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!
Next up were two rooms from New York’s Innovative Audio and two different pairs of Wilson Audio loudspeakers. The first was the new Alexia at $48,500/pair, and since this was press hours, I got a real treat—I was solo! Just me, and Peter McGrath, who walked me through a demo of the flexibility of this new speaker. Sweet! As you probably know, many Wilson loudspeakers are modular. What you may not have known is that, at least on the very high end models, those modules can move around a bit, and by “a bit”, I mean back and forward in 1/16th of an inch increments. Why, you ask? Alignment! Peter walked me through one of his own recordings, with huge and detailed soundstaging, played first “straight” and then again with the tweeter module (and only the tweeter module) moved one notch (1/16th”) toward me. Sure enough, I heard the top end get a tad more energetic. I actually quite liked it, but when he moved the tweeter back in place, coherence hit the stage like a sheet snapping out flat and crease-free. It wasn’t huge. It wasn’t night and day. But it was there. The Alexia (and up, in the line) can be tuned to your space, your ears, your whatever… bet you wish your speakers could do that. I do! As fun as those speakers are, or would be if they fell into my listening room by accident (it could happen), they were totally upstaged by the jewel-like electronics from Dan D’Agostino’s Momentum line. I don’t really have a ready analogy to convey exactly how unbelievable these bits are to see, touch and taste (generally frowned upon—don’t ask). The new black-on-copper look of the stereo amp (on static display, $30,500, with stands) is “steal-me” sexy. Wow. The “regular” chrome/steel and copper are quite nice, too, don’t get me wrong ($55,000/pair for the monoblocks and $32,000 for the preamp with the power-base), everything in this line looks like it could have been machined by Patek Philippe, and if it could have been threaded on a chain, Enjoy The Music’s Steve Rochlin would have been wearing two. Blown away by the aesthetic, I almost overlooked the top-of-the-line MSB Diamond DAC IV Plus ($44k, as configured) that was actually putting all the tunes out, which would have been a horrible mistake. I love that thing, and the “Femto Galaxy Clock” (a $4,995 upgrade, here included) has—to all reports—simply revolutionized their digital sound. Let’s just say I was a big fan. Transparent Audio cabling was used throughout.
Skipping across the hall, I ducked in on a demo of the Sasha W/P loudspeakers ($27,900/pair). Driven by Lamm and VTL electronics, including the Lamm M1.2 Reference monoblocks ($24,190/pair), a VTL Tl-7.5 Series III Reference preamplifier ($20,000), and a VTL TP-6.5 Signature phono stage ($10,500). A Spiral Groove SG2 turntable (w/Centroid tonearm, $21,000), mounted with a Lyra Kleos cartridge ($3,000) was balanced by an all-Naim digital system, including a NDS Reference network player ($10,995), a CDX2 CD player ($6,195) and a UnitiServe SSD ripper/UPnP server ($3,995). Cables from Naim and Transparent Audio were used throughout. The sound from the vinyl playback (I didn’t hear the digital side) was extremely inviting, and easily among the best that I’ve heard from the Sashas. Was it Lamm? Was it VTL? Was it a (gasp!) system thing? I dunno. But I do know that the sound in here was extremely refined, even when the demos dipped into the used record bin. Old disc? Who cares. There was magic happening and I plumb forgot to take notes. Whoops, where’d that 20 minutes go? Yikes! I had places to be!
Ciamara was showing the big TAD Reference 1 loudspeakers ($80,000/pair) biamped with Viola Labs Symphony and Concerto amplifiers ($22,500 each). A Viola Crescendo preamplifier, which included an on-board DAC ($22,000), was “helped” by a pair of devices from EMM Labs, including the DAC2X ($15,500) and the TSDX SACD/CD transport ($17,000). Analog signaling came from a Dr. Feickert Firebird turntable ($12,995), wired to a PH-77 phono stage from AMR ($11,995). A Lyra Kleos cartridge ($2,850) sat on a Reed 3P 12” tonearm ($5,995). I didn’t get much of an impression as the room was still being constructed on my flyby, but the eclectic collection of gear seemed to be offering a little bit o’ something for everyone.
