Ken's Day Two at the New York Show

Seeing as I'd recently been in contact with the good people at Cambridge Audio when hoping to repair a 25-year-old integrated amplifier, it was great to put faces with names in the Cambridge Audio room. Presentation of their current line was well assembled and regarded, I thought. The room was often jammed to where I couldn't nab a photo, much less a seat.

Playing what I believe was a hi-rez file of "All Blues" from Miles Davis's Kind of Blue, the Cambridge Audio rig did the best-selling-jazz-album-of-all-time proud, the overall sound one of cleanness, depth, and flow.

Hinting at a new line forthcoming in 2018, Cambridge Audio's Gregg Chopper led me through the New York Audio Show setup, primarily representing the company's CX line: CXN Network Player ($749), CXA80 Integrated Amplifier ($999), CXC Dedicated CD Transport ($449), 851N Network Player ($1399), Azur 815W Power Amplifier ($1999), Aeromax 2 stand-mounts ($599), and Aeromax 6 floorstanding loudspeakers ($1999/pair). This competitively-priced system offered solid, dynamic, musical sound and great bang for the buck.

Imagine, if you will, Gulliver poking two fingers through the roof and into the bedroom of a Lilliputian family home. A similar disconnect—is this what I think it is?—was experienced by visitors to the Laufer Teknik/Orinda Acoustics room.

Here stood two coffin-sized (over 6' tall), deep-as-a-barge, oddly-shaped horn-loaded loudspeakers in a room not much bigger than a '60s Cadillac. Everything in the room was black: the simply named 16" 3-Way loudspeakers ($238,000/pair), the various cables—Supreme 11 ($1800/m), Reference ($6000/m)—the Integrated Amp with Passive Pre-amp, Monoblock ($18,200/pair), Power Amp only, Monoblock ($18,200/pair), Passive Pre-Amp (45 Steps) ($8200), and the 33-lb, four-outlet line conditioner called The Box ($13,800). (A Lavry DAC and a Tascam CD player completed the setup). Okay, the giant speaker slabs had beige horns, but the happy man presenting the rig—Sonny Lo, I believe—also wore a black sweater. Was this an homage to the original man in black, Johnny Cash? I can't remember the music played; I was too shell-shocked by the 1000-lbs-apiece speakers to remember the music.

No doubt in the right palatial palace the 16" 3-Ways would produce something dramatic. The speaker is rated at 93db, with compression drivers, "large voice-coil woofers," and "proprietary L-pads using induction-free conductors," noted the one-sheet. "There's no way those speakers can play accurately in that tiny room," I surmised. Indeed, once out in the hallway things fell more into place. A little.

The AVM room, presented by Fidelis AV, was making truly beautiful sounds via AVM electronics; an Acoustic Signature Triple X turntable ($5795 without arm) with TA-3000 tonearm (discontinued) and Dynavector XX2 Mk.II cartridge ($1995); and Harbeth M30.2 Anniversary loudspeakers in Silver Eucalyptus finish ($6495/pair). There were various AVM components in the setup; according to Peder Baeckman, AVM's American Sales Manager, these were the CS8.2 All in One preamp ($12,995), MP6.2 CD/media player ($8995), and SA8.2 stereo amp ($14,995). The small AVM P30 phono stage ($799) was also inline. Wiring from Triode Wire Labs included The Obsession Statement Power Cord ($1399), American Speaker Cables ($949/pair), Spirit XLR and Spirit RCA interconnects ($449 and $349, respectively, per pair), Spirit Digital IC ($299/1.5m), and Discrete USB Digital IC ($299/1.5m).

Baeckman played a file of the hoary audiophile warhorse "Take Five," and while I am insanely bored by the track, the AVM presentation was like no other. I could hear the air around the instruments—but, more surprising, when drummer Joe Morello soloed, I could easily hear the varying degrees of pressure he applied to his bass drum pedal, which shifted throughout his solo. Audio wonks from on high will groan at this kind of sonic dissection, no doubt. But when you hear music you know all-too-well entirely reshaped and reanimated, as it were, it pops in your brain like Einstein's light bulb. The AVM system sound was one of purity and focus, the Harbeths no doubt playing a big role in the rig's excellent sense of synergy and tonality.

