The New York Audio Show Report - April, 2013

Introduction to the The New York Audio Show Report

The New York Audio Show took the Palace Hotel and surrounding area shops by storm this weekend. I had the pleasure of attending the show on Saturday and am here with a quick show report of what I was able to see before things got too hectic.

While I've been to CEDIA several times, this was the first two-channel high-end focused show that I've attended, and it was certainly exciting. The focus of this show is far different that CEDIA, with nary a flat panel or projector to be seen in the sea of exceptionally costly speakers and associated electronics. The rooms at the NY Audio show are, for the most part, very high-end, with price tags for equipment easily reaching into the six figures.

From a top-level, the most evident theme for me was the current dichotomous state of audio – with one foot in the cutting edge, and another foot firmly rooted in the past. Nearly every room I entered featured a Macbook and the latest and greatest in digital audio and accompanied electronics with ongoing discussions of audio codecs, bit rates, and the newest DACs and their specs. These same rooms also almost always featured latest and greatest…in vinyl. As this is the first two-channel show I've been to, I can't comment on whether the presence of vinyl is new or represents the current resurgence the medium is experiencing (it may have always been there, while the rest of the world had forgotten), but seeing these all-analog systems and stately turntables paired with the latest and greatest in DACs and computer audio, showed the two very different directions the audio world has moved.

As I only was able to spend one day at the show, this run down is far from exhaustive, but I'll try and give my highlights anyway.

Ciamara, a high-end shop in downtown New York City, was featuring TAD Reference 1 loudspeakers ($80K/pair) powered by Viola Symphony amplifiers. Separate amps were being used for the bass and high frequency drivers.

Innovative Audio, also from New York City, was featuring several rooms at the show. The two that I got in to see both featured Wilson Audio speakers. One room featured Wilson Alexia speakers being powered by D'agastino Momentum monoblock amplifiers and pre-amplifiers.

A second Innovative room was featuring Wilson Sasha's paired with Lamm presenting his M1.2 Reference hybrid monoblock amps. Both rooms were very big draws at the show.

One of the rooms I was most interested in checking out was Sony ES. The Sony folks had brought along a pair of their new SS-NA2ES ($10K). I've been hearing terrific things about these speakers, and if you've been anywhere online in the A/V world recently you can see that Sony has made a major marketing push. The Sony's were being powered by a Pass Labs amp and sounded terrific. Rest assured, we are actively trying to get a pair of these in for review, but Sony reps there said that supply will be limited in the U.S for the next month or two. Stay tuned!

Sound By Singer is a legendary NYC audio dealer. Though the store had to close several years ago, it is back open and had a room at the show to demo some of its brands. SBS was demoing the Raidho D 2.1 speakers. The 2.1's were being driven by VAC Statement 450S amps and source material was being provided by a Solution 450D transport/DAC. Nordost Valhalla cables were used throughout. By the time I was able to visit this room it was quite crowded, but what I heard from the Raidho's sounded very nice.

Perhaps the most impressive, in terms of physical presence, turntables at the show was on display by the importer Beauty of Sound. Their room featured a Triangle Art Signature Turntable ($15K) with Ikeda Sound labs tone arm and cartridge ($6500, $9500). This thing was a beast. This table was driving Leonardo Planar Magnetic speakers ($65K) via TubeGuru 6C33C single-ended amplifier ($9500).

The Audio Doctor, a high-end store in New Jersey, had two rooms at the show. Easily one of the more impressive set-ups in the entire hotel was based around a pair of KEF Blade Speakers, powered by a pair of Chord Electronics SPM14000MK2 monoblocks ($86K/pair). While I was in the room, the system was playing a lacquer Elvis Presley album. Despite the pops and clicks from this clearly old album, the sound was pretty amazing.

The Audio Doctor had a smaller room adjacent to the Blade's. Audio Doctor president Dave Lalin, set-up this room with a more affordable system based around Waterfall Victoria Evo glass loudspeakers ($7K). Also in this system was Auralic Vega ($4K) which had some really nice features for the price point including a femto master clock. Powering the Waterfalls was one of the new incarnations of Aragon. The well-know brand was recently re-launched by Indy Audio Labs. The Aragon 8008 used here is a two-channel stereo amp capable of outputting 200WPC into 8 ohms ($4400).

As I mentioned earlier, this show was devoid of very much video, so as a movie person, I was excited to walk into Martin Logan's room, which featured a full surround sound system based on their Motion series speakers. The room comprised of 2 ML Motion 40 ($1900 each) for F/L and a Motion 30 for the center channel ($650). Surround duties were being handled by a pair of Motion 20's. A Dynamo1500X ($1600) handled the bass.

One of the most exciting things at the show, for me anyway, was the Krell Foundation pre-amp that was powering the Martin Logan theater. This processor created a lot of buzz at CES and CEDIA this year. The product features a bevy of very impressive features including audiophile quality d/a processing and Krell's own proprietary room correction system. It seems like this unit could truly be the center of both a high end two channel system as well as a theater. We'll hopefully be getting a chance to look at this unit soon.

