Two years ago, the sponsors shifted the show to Brooklyn for a cheaper hotel and easier loading of equipment into the rooms. Though this was a preferred location for those who drove to the show, others opting for public transportation were not thrilled. Westchester was last year’s venue – inaccessible to public transportation, dealers from New York City stayed away, and the show was very small.
The 2016 show was distributed among 26 hotel rooms and 14 open-air booths on four floors. Four vendors were last minute cancellations. Dealers dominated, and those that came mostly showed affordably-priced speakers. Electronics and turntables were typically at higher price points. During press hours, when the rooms are empty, it was possible to use my own test material. Most rooms could still play CDs although I had a USB stick just in case. I emphasized chamber music and orchestral selections among the 18 tracks.
I was going to mention sonic impressions using my own material but chickened out. I was listening to single pairs of isolated speakers with no comparison. Comparisons took place between rooms. Although I had a volume control, level match between rooms could have been 3dB at best.
Despite the show’s compact size and ready accessibility of the rooms during press time, six hours proved insufficient to review the show in entirety. I missed three rooms, two with significant technology. I was unable to return during the weekend to amend these omissions. In hindsight, I should have skipped the rooms dominated by low power tubes and speakers closer to DIY than volume production to ensure I had opened every door. During the crowded public hours, two days would have been required for a comprehensive visit.
Normally, two members of the Secrets team cover the show. My photography skills are middling and I have a $100 camera. In the past, I have borrowed photos from other team members or have had the vendor send me photos. This year, please bear with my photos; I have eliminated the ones with my finger in the picture.
Bob Carver was present to introduce his latest design.
This 8-foot tall speaker has 13 ribbon divers on the front speaker. On each side are 9 cone speakers. It is designed to fit floor to ceiling. The price for the pair is $18,500.
Subpanels are not all at the same level. The subpanel levels were adjusted to place the image for a standing vocalist.
Above are details of the forward firing ribbon driver and cone drives on both sides.
Naturally, Carver uses a big subwoofer
Above are two channels of electronic room correction. One is for each subwoofer. The towers were passive powered by Carver tube amplifiers.
The top of the line powered Paradigm Persona 9H speaker ($35000 pair) was shown for the first time at a public show by the dealer Rutherford Audio. The electronics Rutherford Audio paired with the Paradigm was from German firm T+A.
The top drivers are Truextent brand beryllium drivers hidden by perforated driver lens. These are said pure Beryllium and not a cheaper alloy. Truextent is a brand name of Materion Electrofusion which owns Beryllium mines and refineries. From the Materion Electrofusion website:
“Pure beryllium domes can behave differently, depending on their manufacturing process and grain structure. Truextent genuine beryllium is made using a proprietary rolling process that results in a unique grain structure”.
The photo above was not taken at the show but from a YouTube posted by Paradigm. You can see the seven-inch midrange driver is a single-piece Beryllium. The voice coil attaches from below. This may be the largest Truextent cone in production.
Paradigm does double blind listening tests. I expect those test results pushed Paradigm to bring this driver to production.
The bottom drivers are aluminum. Two more woofers are at the rear of the unit. These are also novel. Go to the website more information on the woofers.
The woofers are internally powered. The electronics includes a DSP to implement the ARC room correction developed by the Anthem division. Unfortunately, Paradigm did not go all the way and produce a fully active speaker with amplifiers and digital crossovers for the midrange and tweeter. Paradigm has produced full active speakers in the past.
A bookshelf Persona B, not show at the show, incorporates a 7-inch beryllium woofer and tweeter. It sells for $7000 pair.
The Kii THREE shown below is fully active speaker that sells for $14000 the pair. It was displayed by the US distributor GTT Audio.
It is a three-way bookshelf. Its designer, Bruno Putzeys, does the crossover using digital IIR sections, not the more common FIR. Time alignment is accomplished with non-causal all-pass sections. This is outlined in a white paper for a previous Putzeys product the Grimm Audio LS1
The paper makes an argument that FIR ringing of filters crossing over in the 200Hz – 2kHz range may be audible unlike anti-alias filters centered at 20kHz.
The midrange and tweeter are on the front panel.
Six inch woofers are on the sides and back of the speaker. The four woofers are driven individually by the internal DSP. The objective is to minimize low frequency side and rear room boundary interaction. Kii calls this Active Wave Focusing. See the website for more information on this.