Gideon Schwartz of Audio Arts demoed the Zellaton semi-open-baffle Studio Reference One loudspeakers ($52,750), with, as I mentioned, electronics from CH Precision and Trinity Audio. A Jan Allaerts MC1 Boron MKII cartridge mounted on a Simon Yorke S10 turntable ($19,950), fed into the Trinity Audio Design GmbH Phono ($34,740), lit me up with a damn fine spin of Al Dimeola, John McLaughlin and Paco DeLucia’s Friday Night in San Francisco. Flipping to the digital side with the C1 DAC from CH Precision ($32,975), I got my first listen in on the new Depeche Mode Delta Machine. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—the CH Precision gear is beyond SOTA, and while it costs dearly, I’m not sure that it’s fair to say that “better” is actually on offer. It’s incredible stuff. The A1 amplifiers, here run bridged “for the heck of it”—the 100wpc of a single A1 can and will run just about any speaker made into failure—have a unique tuning capability; they can vary the feedback, both local and global, in order to tune to the speaker they’re mated with. Want more drive? More air? Tune away. With the vanishingly low noise floor, all you’re ever going to hear is your music. Can you tell that I want a rack full of this stuff? Yeah. Whew. I’m gettin’ all hot and bothered just thinking about it.
The big Ultimate Reference loudspeakers from Venture Audio were only on static display during my turns through the room, but that’s okay. I mean that. I didn’t miss them—the new Vici loudspeakers are fantastic. And if you’re the kind of person that thinks $150,000 for a pair of loudspeakers is a “bit of a stretch but worth it if it’s truly remarkable”, then the $36,000 for the Vici, which includes a dual-driver AW500 subwoofer, is going to make you throw up in your mouth a little. For less than a quarter of the dough for the Ultimates, I think the Vici might be better. Meep! Anyway, they’re awesome. The hefty V200A+ mono amps ($120,000/pair) and a VP100L preamp ($35,100) drove them here. Of particular interest was the Phasure NOS1 DAC ($4,500), an outstanding-sounding if curiously shaped device. While just about everything in this room was way out of my league, the sound was incredibly delicate, but still had that leather-wrapped-steel-hammer for bass. “Outstanding,” is what I wrote in my little notebook. I then underlined that word 25 more times.
Sound by Singer was showing off the diamond-coated woofers of the big D2 loudspeakers from Raidho (prices start at $43,500/pair), and as this topped my personal list of Must Hear Gear for the show, I frogmarched myself on over there—only to be defeated by my old enemy, The Locked Door. In fact, I think I got denied three times by a locked door during the show. Once was due to last-minute setups, and the other two times because You People had jammed the room. That’s me, hanging out with Kathy Griffin. Oh well. Anyway, I did finally sneak past the crowd and steal some prime seating, but alas and alack, this demo was submarined by room acoustics. This room could easily have been a best-in-show contender, because what I did hear around the mid-bass boom of the room, was an absolutely arresting clarity, warmth, and life. Hook is set, time to reel in the fish. Said another way, “I’ll be back.” Shown here with a VAC 450S amplifier ($44,000), a signature Mk 2 preamplifier ($18,000), and a Soulution 5400 SACD player ($32,500). Nordost Tyr v2 cables and Audience power conditioners aR6T-TS ($6,000 each) rounded out the package.
Wes Bender is a professional photographer, if you didn’t know, and does some incredible work. He’s also kind enough to lie to me about my own paltry efforts, so I seek him out to give him as many opportunities as possible. Ahem. Anyway, he was showing off a pair of prototype components from E.A.R. that had first attempted to land at CES, but had been purloined during shipment. So, here for their actual debut were a new DAC and new SACD transport (est. $13,000 for the pair). Shown with a pair of Form Floor loudspeakers from Marten ($6,500/pair) with their distinctive triangular cross-section, the sound was electric and one of the best on offer at the show. A new turntable from Redpoint Audio Designs, the Model D (starting at $29,000) came mounted with a Helius Omega Silver Ruby tonearm ($5,225) carrying a Transfiguration Proteus cartridge ($6,000) opposite a Tri-Planar Ultimate 12” ($9,800) carrying a Dynavector DRT XV-1t ($9,250). An Andros phono preamp from Zesto was in the rack, but when I was present, the new Hagerman Audio Labs Trumpet Reference ($6,600) carried the audio signal. A pair of E.A.R. components rounded out the picture: an 868 PL full-function pre ($7,595) made beautiful sweet … music … with an 890 70wpc amplifier ($8,295). Kaplan cables were used throughout.
Going from the bubble of audio refinement at Wes Bender Studios NY into the maelstrom brewed up by Outreach AV, courtesy of Sjöfn HiFi, was like an icy plunge after lounging in a steam room. Holy sweet mother–! I’ve heard the phrase “wall of sound” used before, but I’m not sure I’m going to be able to toss that out there anymore without thinking about the Deuce Clue. Take a pair of ( the clue ) loudspeakers, set them down, inverted, on top of another pair of ( the clue )—with the requisite spacers—and you have a $2,000 SPL monster. For those of you not familiar with the little speakers with the odd name, these monitors are made for near-wall use. Not the last word in audiophile detail or finesse, they’re nonetheless a boatload of fun and a testament tot the fact that you don’t have to indulge in a lot of tomfoolery to get really impressive sound. A Hegel Audio integrated did the duties while I was sipping bourbon—ah, I mean, listening to music that was played back at a bazillion decibels.
