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.
Raidho D1 loudspeakers from Denmark ($20,000/pair), Merrill Veritas amplifiers from Colorado ($12,000/pair), a Kondo G-70 line-level preamplifier from Japan ($35,000), and a Pi Greco Sinfonia CD player from Italy ($15,000) managed to get along nicely in one of the Rhapsody Music and Cinema rooms.
In one of three NYAS rooms sponsored by the Manhattan dealer Rhapsody Music & Cinema, a pair of Vivid G3 Giya loudspeakers ($40,000/pair) sounded colorful, spacious, and well-textured with a pair of mono amps ($15,000) and a line-level preamp ($10,000) from the new Dutch company Mola Mola. (The company’s chief designer, late of Philips BV, is said to be the originator of “universal Class-D.”) Digital files supplied by Vivid’s and Mola Mola’s distributor, the reliable Philip O’Hanlonhe never fails to make my Top Five list of people who bring the best music to the showwere played on Luxman’s DSD-friendly DA06 converter ($6000).
Among the smaller systems I heard at NYAS, this nears the top of my list: the Resonessence Labs Invicta D/A converter ($3990), driving the Music First Audio Baby Reference preamplifier ($6990; see Sam Tellig’s rave in the October 2012 issue), the Wells Audio Innamorata power amp ($6000), and most recognizably, Audio Space’s BBC-approved version of the classic (imagine that word in gold leaf) LS-3/5a monitor (only $1790/pair) and SW-1a woofer towers ($1190), with cable by Audience. This setup had exceptional drive and impact: qualities I associate with good transformers, of which the passive Music First preamp has an abundance.
Audio Doctor also demonstrated a relatively affordable (there goes that bar of soap again) Euro-fi system, with Waterfall Hurricane loudspeakers ($1600/pair), an Electrocompaniet 6DS integrated amplifier ($7500, offstage), and an Electrocompaniet EMC-1UP Red Book CD player ($7290).
At NYAS 2013, I was more impressed with the French Waterfall loudspeakers than at previous shows. Their Victoria Evo model ($7000 per pair) sounded clear and articulate in the second of two Audio Doctor rooms, demonstrated with an Auralic Vega D/A converter ($3495), Manley 300B preamplifier ($5795), and Aragon 8008 amplifier ($4400); judging from the smiles all around, Dave Lalin of Audio Doctor and Nadine Chaix Dewell and Cedric Aubriot of Waterfall would agree.
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.
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.
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.