NY Audio Show 2014: Sunday Morning

Reliable readers of show reports will remember Robert Lighton as a successful designer and manufacturer of furniture who, a few years ago, turned his enthusiasm for domestic audio in general and Audio Note gear in particular into a side career by putting his own imprint on the basic Audio Note loudspeaker formula. Robert Lighton Audio of New York City has now progressed to designing and manufacturing its own high-efficiency loudspeakers, including the two-way RL5 ($10,000/pair)—the solid sapele mahogany enclosure of which is seen here in Robert's hands—and to having Audio Note UK co-design and manufacture their own custom Regency integrated amplifier ($16,500).

Here's a closer look at the Robert Lighton Regency, an 8Wpc, single-ended, 300B amp that uses Audio Note's double-C-core output and power transformers, plus AN's top-quality power-supply electrolytics and other premium parts, with a solid copper top, solid copper internal ground plane, point-to-point wiring, and solid mahogany surround. I thought the sound of this amp driving the company's smallest loudspeakers was the best I've yet to hear from Robert Lighton: engaging, solid, and very musical.

Whether or not in foreknowledge of the more expensive RL products on demonstration next door, Audio Note themselves—in the person of long-time advocate David Cope—brought to the Brooklyn show one of their humbler systems, which retained much of the company's signature musicality. Of particular interest was Audio Note's latest version of their basic Oto integrated amp—a single-ended pentode design that was actually the first Audio Note product I ever had in my home—available now as the Oto Phono SE Signature ($6350), which improves on the original Oto with tantalum resistors, copper-oil capacitor, utterly serious transformers, and other top-shelf bits.

A personal observation: I have had spotty luck with AC power conditioners, and most of the few that have done any good were isolation transformers. A few of those have been ridiculously overpriced, but this one—the 7-amp TOT Mini from ($895) from the Torus division of Plitron—appears to offer good value, at least based on appearances. I saw the Torus for the first time at the Brooklyn show, and I'm looking forward to giving one a try.

The name Lampizator first crossed my radar a few years ago, in connection with a D/A converter that had earned a considerable on-line buzz. The Brooklyn show marked the first time I'd actually seen one; I am hoping that the next show I attend will bring with it the opportunity for serious listen, as well as the chance to ask a few questions: When I dropped by, the Lampizator room was busier than a confessional booth on the morning after a prom, and I cannot fault the staff for being tied up with actual customers. For now, here is a pic of Lampizator's The Big Seven DAC ($10,500). When the time comes, my first question will likely be: Is the emphasis on the first, second, or third syllable?

Wes Bender is sufficiently tireless and gracious that he has actually visited me here in Cherry Valley; you would think that by now I would have visited his Brooklyn audio salon, Wes Bender Studio NYC—but, sadly, I have not. The next best thing: hearing the system he brought to the Brooklyn show, based around E.A.R. and Zesto electronics—the former including the E.A.R. DAC 4 processor/Acute 4 transport combination ($13,000)—and Marten Getz 2 loudspeakers ($23,500/pair) in their US debut. The system also heralded the return of the Townshend Audio turntable, in the form of the Rock 7 Mk.II with Merlin motor ($5800) and matching Excalibur II tonearm (price TBA). All cabling was by Waveform Fidelity—including their GS Mk.3 speaker cables ($2895/10' pair)—and Stillpoints LLC designed and manufactured the room-treatment panels, loudspeaker footers, and ESS 34" and ESS 42" equipment racks ($8905 and $10,700, respectively). The system was lively, present, and full of believable force, as on a unique lacquer of the new Vanessa Fernandez album mentioned elsewhere in this show report.

I think it was in March of this year, at the Salon Son et Image in Montreal, when I first heard the impressive omnidirectional, electrostatic/dynamic hybrid loudspeakers from newcomer Muraudio. Now as then—"now" being the Brooklyn show—I was impressed by poise and imperturbability of the Muraudio Domain Omni PX1 speakers ($58,000/pair), even in the face of such sonic onslaught as Hans Zimmer's soundtrack for The Dark Knight. Driven by Bryston amplification and fed by Meitner digital sources and a $12,000 (not including arm and cartridge) refurbished Lenco turntable—which I did not hear, but which seemed to me rather steep for what it is—the Muraudio speakers exceeded every other panel of my experience in the consistently high quality of their spatial performance, virtually regardless of where I sat.

Let me close my coverage of the NY show—John Atkinson will be adding his own impressions—with a note of apology: In covering a show such as this, I let my camera (and my ears) be my guide, and although I make listening notes almost continually from start to finish, the order and, to an extent, the content of my write-ups are determined by the photographs with which I return. For whatever reason—incompetence comes to mind—not a single one of the pictures I took in the room shared by Massachusetts-based distributor High Fidelity Services and New York dealer and distributor High Water Sound was usable: particularly embarrassing, given High Water's Jeff Catalano's well-deserved reputation as one of the three best audio-show deejays, ever. And the gaffe is doubly embarrassing because Jeff was demonstrating the brand-new Parsifal Anniversary loudspeaker from Verity Audio ($24,995/pair), Unity Audio Design Cables, and Audia Flight Strumento electronics (all supplied by Paul Manos of High Fidelity Services) and phono gear from TW Acustic and Miyajima—and the system sounded really f**king good! I apologize to readers, and to Jeff and High Fidelity Services, for the lack of a photo in this space.

Update: Julien Pelchat of Verity Audio sent us the photo below so Stereophile readers can see what his Parsifal Anniversary loudspeakers looked like in Room 392 at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott.—Ed.