I wanted to like the sounds in the Alexis/Bache room, but their Tribeca-001 floorstanders ($6950/pair) seemed to be buzzing. After switching to the smaller Sonata-001 standmounts ($2750), things fell into a better, er, sonic dimension. Perhaps it was Diana Krall spinning on the table, or the soundtrack dreck that followed, or Jazz at the Pawnshop, but mojo was hard to find in this room. Thankfully, Jazz at the Pawnshop didn't sound overly "hi-fi"; it was generally clear, smooth and inoffensive. A cardboard box on the floor held cool vinyl titles for sale; too bad they didn't spin those LPs. Anyway, the beautiful looking gear included the 50Wpc at 8 ohms 845 SE Monoblock Power Amplifiers ($16,995), Signature Line One Vacuum Tube Preamplifier ($5995), Multi-Standard Phono Equalizer EQ-01 ($5995), Passive Preamplifier Zero Gain ($995), AB Audio Preamplifier ($1150), and AB Audio D Class N-Core Hypex Power Amplifier ($2450), with the afore-noted loudspeakers. I'd like to hear this setup again; I'll bring the music.

Mytek's Michal Jurewicz co-habited a room with Acoustic Sounds. Made perfect sense to me. Michal presented Mytek's new Brooklyn amplifier ($1995) and DAC ($2195), along with the Manhattan II DAC/preamp ($5995) and pair of Elac B6 standmount monitors ($279).

Down in the Park Lane lobby, John Blomstrom was hawking his already in-demand Seamzeazy album jacket repair kits. "The Seamzeazy Record Jacket Repair Strips actually replace the edge of the damaged jacket from the inside. NO EXPOSED TAPE!!!" exclaims the Seamzeazy website. A repaired copy of a classic rock jacket wasn't perfect; you could see the seam repair, but at $10 per 10-pack, it's a great solution for battered jackets in need of TLC. Blomstrom had already blown through 200 packs over the weekend when I purchased his penultimate pack.

Year after year, show after show, Audio Note UK provides a respite, an oasis of a natural sound reproduction. This year's Audio Note presentation was typically spot-on, rep Andy Whittle playing, among other things, pianist Ivan Moravec's Piano Recital LP on the Supraphon label. Natural, musical, pure—ahhh! What a relief. Whittle also played my CD of jazz pianist Dan Tepfer's Eleven Cages (Sunnyside), the jazz trio CD's sound rich and dynamic. The Audio Note system played music. In line on the sensible fold-out table below the sun-filled window: Audio Note CD3.1X, Audio Note Oto Phono SE Signature, Audio Note AN-S8 SUT, Audio Note TT2 Turntable Deluxe, Audio Note Arm 3, Audio Note IOI cartridge and Audio Note AN-E standmount loudspeakers. (Sorry: In my relaxed state, I forgot to ask for prices!)

I've read reports that New York Audio Show 2017 was "sad," that there was nothing new, and that the small number (25) of exhibitors equals the death knell for Manhattan shows. But, fewer rooms meant the better rooms truly shone. All attendees seemed in good spirits, including the couples who occasionally stopped me asking for recommendations.

Not every audiophile is so well-heeled as to include Munich or London in their travel itinerary. For 40-hours-a week worker bees like myself, a weekend jaunt to DC or Denver is also not a simple thing. The smaller New York Audio Show featured some very good sounding systems, a bustling merchandise room, and exhibitors focusing on attendees beyond simply filling seats. Bigger is not better!

Kal Rubinson's picture

My experience with the Laufer/Orinda room was somewhat different. While the physical/visual presence was a bit intimidating, the sound was strikingly clear, free and present and, with my eyes closed, it had all the features of great headphones (including a narrow soundstage) but without any encumbrances. They were just anomalously large in the room but not in my head.

BK Audiophile's picture

We just posted at the same time. Couldn't agree more about the Orinda room.

BK Audiophile's picture

I stayed for several tracks of Ella Fitzgerald's Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie! in the Orinda room, and despite the oversized speakers in perhaps the smallest room at the show, it sounded lovely (if you sat dead center). I found the set-up to be rather charming, actually, much like the owner, who clearly overcame challenges to get those speakers from Hong Kong.

Agree that the Audio Note room was terrific. And thanks for playing London Grammar, a much appreciated change from the tone set by most rooms.

