NYAS 2016: Ken's Saturday on Central Park South

Seeing as it's smack dab in the middle of the New York Marathon route, finding a way into The Park Lane Hotel presented its share of challenges, even on Saturday: though the race wouldn't begin until Sunday, gangs of scantily clad runners of all shapes and sizes dominated the sidewalks of Central Park South, forcing pedestrians to hit the concrete and scream, Ratso Rizzo style, "Hey! I'm walkin' here!"

Ahhh—I made it. Peace. Serenity. It's day two of the New York Audio Show!

Back on the seventh floor, my first stop was a room that remained jammed from first day to last. Linear Tube Audio presented a stunning-looking and -sounding system consisting of Wolf Audio Systems Red Wolf Server ($8000), Veracity Audio Chrysalis DAC ($7100), Linear Tube Audio's microZOTL MZ2-S power amplifier ($1845)—and, on static display, ZOTL 40 power amplifier ($5800)—Sadurni Acoustics Miracoli speakers ($22,000/pair), various Audience AU24 SX interconnects and speaker cables (from $1560), Audience AU24 power cords ($1030/5'), Audience aR6-TSSOX power conditioner ($6450), and a four-shelf rack from Box Furniture ($4130).

Based on designer David Berning's amplifiers, Linear Tube Audio's small-footprint MZ2-S contains NOS 12SN7 and 6201/12AT7 tubes and a beefed-up power supply. For its part, the large, V-shaped, UK-built Veracity Audio Chrysalis DAC is outfitted with 6SN7 (2) and ECC82 (2) tubes. This Gregor Szymczyk design, which has serious Bubinga-wood appeal, is manufactured with the user's choice of 6SN7 tubes, including samples from Mullard, Electro-Harmonix, Philips, Raytheon, Genelex, Sylvania, Northern Electric, and Psvane Tseries. Two copper-foil/paper-in-oil capacitors are by Jensen. The Chrysalis offers both PCM and DSD, plus a headphone amp/jack, in pure class-A single-ended triode design. The beautiful elephant in the room, the massive Sadurni Acoustics loudspeaker, is a four-way front-horn-loaded design, with a stated frequency response of 20Hz to 50kHz. Horn-loaded from 140Hz up, it uses two opposing 8" paper woofers per side, powered by an internal servo-controlled 300W class-D amplifier, all manufactured in Texas.

Streaming the jubilant jazz of Stephan Oliva, Bruno Chevillon, and Paul Motian's Intérieur Nuit, this system provided splendid musical movement while silencing everyone within earshot with its naturalism, frequency extension, and purity: the Veracity/Linear Tube Audio/Sadurni combination easily takes this reporter's "best in show" award. Compared to the strained sounds, puny soundstages, and generally non-musical presentations that erupted from many rooms, here was a visceral line-up that created images with lifelike stature, pure tonalities, and an easily believable sense of weight, flow, and slam. From Hugh Masakela's joyous shouts to Nils Lofgren's blues-guitar forays, Veracity/LTA/Sadurni created immersive music magic.

Over in the Kubotek Corporation-Haniwa Audio room, an array of valve gear powering the tiniest speakers in the show created a buzz-worthy ruckus. The system used what appeared to be a modified Kuzma turntable, fronting a variety of Haniwa components: HCTR-01 Mk.II Precision Vinyl Data Pick Up System ($12,000), HCTR01 MC Cartridge ($5000), HEQA02 Phono Equalizer Amplifier ($5000), HAMP05 Mid/High Range Tube Stereo Power Amplifier ($4000), HAMP 30 Low Range Tube Monaural Power Amplifier ($6000), and HSP1C04 Full Range Cube Speakers ($12,000).

On their promotional materials, the exhibitors used as their motto, "The Quest for True Stereo Music." It's safe to say the former owner of records used in this room—the late Harry Pearson—would view their "quest" as true sacrilege: as seen in the above photo, at least 15 of Harry's LPs were stacked and strewn across the tops of amplifiers and on the floor. Titles from RCA (Living Stereo pressings), Columbia ("two-eyes" pressings), and Riverside were treated as useless playing cards, rather than as valuable containers of music history. A man in shirt and tie—the designer/owner, I assume—pointed to the records and boasted, "Harry Pearson collection!" I scoffed, "Harry wouldn't appreciate his records being treated this way." He smiled.

Spinning Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, conducted by Antal Dorati, from an RCA Living Stereo LP, the Haniwa system lacked bass, and transients were harsh, although small-scale texture and tone were good—even stirring.

