The view from my room was Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. Photographed at night, the light on this part of Madison Ave is an ethereal thing. The Gothic spires on this grand old church poked serenely through the trellises and catwalks that encircle it like a cradle, half nursery ward and half promissory note, drawn on the bank of history.
In other words, it was really pretty and made for great photos.
I’d flown in the night before for no particular reason, and was strolling the hallways, just to see what there was to see and hear. I found Bryan Bilgore of Sensorium AVR, Jeremy Bryan of MBL North America, and Greg Beron of UHA, all wrestling with their setup of a “something special” demo for attendees. They’d gotten all the bits in place and were fully into their tuning, but I was invited in for a quick fix of what it was all about. And it was all about something—something like a 7.4 surround-sound system! There were four, four, JL Audio Gotham subwoofers arrayed in the back-half of the seating area, and aside from the 115” Black Diamond screen from Screen Innovations and the Sony Tru4k projector ($25,000), this was the simplest part of the setup. For loudspeakers, there were two 111F Radialstrahler ($42,000/pair) in front, two MBL 116F ($29,000/pair) loudspeakers arranged as sides, and two MBL 120 ($21,400/pair) as rear speakers and a THX-certified MBL 120 RC used for the center ($11,300). A full complement of MBL electronics stuffed a tucked-away rack, with the digital signal being “steered” (Greg Beron’s word) by a Theta Casablanca SSP into four separate Corona C31 CD/DACs for decode ($9,200 each). This fed four Corona C11 preamplifiers driving the individual amplifiers ($8,800). Speaking of which, there were five MBL Corona C15 monoblocks driving the front L/R/C and Side channels ($12,500 each) and a stereo C21 amp driving the rear channels ($9,200 each). All analog playback came from a Phase 11 analog tape machine from UHA ($17,000). The new 7-Series Wireworld cables made all the connections. Jeremy queued up a video from the band Rush’s Snakes & Arrows tour, which started off with “Tom Sawyer” and ended 10 minutes or so later, with a Neal Peart drum solo. My inner Beavis was going bananas. I love Rush! It’s a hot, burning kinda thing—this was the band my big brother took me to see on my 21st birthday, and getting to see Neal’s spinning drum kit on the big screen, with the razor-sharp image cast by a Sony 4K projector, was breathtaking. I mean, literally. Of course, this was concert level audio, but I was absolutely riveted. Wow. I mean, wow. By the end, I was a sweaty wreck, my ears were ringing, the grin on my face had been sandblasted on, and the only thing I could think was “Woohoo! Who’s up for round two?” So, on Saturday, I did just that and line-jumped for the full 45-minute whirligig ride; as predicted, the sonics had moved from “fun” to “exhilarating”. The line for the next seating stretched all the way down the hall, all weekend long.
Rewind—back to Day One of the New York Audio Show, which dawned crappy and cold, in fine Northest style. Welcome to Spring! Anyway, my first stop after the opening was Rutherford Audio. The Genesis Loudspeaker 2.2JR ($80,000/pair) loomed like menhirs at the end of the room, the glossy piano finish playing hell with my camera. A pair of S2/2T subwoofers ($6,800 each) squatted in the corners. The system was driven by Burmester electronics, including the blinged-out 909 amplifier ($73,495); about the size of a college dorm-room fridge, this amp probably weighs as much as one, too—were it stuffed full of gold bars. A Roksan TMS3 turntable, mounted with the new Vertere Reference Tone Arm ($38,500, including cable) and a Soundsmith Hyperion cartridge ($7,500), fed into a Burmester Phono 100 preamp ($23,995). A Burmester 077 preamp ($41,995) bridged the gaps. On the digital side, which I didn’t get to hear, was a monster Burmester 111 Mediacenter ($49,995), a multi-function DAC/Preamp/Media Server unit was configured to pull tunes from an Integrita Music Server from Certon. Gary Koh of Genesis was playing Isaac Hayes when I first came by, and I can honestly say that I’ve never heard the theme song from Shaft played so convincingly. As an aside, this was the first of three times at the show I heard this track. Weird, but fun. On another trip through, I heard the entire first side of Touch by Yello (I am totally getting that LP). Bass. Low. Ominous. Threatening. Delicious. I came by this room six times throughout the weekend, mainly because of the great tunes Gary kept on the ‘table—and the simply outstanding sound he was getting in this room. Auspicious beginnings!