I really was not prepared to hear Isaac Hayes signing Shaft, much less hearing that heavy-cream butter come out of the skinny little Audio Space LSS-3/5a monitors ($1,790/pair)—even if they were sititing on top of integrated subwoofers (SW-1a, at $1,190/pair). A power-cord-less Baby Reference preamplifier from Music First Audio ($6,990) sat in full color on the rack. That is, there was a blue one; a black one and a silver one sat on a shelf behind the rack. Moral support, I suppose. Digital conversion came from the well-regarded Resonessence Labs Invicta ($3,990), pulling files from a Resolution Audio Cantata Music Center ($6,800). The Innamorata stereo amplifier from Wells Audio ($6,000), an amp I’d like to hear more of, drove the monitors. Audience AU24se cables were used throughout.
All of us make sacrifices when we buy audio. Sometimes it’s a cost/performance trade off. Sometimes it’s an aesthetic thing. Sometimes, it’s space. Waterfall Audio thinks they have answers to all of these. The glass-speaker company, shown here by Dave Lalin of The Audio Doctor, was in typical keeping driven by Aragon amplification. Manley Labs’ 300b preamplifier ($5,795) provided the bridge to the Auralic Vega DAC ($3,495). Waterfall’s Victoria Evo ($7,000/pair) can fade into your décor, but there’s just no way to hide the Aragon 8008 ($4,400), much less all the tubes in the Manley pre (not that you’d want to). This was the best I’ve heard this Waterfall/Aragon combo sound, and I’ve run across them two or three times so far. Nice work, and way above “lifestyle sound”.
Another Audio Doctor room featured the stylish KEF Blades ($30,000/pair), a pair of loudspeakers no one in their right mind would try and hide. Who cares how they sound, they’re just fun to look at! Okay, I care, but I had nothing to complain about. Driven by the crazy-expensive Chord SPM 14000 Mk II monos ($86,000/pair) and the Chord CPA 8000 Reference preamplifier ($45,000), the sound was very good, but at those prices, that’s not really news. The dual, counter-rotating platters of the Kronos turntable ($32,000) are mesmerizing in precisely the same way a cobra is said to be (I happily have no way of verifying that), here paired with the Manley Labs Steelhead ($8,000).
GamuT Audio is a brand that gets respect but not a lot of air cover, at least in my experience, so walking into the Woodbridge Stereo/Video room was fun and new. I didn’t get a chance to hear the big S9 loudspeakers ($99,990/pair), but that’s fine—there was no possible way something that big was going to sing in space that small. Their little brothers, the S5 ($29,990/pair) filled the space nicely. I recognized the Pass Labs XP-25 phono preamp, and perhaps oddly, it drew my eye up to the prototype VPI Classic Direct turntable ($TBD, but est. ~$20k) sitting very prettily in a rosewood chassis, with one of the new 3-D printed tonearms VPI will be shipping in May. A Soundsmith Hyperion sat on that arm. A GamuT D3i preamplifier ($9,490), GamuT M250i mono amps ($24,980/pair) were sitting in the rack, but used only on the big speakers. On the littler guys, the GamuT Di150 integrated ($11,690) did the job. MIT cables were used in both systems. This room was packed, both with gear and people, but what I heard was very nice, though when I tried to elbow my way to the front, I was stared down by a row of unmoving audiophiles, so I fled.
The second “Raidho Room” featured the little D1 loudspeakers, and I was really happy to see them. Hosted by Bob Visintainer of Rhapsody Music and Cinema, the D1 ($25,500/pair with matching stands) were driven by a pair of Veritas monoblocks from Merrill Audio ($12,000). These amps are based on the Ncore modules from Hypex that’s getting folks all hot under the collar, and good for 400 wpc into 8 ohms and up to 1,200 wpc into 2 ohms. On the spec sheet, these amps look incredible, great SNR, superlative impedances; in person, they’re rather simple, a flat box. A Kondo preamplifier ($34,000) and a Pi Grecco CD player ($22,000), and cables from Ansuz Acoustics, rounded out the offerings. I couldn’t really get a handle on this room, but of the two Raidho demos at AXPONA, this was clearly the one to beat.