I was surprised there was no room correction with a microphone.
Bass was more extended than expected for a bookshelf given all the drivers and the DSP control. However, physics prevents the speaker extending to large frequencies or subwoofer-aided speakers. This is the product I have on the top of my list for a review sample. I have a long line in front of me.
The dealer the Art of Sound room was demonstrating this small active speaker among other products. Designed in France it is reported to be covered by more than 70 patents. The speaker is designed for stereo or mono as a second room wireless speaker. It is no portable speaker at over 30 pounds.
At the front of the speaker is a coax midrange and tweeter. On the sides are the woofers. They call the stand for the speaker a tree.
At the show, they had the top of the line Gold Phantom at $2990 each. Two other models are in the line with similar form factors but lower maximum rated SPL. You can see the woofer takes up almost all the room on the side of the speaker. The proprietary technology involves achieving bass extension in such a small box. I have not examined the patents but I assume it uses DSP to do non-linear driver distortion cancelation.
The bass extension was lower than one would expect for the size but the technology to do this is far from free.
The dealer Woodbridge Audio partnered with Martin Logan to show the Renaissance ESL 15A and the Classic ESL 9. This was the first public showing for the ESL 9 which has dual 8-inch woofers and sells for $6495. The ESL 15A has dual 12 inch woofers and sells for $24995.
Here is a dog eyes view of the Mark Levinson electronics. The room was too small for them to be able to place the huge power amps at the back wall.
The dynamic woofer of the Renaissance ESL 15A is internally powered and has a DSP on the front end. Martin Logan uses Anthem ARC technology for room correction for the woofer. Anthem is another division of the company.
Brooklyn based Ohm speakers are still available by direct sale. John Strohbeen, who has owned the company for 39 years, was doing the demonstrations at the show.
The website highlights the variety of cabinet and driver sizes. The units in the photo are $2000 per pair.
The driver design is a secret. Removing the cover only leads to another metal cover. Hidden under the cover I was told a dynamic tweeter is deployed above the Walsh driver.
Prism Sound has several divisions. One division produces products for professional audio recording. A second division produces test and measurement systems. Prism Sound appears to have caught the audiophile bug and had a consumer DAC / preamp on display. DAC boxes were in almost every room at the show but only this room had a dual-domain audio test system to look at.
The unit is targeted at the same customers who purchase Audio Precision equipment. They had a staff member ready to give a demo. I assume they were expecting engineers from other companies, who were displaying at the show, to stop in and take a look at this. I had a quick demo and the GUI does look friendly. This type of test equipment is sold like a car with different versions and options. A quick look at the website showed the analog I/O does not have the performance of much of the Audio Precision line. It is significantly cheaper but well outside DIY territory.
I mentioned I missed two rooms with major new technology, and instead wound up visiting rooms that produced whimsical pictures of products you do not want to consider.
One of the products I did not get to see was the DSPeaker X-4 combination digital preamp and proprietary room correction system. One of the few products debuted at the NYC show. Anti-Mode is the name of the DSPeaker system and it has been sold for several years as a stand-alone 2 channel analog I/O product. It was being shown by distributor, SimpliFi Audio. I ran past SimpliFi Audio room several times, but being close to the stairs, I never saw the room.
Below are those whimsical photos.
This is a Sadurni Acoustics Miracoli horn speaker
This $22000 giant horn loudspeaker was driven by a 1 watt amplifier but they have a much bigger one hidden.
Both sides of the speaker have these 8-inch woofers. They are driven by a class D amp. The website says the “Horn loaded from 140 Hz”
$12000 gets you a pair of these Alexus Audio 845SE. The dual LED bias current displays is what made me take a picture of it.
I ran into David Chesky on my travels through the show. You know him as the co-founder of a recording company. He is also a major classical composer of our time.
The Venetian Concertos are the most recent of his compositions to have been recorded. David sent me to the Chesky booth on the main floor to get a copy. The works take the Concerto Grosso as a model hence the name. They are written for string orchestra and flute. No credit is given to the flutists or the conductor.
From the first note, it is clear this is a work of David Chesky. These are fiendishly difficult works and they performance is excellent indicating extensive rehearsal time. The lowest cost item at the show is the easiest to recommend.