New York Audio Show - Part 1

Show report
Solid-state power amplifiers,
Tubed power amplifiers,
Digital-to-analog converters
New York Audio Show - Part 1

Veloce Audio is now shipping the long-awaited Saetta Hybrid monoblock amplifiers ($18,000/pair). Rutherford Audio brought the latest Vertere tonearm ($38,500, including the tonearm cable, $27,900 without). Wes Bender Studio NYC had a pre-release SACD transport and DAC pair from E.A.R. ($13,000 for the pair). Sound by Singer demoed a pair of the brand-new Raidho D2 loudspeakers ($48,00/pair as shown) with the new diamond-on-graphite drivers. Audio Arts demoed the entire line of new CH Precision products, including the C1 DAC ($32,975), the D1 Player ($32,750) and the A1 amplifier, here run as a bridged pair ($37,475 each), with a sleek pair of new components from Trinity Audio Design GmbH, the Preamp ($34,740) and the Phono ($34,750). Audioengine had a nifty little USB DAC that I’m not supposed to talk about (more on that soon). The Jecklin Float QA “head speakers” from Quad were surprising and surprisingly comfortable—$3,000 gets you the cans and the amp necessary to drive them. On the other end of the headphone market, the Mad Dog from Mr. Speakers (with the leather Alpha pads and leather comfort strap -- $299) was extraordinarily comfortable and a great match for the new Astell&Kern AK100 high-resolution digital player ($699), that, unlike your iPod, will natively play all your 24bit/192kHz HDTracks downloads. Sennheiser was showing off their $349 Momentum on-ear headphones and the new HDVD-800 headphone/DAC combo ($1,999), a slick little box that lets you mix and match your single-ended cans with your balanced ones. Audez’e had a new closed-back headphone with an intimate and engaging sound, and if not quite as colorful as the steampunk-inspired LCD model on prominent display, they were certainly more real-world. Elsewhere, Woo Audio brought two full rooms of head-amps and headphones, all in self-driven demos with music from M-A Recordings and new, affordable audio cables from Black Cat. More on all of this, soon.

My favorite room at the show was a joint venture between MBL and NY retailer, Sensorium AVR. Jeremy & Tara Bryan of MBL-North America, Bryan Bilgore of Sensorium AVR, and analog tape guru Greg Beron of UHA, put together a stunning 45-minute demo that quite literally made my day. The sound was outstanding. The material was equally outstanding. It was unexpected. It was thrilling. I loved every second of it. The sound came from—uh, well, I have no idea where it came from. There were speakers all around me, but the relationship of them to what I was hearing—and seeing on the Sony 4k projector—was completely removed. Almost architectural. The sound wove together in front of me. To the side of me. Behind me. And more than a few times, all around me. Absolutely stunning. A one-off master tape playing the ubiquitous “Coal Train” of Hugh Masekela was fresh. Roy Orbison was ethereal. I think I started grinning with Anna Netrebko, became open-mouthed by the time Sting finished “Fragile” and when YYZ played through, I almost got naked. Yeah, I liked that demo a lot.

Another showstopper for me came courtesy of the dapper gent from Ireland, Philip O’Hanlon of On A Higher Note, the importer of Vivid, Luxman and other fine brands. O’Hanlon is, clearly, a wizard. There’s really no other explanation for it. It makes a kind of sense—who else could do what he does and pull off that bowtie-and-tweed thing but Hogwarts faculty? It also explains that Cheshire Cat grin when you ask where in Heaven’s name he got a “console-mix” (in double-DSD!) of Luther Vandross and Beyonce. Not my favorite performers, I was poleaxed by the stereo image—layered, textured, and utterly convincing. A one-off never-made-it-to-the-album cut from Boz Scaggs followed. Like any good ref, I threw my Best-In-Show flag down on the spot and demanded a booth review. Incredible stuff there.

The most surprising sound at the show? There were two that stopped me in my tracks, and I mean that in the sense of being hit in the face with a lemon peel, wrapped around a gold brick. The first was Touch by Yello, played in the big Burmester/Genesis Loudspeakers room. Played through, it was a fantastic antidote to some of the drivel I’d heard, and thrumming through that tremendous system made me remember that I actually liked music. You lose track, sometimes, at an audio show. Anyway, the other shake-me-like a Raggedy Andy episode happened courtesy of Peter Qvortrup of Audio Note UK. On his all-Audio Note system, he dropped a dubstep A-bomb with some cuts from a special edition release of Noisia’s Split the Atom. Peter was so taken with the album and the sense of the “live experience” that it captured that he bought 500 copies. It was electrifying—and played back at well over 100dB, it was more than a little terrifying. 20 watts, put to very entertaining use.

And that’s the fly-by. More room details to come.