The second Rhapsody Music room was manned by Philip O’Hanlon of On A Higher Note, and as I mentioned in the last piece, the man has some seriously awesome tunes in his bag of audio tricks. The Vivid Audio Giya G3 ($40,000), a speaker with equally startling looks and sound. Interestingly, I found this speaker also driven by another Ncore variant, this time from Mola Mola; the mono amps retail for $15k/pair and the matching pre goes for $10k. Icing this particular cake was a new soon-to-be-shipping DAC from Luxman, the DA-06 ($6,000), which supports up to double-DSD sampling over USB. I’ve already mentioned that the sound in here was Best-In-Show caliber, and I have nothing to add or take from that—this was outrageously good sound.
Care Audio was showing one of my favorite new speaker brands, My Audio Design (MAD). I was quite taken with the sexy Duke Royal at AXPONA; here was the far more affordable Baron ($13,000/pair). Paired with an Allnic T2000 integrated, here run as an amp-only ($8,900), with a Dude preamplifier from Tube Research Labs. A Calyx Femto DAC ($6,850) did the conversions from a Musica Pristina server ($6,500). The Barons are stand mount speakers with a graceful upward taper, an admittedly odd shape for a stand-mount. Take that away and I was happily awash in some lovely music. Great combo!
Moving over to the other MAD room, this time with a pair of more traditional-looking, boxy stand-mounts, the MAD 1920s ($3,495/pair), shown in both red and black finishes. Marc Philips of Colleen Cardas Imports was demoing these with components from PureAudio. These looked rather like skeletonized Plinius Audio gear, which makes some sense as the designers are ex-Plinius folks, but while eye-catching, I expect the avant-garde casework may be a bit much for folks looking for a more traditional aesthetic. The PureAudio Control pre ($9,500) and Reference monos ($15,500/pair) were joined by The Analog DAC from MSB (prices start at $6,995; shown at $8,690) with an MSB Platinum Data CD IV transport ($3,995). An elegant tiered rack from Trellis Audio supported the gear. Sound was very good, not quite as elegant and effortless as the bigger MAD speakers, but given the typical limitations of the little two-ways, I had no complaints.
The oddest room, for me, was the triple-Joseph combo I found, powered by VAS electronics. I’m a huge fan of Joseph Audio, and own a pair of his superlative Pulsar loudspeakers, so yes, fine, I’m hopelessly biased, but seeing a trio of the flagship Pearl 3 loudspeakers ($28k/pair) on display was enough to make my mouth water. Shown here with an actual Pearl 3 center speaker, the base cabinet can actually sit on its side. It has little footer rests for the top cabinet to sit astride it, though it was set up here in the traditional manner. I can’t imagine using this kind of speaker as a center channel in a surround system—the word “overkill” keeps bouncing around my head—but that wasn’t precisely what was going on here. The VAS Citation Sound-1 preamplifier ($5,000) has a rather interesting “blend control” allowing the user to create a center channel out of a traditional stereo feed. Might be a very good thing for fill, especially in a large room, but here, I guess you could say I wasn’t convinced. Paired with a trio of the Citation Sound-2 monos ($1,500 each), good for 50wpc of EL34 tube power. Also of note in this room was the already-mentioned VPI Classic Direct turntable and the new JMW 3-D tonearm.
Red Wine Audio is a regular stop on the floor circuit, at least for me. Owner/designer Vinnie Rossi is just a good guy and it’s nice to catch up with someone who seems genuinely happy to see the familiar faces wandering through, who’s obviously having a good time, and is just plain enthusiastic about what he’s doing and why. His attitude is a little bit infectious, and quite frankly, the industry could use more enthusiasts like this. Heck, most industries could use more Vinnies, but I digress. Here at The Palace, Vinnie was paired up with Fidelis A/V and Sound by Singer; he therefore had a sweet pair of Harbeth 30.1 ($5,995/pair) out in front and a Bricasti D/A converter ($8,500) feeding the Red Wine Audio components. Speaking of which, the new Liliana monoblocks, which are Class A/B driven entirely from battery to produce 115wpc into 8 ohms, got themselves the equivalent of a mani/pedi, err, that is, they have a new wood faceplate that brings their aesthetic in line with the rest of the Renaissance Edition upgrades Vinnie has been rolling out this year. I already mentioned the to-do/ta-da around the Signature 57, so let me skip to the new Ren Ed Isabella preamplifier (prices start at $3,995), which can be fitted out with options for headphones, a phono pre, and a pair of DAC modules—or all of the above—and yes, it also has a wooden faceplate. In addition, it sports the 6H30 Russian “super tubes” as part of the new package. Did I mention I’m a fan of this line? I am! And here paired with the Harbeth, the sound was extremely easy to hang out with. Detailed, but never cold, punchy by not too forward, warm but not too smooth. And oh-so-quiet. Yum!
While not exactly the opposite, Sanders Sound Systems was the opposite of many of the rooms on display here in New York. If you’re not familiar, Sanders makes big ESL panels with cone-driven bass. The rig comes with a digital crossover from Behringer, which does the analog-to-digital-back-to-analog processing with 24bit/96kHz sampling, though I suppose that’s something that can be upgraded. A Tascam CD player and a Miracle Audio Divinitive preamplifer sat in front of two pairs of Merrill Audio Veritas monoblocks. The match-up made for a wicked-fast presentation that bristled with detail and illumination. Was it my cuppa? Hard to say, though I really do admire what’s going on there. Narrow sweet-spot, to be sure, but that’s hardly a surprise with an ESL rig.
There were two YG Acoustics rooms that did turn my crank (ahem). The first was the Kipod II loudspeakers ($38,800), paired with Veloce Audio components. The Saetta monos ($18,000/pair) have been coming from Veloce for well over a year now—and now, after that long wait, they’re supposed to be finally shipping this May. The Saetta is hybrid tube/solid-state circuit that’s also a hybrid-battery solution, good for 400wpc for 40 hours of operation off a single charge. An LS-1 linestage ($18,000) was paired with a Luxman DA-06 DAC and pushing some of Philip O’Hanlon double-DSD computer files. Perhaps the best I’ve heard these YG speakers sound.
Another variation on a theme saw a pair of svelte YG Carmel loudspeakers ($18,000/pair) fronted by the new Soulution 530 integrated amplifier ($49,000) and a 540 SACD player ($32,500). Shockingly expensive for a minimalist aesthetic, you can be forgiven for having a dollop of disbelief mixed into your expectational soup, but regardless of what your preconceptions are telling you “must be true”, Soulution is absurdly good stuff. I’ve seen a couple of those videos from the talent shows where the average dude stands up, the critics start their snarky comments, and everyone’s jaw hits the dirt when the singing starts. It was like that. Not a real-world combo, to be sure, but a real pleasure to visit with. Dynamics, detail, imaging, this is the sound many audiophiles can only dream about, and it was a perfectly fitting way to close out the show.
Closing out, I think the New York Show was surprising in many ways. Sound was pretty good overall, which really shouldn’t come as a surprise (but to many, it still is). The number of rooms was about average for a regional show, and about half what AXPONA was showing back in March and maybe a third (-ish) what’ll be on display at Newport Beach. This sort of comparison naturally leads at least some folks to question whether “we need” another audio show. The first half of the year is rather crowded as it is, what with CES/T.H.E. Show in Las Vegas, AXPONA wherever it lands, Salon Son et Image in Montreal, and then T.H.E. Show at Newport Beach in late May/early June. Add in New York, and there could be a different show every month. Too much? Quite a few, I hear, are muttering “yes!”
I think that such concerns are worth airing, but are largely misplaced. The question of “need” gets answered by the attendees—if they come, you ought to build it (and keep building it). Whether or not a show, set of shows, or any at all, is/are worth it depends on entirely on who you are. If you’re a consumer, audio shows are the coolest showroom ever invented. Given that these might be harder to find these than in years past, the audio show is an unqualified “good thing”. If you’re a manufacturer, audio shows are great marketing, but arguably not the best bang for the buck in terms of advertising. There’s value there, to be sure, but something is going to have to change before all the players can afford to hit all the shows. If you’re a dealer, an audio show is a lot harder to justify, especially if you have a fully rigged out showroom already. Unfortunately, a lot of dealers choose to forgo the local shows in favor of hosting a local, competing event at their already-being-paid-for showroom—but this is annoying and really ought to stop. If you’re one to lament the evaporation of those consuming high-end audio products and gnash your teeth at how the customers you do have are only getting older, and then fail to support the traveling revival tent festival that is the audio show, then you’ve missed the boat entirely. An audio show isn’t just a place to sell, it’s a community that needs to be built and maintained. Or they’ll just keep buying iDevices.
To that end, I think the New York show was a qualified success. The lineup was strong and the supporting events—what with the live music, seminars, and random mashups—was the best I’ve yet seen at any audio show, anywhere. All we need now is coffee kiosks and tapas bars on each floor! Ahem. Anyway, New York was well served by this offering and other shows can take a page out of the playbook here—and probably will.