As for the quality of the show... The organizers may want to consider another venue. Mid-town / Park Lane Hotel / Central Park South... This speaks to a certain type of audiophile and music lover in New York. Let's consider venues further downtown (or, god-forbid, Brooklyn) to inject a new energy and deliver a fresher message that appeals to a wider audience.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

This is the first hotel where this peripatetic show has remained for more than a year. Please see my show preview. It would be exceedingly hard to make the case that yet another move, including one back to Brooklyn, would serve as the magic bullet that would inject new life into the NYAS.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Having attended all the NYASes (and known a few), the venues were different but the shows varied little.

Kal Rubinson's picture

I thought the Park Lane was accommodating and far from intimidating. More convenient than Brooklyn.

Ortofan's picture

... Harbeth Monitor 30.2 Anniversary stand-mounted loudspeakers?
Really? Since when? Where?

philipjohnwright's picture

OK it's the M30.1 not the .2s, but UK price is around the £3800 level - for once the all-too-common price differential across the Atlantic seems to be working in our favour here (is it ironic that the spell-checker wants favor, not favour?)

Ortofan's picture

... here:
$5,495-$5,895 for the 30.1 and $6,495 for the 30.2.

jond's picture

....was $6500 at Cap Audio Fest. I thought they sounded great there too and I really love the new look with the tweeter screen.

corrective_unconscious's picture

I didn't hear every room, nor most at length, nor do I care about home theater demos. There were quite a number of undistinguished rooms, I thought, and one unnamed one which seemed to have something terribly elementary wrong in its playback setup.

The Audio Note UK and also the Harbeths felt like relative oases. (Little known fact: Audio Note was evidently undertaking free repairs to your reed instrument with every audition...even if it was a jazz reed instrument. That was something you don't see or hear every audio show.) The PureAudioProject was surprisingly enjoyable when I was there and the Martin Logans sounded better in their room than those big products often have at shows. The Ohms were much better at certain times than at others for some reason, imo.

A dsp demo clearly to my ear altered the overall signal level in the favor of its tuning for the room. Doubtless the claim would be that this was an artifact of the improved sound rather than the other way around.

The tiny Sonners were really interesting. They gave a fair approximation of low end fullness in the way many expensive, small bookshelves can these days, but what was notable was a sense of macrodynamic ease which actually, for once, did "belie their size." I don't guess they'd measure exactly flat around that mid bass or high end, but they sounded clean, clear and pleasurable to listen to - an engaging sound. And they were not playing quietly. The 1.9k stands, which if I understood are not dedicated just to the Sonners, seem unusually intelligent, and come with Brian Cheney "beards" as part of the design. The stand and box interface is concerned with channelling vibration in that obsessive YBA way (as a design talking point, not in terms of actual methods used, so far as I know.)

Now, I didn't take notes. I am either confused - perfectly plausible - or the Orinda folks put in a smaller version for Sunday, or their size just didn't register, or I was in some other room as I tired, but whatever i heard a plausible jazz trio sound while I was there. The piano was very well handled.

ken mac's picture

From my seat dead center in front of the speakers they had no bass. Great clarity and immediacy, no bass. Once out in the hallway, the sound filled out. But the Orindas didn't belong in that room, which was the smallest of any room I saw at Park Lane.

AVM Audio's picture

Thank you Ken for a great write up on our room.

The world premier of our new modular preamp the PA8.2 was very well received.

This is our second year doing this show at this location and both times it has been very successful and we instantly signed up for a 3rd year.

PS. the speakers were 30.2 and they retail for $6500 and available through Fidelis AV

Bacheaudio's picture

We invite Mr. Ken to Listen our setup again , any time . call
917-299-4171 Greg Bacheaudio Regards

ken mac's picture

Thanks Greg, I will!

audiof001's picture

My experience with the Tribeca floor standers was very different. I lived with them for weeks, reviewing them before their finish was applied. Our loft is 32' x 42' and the Tribeca's did an admirable job projecting in our space. We thoroughly enjoyed them. I heard no buzzing when listening with the 100 wpc Orchard Audio Crispin power amplifier (solid state). I was in on two different days and heard no hum.

ken mac's picture

Glad you had a good experience with the Tribecas, Audiof001. But when I was there, something was wrong, and it sounded like a failing or loose driver. I plan on taking Greg Bacheaudio up on his offer to hear his speakers again, up close and personal. He's local!

Bacheaudio's picture

Ken, we are still Local