One of the more interesting rooms at the show was from boutique speaker maker Well Rounded Audio. Well Rounded, based in New York, manufactures small speakers intended for use with computer desktop audio. It was interesting to see a company embracing loudspeakers for this use when it seems that so many are trending towards headphones. The sound from their small Corgi speakers, powered by a WyredSound MINI integrated DAC sounded very good for their sized when paired with a matching Well Rounded Sub.

KEF had two adjacent rooms at the show. The first room featured a system based around their buzz generating LS50 Studio Monitors. This system featured entirely Cary Audio electronics (Constellation Pre-Amp $1495; Hercules Power Amp $1895 & Lightning DAC $1985). Unfortunately the room was far too crowded to get a good listen to the LS50's.

A second KEF room featured a pair of Reference 207/2 speakers. These were also paired with Cary Audio electronics. This room was packed to the gills and unfortunately I wasn't able to make it in for more than just a quick picture.

Wes Bender Studios is a smaller Hi Fi dealer based in New York City. Wes brought along an impressive system based around Marten Design FormFloor Speakers ($6500). These were being powered by E.A.R. 890 strea amps ($8300) and E.A.R. Pre-amp ($7600). Sources included a Redpoint Audio Designs turntable ($29K) and E.A.R. DAC. Wes was terrific to talk to. I'm hoping to arrange some time to swing by his show room soon.

Joseph Audio was showing its speakers in two rooms. The main room was a collaboration between Joseph Audio, Channel D and Cardas cables. The digital audio files they were playing here were ripped from vinyl and I had to say sounded incredible. Channel D created and supplied the files that were ripped with Channel D's Pure Vinyl software product and Seta phono stage, and Pure Vinyl also was used to play the files.

This room was showing a pair of JA Pulsar bookshelf speakers, a Lynx Halo DAC and Unison research integrated amplifier. The digital audio files they were playing here were ripped from vinyl and I had to say sounded incredible.

Joseph Audio speakers were also featured in the VPI room. This was a three channel configuration using JA Pearl2 speakers. VPI has been garnering buzz with their 3D printed tonearm, which was featured in this room. I unfortunately didn't get a chance to listen much, but did talk with Matt Weisfeld about a review unit for Chris Heinonen. Stay tuned.

One of the more differentiated rooms at the show came the way of Symbol Audio. With roots in modern furniture design, the folks at Symbol sought to design systems that mated form and function. The centerpiece of their display was the Modern Record Console. Using speakers from Omega, this all in one system is intended to be both an audio piece as well as a piece of furniture. The system that was at the show featured a Mac Mini paired with a Meridian Dac. Without the Mac Mini these guys run $26K. The company also brought along their LP storage cabinet – a piece of furniture that I know several people might drool over.

Woodbridge Audio, out of Woodbridge New Jersey, was showing a system based around Gamut Audio components. Both speakers pictured are from Gamut's El Superiores line. The larger S9's were probably too big for the room. I got to hear the smaller S5's, which sounded excellent – among the best sounding system of the show. The speakers were powered by M250i monoblocks. Various other components included a Pass Labs pre-amp.

One of the larger rooms was from Less Loss and featured a bevy of their cabling and power conditioners. The speakers were Kaiser Kawero! Classic Panzerholz. I visited this room twice, but neither time was anything actually being played.

Rhapsody Audio had several rooms at the show and I think might take the cake as the costliest in terms of components. Kondo Biyura speakers ($75K), Ongaku monoblock amps ($110K) and a Ginga turntable ($130K). A Pi Greco CD Player provided digital audio.

A second room that I visited featured Radio Acoustics D1 speakers. This was the second room I saw featuring Raidho speakers. I admittedly don't know much about Raidho, but they seem to be garnering a lot of buzz. Hopefully we'll get a chance to get some examples in soon. The remainder of this room Merrill Veritas Amplifiers with a Kondo G70 preamplifier, Pi Greco CD Player and an Acoustic Signature Storm turntable.

Rhapsody's third room featured the distinctive Vivid Audio G3 speakers, Mola Mola electronics, aPi Greco CD player and a Luxman DSD DAC. I did not get a chance to hear this room in action

Red Wine Audio set up a system to showcase their battery-powered audio components. Driving Harbeth Monitor 30.1 ($6K) were Liliana monoblocks ($6K/pair) and Isabella PH30 Pre-amplifier ($4K). Sources included a Bricaste M1 DAC ($9K) and a Palmer 2.5 turntable ($11K). Other components included a Stein Music Harmonizer system ($2K) and Red Wine 57 Integrated Amp.

GTT Audio/Video set-up two rooms for the show. I was able to get a look at a room that featured YG Acoustics Kipod II speakers ($39K) and Veloce Audio electronics including an LS-1 Audio Line Stage ($18K) and Seatta monoblocks ($18K/pair).

Rutherford Audio had one of the larger rooms at the show. They were showcasing Burmester electronics and Genesis 2.2 speakers. I don't have prices or specifics on this room as it was very crowded when I was there.