NY Audio Show 2014: Saturday Morning

Saturday dawned hot and bright—unnaturally so for the end of September—and showgoers showed up well before the 10:00am starting time: So much for my hopes of getting a jump on the crowds. Still I went for an early listen at the room shared by Volti Audio, Raven Audio, and Triode Wire Labs. The price of the three-way, fully-horn-loaded Volti Vittora loudspeaker ($21,500/pair without optional ELF subwoofer) has risen slightly since I wrote about it a year or so ago—yet it still endures as perhaps the best bargain in US-made hi-fi.

The Vittoras sounded as engaging as ever in a system with a Raven Audio Silhouette Reference preamp ($9995, including phono stage), Raven Spirit 300B Reference Stereo amp ($7295), and all Triode Wire wiring, with Meitner transport and D/A converter. Readers will remember the Raven amp as a product that sounded good but gave me a bit of trouble when I reviewed it for Stereophile some time back; as it turns out, the one under demonstration was the very same sample, and it worked just fine. There you go.

MMy exclamation-point-filled listening notes suggest I was very impressed by the equipment being demonstrated by Edison, New Jersey dealer CARE Audio: an inviting and satisfyingly full-range system in which a Kronzilla VA-6801 "CARE edition" integrated amplifier ($27,500), Allnic D5000 DHT D/A converter ($11,900), British MAD Baron loudspeakers ($13,000/pair), and Speaker Maximizer hybrid subwoofers ($9000/pair with amps) from Scaena—whose Sunny Umrao is seen here—worked together extremely well. Cabling by Wywires and room-acoustic treatments by Vicoustics were also in the mix.

One thing I can say is that the CARE Audio system used power filtering by K Works, whose Super Station power strip ($1800) offers silver-plated, cryogenically treated contacts, with individual polypropylene-based capacitors for every outlet.

Kevin Hayes of VAC spoke with characteristically understated pride of his new Master preamplifier, which is available in a line-only version for $26,000, or with a phono stage for $40,000. Other VAC electronics—including their 450 IQ amplifiers, in which the condition of all vacuum tubes is continuously monitored—sounded fine in a system built around the imposing Focal Grand Utopia EM loudspeakers.

At virtually every show I attend, I'm reminded of the not-unpleasant cognitive disconnect between the decidedly monochromatic appearance of MBL's electronics and loudspeakers and the remarkably lushly colorful and well-textured manner in which they play music. This show was no exception, and I luxuriated in the sounds of their "Combination D" Reference-line system ($259,700 for the whole shebang), which includes the 101 E Mk.II loudspeaker and a pair of the 9011 power amps seen here.

K.Reid's picture

As soon as I walked into the MBL room with the 101 E Mk.II and associated equipment playing great tunes, I am mesmerized by the sound. You just know it's right. Even the ambiance was nice with plants and subdued lighting. I could've stayed all day listening, toe tapping, etc. Just very inviting and simply wonderful...and darn worth every penny.

Pro-Audio-Tech's picture

Drove all the way from Chicago and wanted to hear the MBL Reference gear with that UHA tape deck, but it was a no show.

The tapes they played in the two rooms at the Chicago show was the best sound at that show and those were even smaller MBL speakers to boot. One room had all MBL entry level gear and one had all tubes both had tape decks and were awesome in their own ways, what a treat.

Would have loved to hear tape on the big MBL rig, maybe next Chicago show??? Guys, throw an old audiophile a bone will ya?

drjjpdc's picture

Just a few comments about K Works and its main man, Igor Kuznetsoff. Igor is supremely able to create solutions to problems that many folks in the High End community usually don't want to deal with. Those of us in the NJ Audio Society have been enjoying the fruits of his labor for quite a while. I am glad to see that his work is being noticed at venues like the NY Audio Show.

bondmanp's picture

As another NJ Audio Society (njaudiosociety.com) member and K Works customer, I am in full agreement with drjjpdc. I own Igor's older model power filter, the Power Station, one of his digital coax cables, and a Superberry DAC (a heavily modded Beresford DAC that punches way above its price class). Igor is also a skilled modifier, and did excellent work on my vintage Thorens 'table that made it quieter and better-sounding for a reasonable price. He has great ears, and can nearly instantly identify system faults and proscribe remedies. Although he eschews web-site sales, K Works is worth seeking out. (I am not connected with K Works in any way other than being a customer.)

MBL-Russia's picture

Es ist fantastisch!