Next door, German electronics manufacturer AVM Audio Video presented their new Ovation 6.2 products, in concert with the venerable British speaker manufacturer PMC. One AVM/PMC system included the Ovation 6.2 class-A/AB high-current MOS-FET integrated amplifier, Ovation 6.2 Media Player with CD drive, and PMC twenty•24 loudspeakers ($5400), with Nordost Valhalla 2 cabling. System two included the Evolution SD 5.2 Analog preamplifier with custom-made AVM 83T tube line stage, Evolution MP 5.2 tube-driven media Player with CD drive, Evolution MA 3.2S Mono Block amps, and PMC fact•12 loudspeakers ($20,850), with Nordost Heimdal 2 cables. Electronics for both systems were held in a single HRS rack, making it difficult to know what piece was doing the business at any given time. (AVM prices were MIA.)

The big 'n' shiny AVM-PMC assemblage produced super smooth sounds. The music files were equally shiny, from Boz Scaggs to various faceless pop crooners to—no, please, no—"The Pink Panther Theme." Music was presented with zero trace of glare or etch, bass notes were rich and ripe, and a general feeling of solidity and assurance was the order of the day.

Audio shows are about more than esoteric speaker designs, costly all-in-one lifestyle machines, or glistening turntables. In the case of exhibitor Sweet Vinyl, audio shows are also the place to clean up the sound of your beloved vinyl.

With the aid of smartphones and a proprietary app, Sweet Vinyl's Dan Eakins and Leo Harty treated showgoers to the sounds of vinyl sides that had been electronically de-clicked, de-noised, de-popped, and perhaps even de-loused. Their Sugarcube SC-1 ($1500) and SC-2 ($2500) "Hi res all-in-one vinyl digital recording and playback platforms" provided a convincing demonstration. Using the app to switch between de-clicked and non-de-clicked vinyl playback, with practically zero latency, it was easy to hear these sugary machines do their removal magic. The Sugarcubes can create hi-res rips to files, or, for the vinyl lover, they silence clicks, pops, and scratches in real time. An amazing pair of devices designed for those who demand dead-quiet, black backgrounds from their precious vinyl discs.

mvs4000's picture

...what do you have against the Pink Panther Theme?

jrsystems's picture

Ken, I am in complete agreement on the room with the Sadurni horns. I have had limited and generally unimpressive experience with horns, but keep hearing positive buzz about them and was hoping to hear a good horn demo. I have to say that I was blown away by these wonderful speakers and this terrific system. Hands down the best sound at the show.

ken mac's picture

jrsysrtems, yes! The Sadurni room was magic. And the manufacturer and rep were equally good natured and forthcoming. I don't have the room to review them. Herb? Art?

monetschemist's picture

and treats them like sh*t. Please remind me: don't buy stuff from this person.

texanalog's picture

I,ve heard this Haniwa system no less than twice at several RMAF shows including last month's show and found the music no less than wonderful, despite his unfussy setup (although at RMAF 2016 I saw no lps stacked like in the photo and report.) I would like to point out iirc that all of the HP collection lps have been digitized using Haniwa's proprietary system, and this might help explain why he treats these lps this way (and perhaps he knows more than us as to whether any damage is inflicted by the stacking - after all the music is in the grooves not on the ridges, plus Haniwa is a superb cartridge designer).

ken mac's picture

Dude, pass that joint over here. Ya know, the one stubbed out on the Deep Purple record. Crap, my Orange Julius got smeared all over Love it To Death. But hey! I unpeeled and played. Right as ruination.

texanalog's picture

Hey man! Pass me my Discwasher brush, I spilled bongwater on Dark Side of the Moon!

texanalog's picture

Get out the wet-vac. I spilled my porter in my Wagoneer.

corrective_unconscious's picture

On casual listening it seemed to remove the clicks and pops without degrading the sound - it definitely removed the clicks and pops - but my question would be whether the entire system was sounding very good in that room without or without the click and pop removal aspect. Perhaps this makes any evaluation trickier.

corrective_unconscious's picture

"with or without the click and pop removal"

(My old browsers don't always have full functionality.)

AVM Audio's picture

Thank you Ken for your great review of our room and here are the missing prices for the units,

Ovation A6.2 Integrated $9.995

Ovation MP6.2 Media Player $8.995

Evolution SD 5.2 Streaming Preamp $5.995

Evolution MP 5.2 Media Player $5.995

Evolution MA 3.2S Mono Blocks $5.495


Peder Bäckman
International Sales Director
AVM Audio Video Manufaktur

BenNYLPMan's picture

This room was fantastic. I walked in during a jazz track to do with a train and was blown away by the realism of the room. Anyone know that song? Not really a jazz fan, but would like to hear it on my system. I've looked at the ZOTL amps for a while so it was neat to hear them. I'm an analog guy, but the wolf server screen was really cool. there is finally something compelling to me in the digital world. Not being able to be "hands on" was always a big drawback to CD players for me, but I would love to have that screen in my stereo room.