebox (offstage). A piece called Concerto for Jazz Drummer and Full Orchestra, written by composer/conductor Harold Farberman and performed with the great drummer Louie Bellson, sounded colorful and wild, just as it should have. That alone motivated me to request, finally, a pair of the Clue for review.
I was intrigued by the new MartinLogan Dynamo 1500X subwoofer ($1595), but even more so in a relatively humble accessory that M-L offers to buyers of their current subwoofers: the Perfect Bass Kit or PBK ($100), comprising a stand plus a USB microphone, the latter to connect between your woofer and your PC in order to optimize positioning and setup.
As a long-term owner of Audio Note AN-E/SPe HE loudspeakers ($9300/pair), I was unsurprisingly pleased to see and hear that model being used at the New York show, where both analog and digital sources drove an M3 Phono preamp ($10,750) and the lovely single-ended 211 Tomei Kinsei amplifier ($58,000), with all Audio Note cabling. While I was there, Audio Note's Dave Cope turned me on to the debut LP, Is Your Love Big Enough?, by the English singer and (very gifted) guitarist Lianne La Havas: a varied and colorful album that also happened to exploit the system's exceptional sense of touch. (Also in typical AN fashion, I found that the same superb musical qualities were evident regardless of where in the room I chose to sit.)
Robert Lighton, a noted furniture designer, also runs an appointment-only shop in Manhattan where he sells the products of Audio Note UK, along with the Audio Note-inspired RL-10 loudspeaker ($25,000/pair) that he designed himself. Perhaps more important, as Ariel Bitran has pointed out, Robert Lighton plays good music. Great music. LPs I heard at his NYAS room included Isaac Hayes' Live at the Sahara Tahoe, Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley, and the Shirley Horn Trio's Travelin' Light. I need them all! Thank you, Robert, for playing what I considered the best music of NYAS 2013.
Ariel Bitran is better than I when it comes to photographing shiny, black loudspeakers in rooms with less than generous lighting. Consequently, although I enjoyed the music I heard at the second of two GTT Audio rooms from YG Acoustic Kipod II loudspeakers ($38,800/pair), I succeeded in photographing only the Veloce Saetta monoblock amplifiers ($18,000/pair) that were used to drive them. No loss there: The always interesting Veloce electronicswhich, for this demonstration, included their LS-1 line-level preamplifier ($18,000)represent some very cool technology. Both the tubed (6H30) preamp and the hybrid (tubed input, solid-state output, 400Wpc) amps are battery powered, offering 40-hour listening sessions on a single charge and an estimated battery life of 10 years. A digital file of Hugh Masekela, played from a Luxman DA06 D/A converter ($6000), sounded both open and colorful, and a recording of the Saint-Saens Danse Macabre (orchestra and conductor unknown) had me thinking more about music than gear by the time I had to leave the room.
In one of two rooms sponsored by New Jersey dealer GTT Audio, YG Acoustics' entry-level loudspeaker, the slim-and-sturdy Carmel ($18,000/pair), was demonstrated with a 125Wpc Model 530 integrated amplifier ($49,000) and Model 540 CD/SACD player ($32,500) from the Swiss firm Soulution Audio, with cabling by New Jersey's own Kubala-Sosna. Here we see YG's Kerry St. James playing Deejay for a room that, throughout Saturday afternoon, appeared never to have an empty seat.
At the room sponsored by New Jersey dealer CARE Audio, the Allnic T2000 integrated amplifier ($8900), whose tube cages suggest a horizon not unlike that of the Manhattan skyline, drove a pair of MAD Baron loudspeakers ($13,000/pair), itself fed by a Calyx FEMTO D/A converter ($6850) and a Musica Pristina A Cappella server ($6500).
Red Wine Audio of Holden, MA, was the remaining link in the Sound by Singer chain: The aforementioned Bricasti D/A converter was, by means of its own volume control, used to directly drive a pair of Red Wine Liliana monoblock amplifiers ($5995/pair), wherein class-A tubed input stages are mated with class-A/B FET output stages to produce 115Wpc of very sweet-sounding watts. In this pic, Red Wine CEO Vinnie Rossi shows off the innards of his Isabella preamplifier ($3995 without phono-stage option), which uses 6H30 "super tubes," yet also supports all triodes in the 6922 family.
More evidence that the Bricasti Model 1 D/A converter ($8495), while certainly not cheap, represents quite good value for the money was found in one of the rooms sponsored by New York retailer Sound by Singer. During a conversation about a new power-supply upgrade for the Model 1, I asked Bricasti's Brian Zolner if the new board is retrofittable to older Bricasti units, and he assured me that it isfor just $150. [John Marks will discuss the new power supply in a "Follow-Up" to appear in our July issue.Ed.]
One of the most talked-about exhibitions at NYAS 2013and, indeed, one that impressed me more than mostwas by a newish company called Symbol Audio, specializing in heirloom-quality furnishings that are aimed, it must be said, at non-audiophiles possessed of both good jobs and good taste. The centerpiece of Symbol's room was their Modern Record Console, which combines a high-quality record player from Project, a built-in Apple MacMini with a Meridian Explorer D/A converter, a tubed (push-pull EL84s) integrated amplifier by ENG Vista (with source selections for phono, D/A, and WiFi), and a pair of Omega full-range drivers, supplemented with a self-powered, pedestal-mounted subwoofer. All of this is built into drop-dead-gorgeous cabinetry, bench-built in New Jersey from solid black walnut. Price: $26,500, woodchuck not included.