If last year’s New York Audio Show was a rebirth, 2013 saw its fruition. Everything about this year’s show was better. “We can actually get our gear to the rooms,” marveled Andy Singer of Sound by Singer, referring to the logistical nightmare that plagued exhibitors at last April’s venue. That, and many other reasons prompted, show organizer The Chester Group to abandon the dowager Waldorf-Astoria in favor of the modern posh that suffuses the New York Palace.
This year’s “side” events were also more compelling. Singer Lori Lieberman was on hand to talk about record-making and, of course, to sing! Colleen Murphy ran multiple “Classic Album Sundays” sessions, a forum to discuss and listen to great LP’s. Here, she spun David Bowie and Talking Heads vinyl on a Spiral Groove SG1.1 ‘table with a Lyra Atlas cartridge—through VTL electronics and Wilson Maxx3’s, no less! Meanwhile, PMC, The Sound Organization and SoundStageDirect hosted a series of luminary-laden panels called “From Studio to You”, which detailed the various stages of the record recording and production process.
Most importantly, the sound at this year’s show represented a major upgrade. The hoped-for improvement over the sonically abysmal Waldorf materialized in spades. Aside from the labyrinthine layout on the ballroom floors (“Are we confused yet?” snarked a passing Michael Fremer), the Palace proved to be a superb place to hold an audio show. Its rooms are solid, well-proportioned and—unlike those at the Waldorf—free of energy-sapping tapestries and wall fabric. Not insignificantly, the A/C and the AC behaved themselves. As a result, with very few exceptions, rooms both large and small were showing off their resident systems to especially good effect.
Indeed, good sound was spilling out of nearly every doorway, as were delighted attendees. Outside the mbl room, one local was visibly excited. “I’ve read all about these speakers in your magazine,” he explained, “and now I finally get to hear them.” Perhaps even more impressive was the fact that his significant other appeared equally charged up about being there.
Some of the show’s best sound came from the city’s rich trove of high end dealers, all of whom (except Lyric Hi Fi, which inexplicable forsook the show) took advantage of the opportunity to strut their wares and system-building chops to thousands in one shot. Many dealers took multiple rooms in order to demonstrate a range of options.
Take Innovative Audio, for example. Their “new school” (my appellation) room offered three digital source formats playing through solid state gear. The first source was supplied by the omnipresent Peter McGrath, who played his exemplary recordings from the very deck on which they’d been recorded. The second was hi-rez PCM files streamed from a MacBook, and the third was DSD files drawn from the same Mac. All were routed through an apparently superb MSB Diamond DAC4+ ($35k), Dan D’Agostino’s stunningly outfitted Momentum electronics, a pair of Wilson’s hot new Alexia speakers ($48,500), and Transparent cable. Whether playing Red Book or DSD, the sound was whip-snap fast, precisely imaged and dynamic as all get-out. Rhythms were just a tad slack, and at high volumes the sound could get edgy, but this system was doing everything else just right. Of the three sources, DSD sounded the best—as it always does.