NY Audio Show 2014: Sunday Afternoon

Before I conclude our coverage of last weekend’s New York Audio Show, let me say that it was a pleasant surprise to find the Marriott’s corridors still busy before the show ended 5pm Sunday. While the show had a smaller number of exhibitors than I would have wished, the venue was excellent and the show was definitely a success and those manufacturers, distributors, and dealers who exhibited all had excellent traffic. Well done, Chester Group.

One constant throughout the show was the appearance of Canadian cellist Vincent Bélanger in many rooms, allowing showgoers to compare the live sound of his 200 year-old instrument with the sound of his new Fidelio CD on the exhibitor’s system. The dem I heard took place in the room featuring the humongous Alta Statement Towers ($200,000/pair), driven by a VAC Statement 450i stereo amplifier. Vincent duetted with himself on Saint-Saëns’ “The Swan,” and while the playback of the recording, as always, had more ambience than the live sound of the instrument, this system was up to the task—as it should be at the price!

Art Dudley already reported on the sound in Wes Bender’s room, but I thought I would show a close-up of the new Townshend Rock 7 Mk.II with Merlin motor ($5800) and matching Excalibur II tonearm. The latter applies damping where it is most effective, at the headshell. The racks in this room were all from Stillpoints, which ground their metal chassis to give a degree of RF shielding to the components they support.

Another new turntable at the show was the Bergmann Audio Sindre turntable, with its linear-tracking, air-bearing tonearm ($28,000) in the VAC room.

This exploded view of the small, active Transparent One speaker from Vanatoo caught my eye—I don’t think I have seen so much packed into such a small space. The Transparent One offers both digital and analog inputs (including 24/96 USB), a 1" silk-dome tweeter, a 5.25" aluminum-cone woofer, with a rear-mounted passive radiator, a 60Wpc class-D amplifier from D2A, and while the crossover is passive, there is on-board DSP for the tone controls. The Vanatoo speaker costs $499/pair in black, $549/pair in cherry, and, like the Audioengines, the pair comprises an active speaker and a passive speaker powered from it. Either speaker can be designated left or right. A pair of Transparent Ones on tall stands gave a surprisingly dynamic sound on a recording of Japanese drums, though the speaker is more likely to be used on a desktop.

The Gingko Audio ClaraVu 7 Mk.3 speakers ($8995/pair) add a ribbon tweeter to the soft-dome tweeter and isobaric-loaded mid-woofers of the Mk.2 speaker. But keep the active, class-D-powered, isobaric subwoofer modules. Powered by a Wells Audio Innamorata amplifier ($6500), hooked up with DanaCable Diamond Reference cables, with a source comprising JRiver running on a PC feeding data to a LampizatOr DAC/preamp, this system offered superb definition on double bass and kick drum. Brass instruments sounded a little too blatty, however, which may well have been due to the fact that we had to sit very close to the speakers.

MartinLogan and Krell had two rooms at the show. The first I looked into was a video room, with MartinLogan Motion 60 speakers used for the left and right and a Krell Foundation pre/pro. I was going to move on, leaving surround sound to Stereophile's Kalman Rubinson, but was drawn in by the excellent sound quality on Jeff Beck’s Live at Ronnie Scott’s video. But next door featured the MartinLogan CLX speakers ($25,500/pair), reinforced in the lows by two of the MartinLogan BalancedForce 212 powered subwoofers that Jon Iverson raved about in the October issue ($3995 each). Driven by Krell 575M high-bias monoblocks, the sound was impressively flat and controlled to the bottom of the audio band, thanks to the use of the Perfect Bass Kit room correction system ($100).

KEF used the New York show to launch their Blade Two loudspeaker ($23,999/pair), which is a more domestically friendly 66% eight of the original Blade and replaced the four 9" woofers with four 6.5" drivers. With JRIver on a laptop feeding a Wadia DAC, Parasound JC2 preamp ($4000), and two Parasound JC1 monoblocks ($9000/pair), the new Blade Twos offered awesome, full-range, low-frequency performance, the bass drum on the Eiji Oue/Minnesota Orchestra, 176.4kHz,24-bit recording of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring vibrating my viscera, but without a hint of boom. Cabing was all-AudioQuest. For those who prefer a more conventional-looking speaker, KEF had their new line of Reference speakers on display, ranging from the Reference One at $7499/pair to the Reference Five at $17,999/pair.

My final room Sunday afternoon was that shared by Ayon, Legacy. AVM Audio, Accustic Arts, and USA Tube Labs. Not only did the last company’s Tineo J horn speakers, with their powered stereo subwoofers operating below 70Hz($35,000/system) catch my eye, their sound, driven by Ayon’s Titan mono amplifiers ($68,000/pair) and Spheris III preamp ($48,000), caught my ear. Yes, the “jump factor” offered by a horn system was in full evidence. But the frequency balance was also smooth and uncolored. John Mayer’s “Gravity” sounded about as good as I have heard this track. The Titan uses a 602B triode for its output. Described as a “300B on steroids,” this tube runs with 10kV on its plate in the Titan!

RobertSlavin's picture

It seems to me both Mr. Atkinson and Mr. Dudley missed what I thought was the best sound of the show.

I thought the Bright Audio room managed this. To me the system's most interesting features were the Merrill Williams R.E.A.L. Turntable and the Acoustic Zen Crescendo speakers. I know it also had a Sutherland phono amp and Ortofon arm, and Tortuga Audio passive preamp. The show program also lists the room as having shown Equarack couplers, Jolida and PrimaLuna amplifiers, Sony ES, and Musical Surroundings.

Even though I live in Brooklyn and Bright Audio is in the nearby East Village neighborhood of Manhattan, I had never heard of it before.

The music was beautiful, immediate and real. The owner noted perplexedly that visitors to his room were repeatedly clapping after he played records! Well, sir, that is a sign you are doing something very right.

Bright Audio is a dealer on A Ave. below 13th Street. 15 to 25 years ago it was a dangerous neighborhood. It is still not Lexington Avenue in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. But it is safe and there is more and more interesting stuff in the East Village without the old dangers.

I look forward to visiting this dealer the next time I am in the market.


DaveinSM's picture

that is so cool that they had a cellist play live and duet with his own recording. I think that they should do more of this if possible. The artists would get more exposure and sales for their recordings, and the equipment manufacturers would get a chance to show how close to 'live' sound they can get. Win-win, and hopefully it would help advance the state of the art.

vincentbelangercello's picture

It was a great experience like you write. To bring classical music to people is one of my goal. So I realy like this audio show! Best wishes!

Allen Fant's picture

Nice coverage indeed. I would certainly like to read more abouth the Gingko Audio speaerks + Well Audio amp as above. Happy Listening!

Allen Fant's picture


where can I pick up the Fidelio CD by Vincent Belanger?

John Atkinson's picture

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile