The New York Audio Show was an unqualified success!! If you haven't made it to Gotham for this event, make plans to do so.
The real title of this entry should read, 70 ish% of the New York Audio Show 2013. Which is to say, I listened to some wonderful hifi and I missed some wonderful hifi. I arrived a day into the proceedings. Chatting up people in the business was as interesting and entertaining as the gear. There is the hierarchy of suspects: the visiting audiophiles, the engineer/creators and their staffs, the reviewers, and the importer/retailers, whom at their best I think of as System curators. Then there are those who wear all of those hats. Regardless, what I found were a group of interested hobbyists having a time. Working a show is no easy shakes. Feet were tired but smiles were affixed. To all those wonderful music makers that were on the 11th floor and a slice of the 10th floor, my apologies for not getting to you in time. I would have loved to have heard the Merrill/Sanders Room, the Wynn Audio Room, (I have a thing for Reimyo), the Rhapsody Music and Cinema (Raidho, Vivid with Mola Mola, and KONDO!), but it wasn't to be.
My ethos for show visits is to fully experience the rooms I do visit rather than rushing from one to another. This didn't bode well after being a day late, but I had a ball in those rooms I did spend time.
Some of the hardest hit staff were those working the MBL Room. MBL put on a special ticketed event on the hour. Given that I was already behind schedule and I'd previously had the MBL experience, I skipped out. Those who did attend were bowled over, as one is in a multi channel MBL event. The two ladies out front, Elba and Michelle, (okay, I'm crap with names so I invented those-apologies ladies) worked tirelessly while keeping smiles on their faces. Elba likes long walks on the beach, Italian food, yoga, and her fiance.
The first thing one sees upon entering the cattle like entrance of the NY Show was an expansive room that contains check-in, lots of music, some audio furniture, and some great fellows in the trade. The Chester Groups staff did a fine job of keeping folks headed towards the music while dealing with the construction going on at the Palace during the event. It must have been challenging.
Vinh Vu of Ginko Audio was on hand as well as Joe Skubinski of JPS Labs. Joe had his Abyss Headphone making beautiful music. He also showed experienced restraint as he was accosted by an ass-o-phile who wanted to give him the third degree about the cost of the Abyss. Of course it is expensive, but so is every all out assault on the state of the art that I've come across. And what Joe has done is from scratch, every inch of the Abyss being of their own design and manufacture at JPS. Many innovations and design cues of the Abyss have never before been evident in a headphone. My experience of it was that is was phenomenally revealing, and that I must have one and carry them if at all possible. The Abyss is one headphone that won't require after-market wire, as JPS Labs makes some of the best cabling in the industry. Also in the first room was a static display from Greg Roberts and Volti Audio. The Volti Vittora may appear to look like a Klipsch Horn, but the sonic signature is supposed to be all about clarity and dynamics. Despite the Vittora's relative girth, most would want a sub woofer along for the ride. The big brother Alura has no such need. Regardless of your flavor, if one has the room, I would have to imagine these offerings a value. They are beautifully crafted but one must have the space for them. Also in the first room was a nice demo of Bob's Devices step-up transformers through a big VPI deck, into Shitt and to a nice pair of Audeze LCD2's.
There was one of two Woo Audio presentations, and all types of records and cd's. The Mytek booth was seeing some traffic as was Tweak Studio and AIX Records. You could have stayed in this room listening to music and searching the bins for the whole of the show.
My first stop in a dedicated room was the SimpliFi Audio Room. SimpliFi is the brainchild of Tim Ryan. With offerrings from Klangwerks, Weiss Engineering, Gradient, Resolution Audio, and Tim's own well regarded DSpeaker device, the room was chock full of good music making. What I really wanted to hear was the Klangwerks Ella. An active speaker of modest size and gorgeous design. According to it's spec sheet it does about 33hz, which one wouldn't guess given it's size. Klangwerks is from the mind of Markus Thomann. Markus is an architect and his speakers betray his love of form and function. At $15k for an active speaker, dare I call it a deal? During my listening, I found it went as least as deep as advertised and had the uncanny ability to maintain image regardless of my being on or off axis.
As is often the case, Klangwerks was showing with Weiss Engineering. Little did I know that the Deacon of Digits, the Sultan of Sample himself would be in attendance. Yes folks Daniel Weiss himself asked me what music I would like to hear. He was manning his The Man 301 server and dac. The sound was tailor made for Klangwerks. As a coupling, they represent one of the few, true reference, 'set it and forget it' solutions I am aware of...also present but static, is what I think may be the real sleeper of the bunch, the Phil. The Phil can be used on wall or with it's included stand. It does 39hz and uses the same top drivers from Audax. That said, they are heavily modified by Markus. Please look out for an upcoming review on 6Moons of the Ella. This is a company to really keep an eye on.
Darren Censullo was on hand in the Ciamara Room. Darren and his wife Bonnie are Avatar Acoustics. They import AMR, Reed, Dr. Feickert Analogue, Rosso Fiorentino and others. Bonnie and Darren also supply me with oodles and oodles of iFi-Micro products. It was great to finally meet in person. Darren was a fighter pilot and brings that same TopGun energy to his love of audio. The vinyl front end, a Lyra cartridge, on a very sexy Reed arm (azimuth and VTA on the fly) into the $12k AMR Reference Phono Stage into Viola electronics and finally into some Tad Reference 1? speakers, made for one of the best sounds of show. The analog sound, (I didn't hear much of the EMM Labs they had on hand) was to die for, and very tone correct and meaty, traits I hadn't experienced from Lyra cartridge. Learn something new everyday.
The next 'must hear' room was the Audio Arts Room hosted by Audio Art's owner Gideon Schwartz. The Chairman's Office as the hotel named it, was easily the most ornate room in the show. Due to it's classic wood paneling, wall of books, and large fireplace, the room spoke as if to say, 'Relax. Sit down and listen. You have no where to be.' And so I did. If we were to apply the analogy of like pallets in wine to that of audio, Gideon and I would share the same pallet. His choices, from the Rethm speakers we both know and love, to the Mal Valve Head Amp 3, (of which SD is now a dealer) to what I heard in his room via Zellaton and CH Precision is consistent. It is the 'we are live musicians in the room with you' kind of sound. It is uber direct and a joy to hear. Gideon put on Friday in San Francisco, a live recording of guitar virtuosi Al Di Meola, John Mc Laughlin, and Paco de Lucia. You could smell the rain on their clothes from the San Fran night. It was hard to leave. CH Precision was new to me, but made quite an impression. I was told there was construction noise in the room on the first day, but it was ameliorated by the time I arrive. This is one of the few rooms I would revisit.
The analog front end in the Audio Art's room was a Simon Yorke table and arm, sporting a lovely Jan Allearts Cartridge, into CH Precision, and Zellaton.
This seems like a good place to leave off for part 1 of our coverage. Several other great rooms and headfi to come your way. (this is the third time I've had to write this due to a website glitch, so I'm not taking any chances.)