But what stole the show was the lengthy list of “auxiliary events”, with the seminars, the live music performances, and movie screenings, it was quite possible to be entertained both visually and aurally the entire weekend—and never visit a single room demo. And the lineup was incredible. I got to hear Lori Liebermann, Valerie Joyce, Amber Rubarth, and Louise Rogers all perform live. I sat front row-center and listened to 3-time Emmy Award-winning Darcy Proper talk about mastering music for the audiophile consumer. Stereophile’s Michael Fremer gave a series of seminars on vinyl, vinyl setup, and more vinyl. Cosmo Murphy was there with the Classic Album Sunday crowd, playing the full-album/right-through experience to packed rooms. Seriously—there were a hundred different things to sit in on. What’s not to like?
Another surprise for the show was the number of announcements made here. VPI announced—and demoed—the new “Classic Direct” turntable. The name, like the price, is still tentative, but the latter should clock in somewhat south of $30k when all is said and done. The table features a sophisticated drive mechanism—Harry Weisfeld called it a “three-phase electromagnetic induction motor”, and at my blank look, he proceeded to talk about the mag-lev tech being used in high-speed rail systems, currently working in China. The motor costs VPI about $4,000 to manufacture, is super-quiet, and while a direct-drive approach, there’s no high-torque drive wheel making contact with the platter introducing noise and rumble. As a side bonus, there’s also no “cogging”, an effect present in just about all motors used in turntables today where there’s a tiny, but measurable, hitch as the motor cyles. With the new approach, the platter on a Classic Direct spins as smooth as a baby’s bottom. I want to try one of these in a big way. Harry says they’re still tweaking the ratio between drive and delicacy, but what I heard in the room was pretty spot-on.
A second surprise came from the same turntable—the new 3-D printed JMW tonearm VPI will be making. This new manufacturing approach lets VPI create tonearms with incredible internal damping and a complex structure designed to reduce it even further. The 3-D printing process is not cheap, at least not yet, as it still requires access to a hideously expensive printing machine and about a full day for that machine to crank out the finished product. A lot of ink is going to be spilled over this so I’ll leave off here other than to say the price for the arm should fall close to $6,500.
Vinnie Rossi of Red Wine Audio also chose the New York show to launch a pair of significant updates—the Isabella preamplifier, now updated with his “Renaissance Edition” tube input stage featuring 6H30 “super tubes”, and the Signature 57 battery-powered integrated amplifier—both will be available with options for an internal DAC, a phono preamp, and a headphone amplifier. The Signature 57 will replace the award-winning Signature 30 integrated I had so much fun with six years ago. Based on a Class-AB Mosfet output stage, the Sig 57 is also the physically largest Red Wine piece to date—it incorporates the exact same hardware as found in the monoblocks, with precisely half their output, a difference due to the size of the battery module feeding them. Vinnie grinned “yeah, but I’m working on that.” Stay tuned there for more—in the meantime, expect to see the Signature 57 this summer. Prices start at $3,995 for both the Isabella (shipping now) and the upcoming Signature 57.
Venture Audio introduced a new 2.1 system, featuring a pair of Vici loudspeakers and a single AW500 subwoofer, offered for a package price of $36,000 (as shown here, with an additional sub, the price was $48,000). The Vici comes with four 4-inch “Abaca Graphite Composite” (AGC) drivers and a matching 2” AGC tweeter. Frequency specs on the Vici cover from 60Hz – 40kHz. The matching AW400 sub is ported, with dual 10” AGC drivers powered by an internal 500 watt Class-D amplifier, with the usual complement of room-tuning options. This room sounded outstanding, and was my first nominee for Best-In-Show.