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New York Audio Show 2015

11-09-2015 | By Ken Micallef | Issue 82

Westchester, New York, November 6, 7 & 8

Roaming the sparsely populated halls of the Rye Brook Westchester Hilton during opening day of "New York Audio Show 15," the event looked to be a bust. Instead of the usual throng of audiophile fiends blocking access to popular rooms, one could stroll the show's two floors, easily returning to standout systems as the mood struck. Though the one hour trip from Manhattan required a train ride and a cab ride if you didn't drive your own, once inside the Westchester Hilton, Friday's meager attendance by both listeners and exhibitors surprisingly created a welcome feeling of give and take, with questions asked and answered never (well, almost never) deterring from the flow of the 20 odd systems playing a variety of audiophile-appointed and normal folk's music. Everything changed on Saturday, however, when pent-up audio fans from neighboring New Jersey reportedly packed every exhibitor's room and performer's showcase. Yippee! Who needs NYC anyway?! Westchester's fall colors invigorated this city dweller.

The first of the show's two floors is actually split-level, the first level or "marketplace" divided between vendors including New York's own Master & Dynamic (whose headphones I recently reviewed), Brooklyn's Mytek Digital Audio, HD Tracks, New Jersey's Care Audio, and various headphone manufacturers. Accessories manufacturer Little Fwend (named after the Scarface command) showed their beautifully made Automatic Tonearm Lifter, a cunningly precise and useful device that achieved the simple act of raising a tonearm at the end of an LP's play with elegance. Check out the short video of the lifter in action at littlefwend.com.

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Sadly, LPs weren't being sold at show, but a static turntable display from Tri-Art Audio piqued my interest. Tri-Art's Canadian-made Pebbles TA-1 Turntable with 9" Pebbles TA-1 Tone Arm ($1295 for the pair) is manufactured entirely from bamboo (save the motor and pulley assembly), as is the enclosure of the company's Pebbles Mini Monitor ($1150 per pair). Tri-Art's Stereo 50 tube integrated amplifier is accompanied in the company's line by Tri-Art's pricier Bam Bam TA-2 Turntable with 9" Bam Bam TA-2 Tone Arm ($2500, more bamboo), Bam Bam 25 Watt Amplifier ($1450), Bam Bam 60 Watt Amplifier ($1995), Bam Bam Passive Pre-Amplifier ($1295), Bam Bam Tower floor-standing speakers ($4700, extra bamboo), Pebbles 12 Watt Receiver ($750), and Pebbles CD/DVD Player ($650). Wilma!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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SoundSmith Corporation's Peter Ledermann debuted the Zephyr MIMC phono cartridge ($1499), played through a system that included SoundSmith's MCP-2 phono preamp ($999), Strain Gauge Cartridge / Preamp Systems, and diminutive SoundSmith Dragonfly loudspeakers ($2000 per pair). Ledermann was spinning jazz vocalist Cecile McLorant Salvant's Woman Child LP, the sound clean with excellent depth and dynamics, as well as reasonably deep bass for such tiny tot speakers. Drums and cymbals were reproduced with excellent decay. This system was zippy fast!


Adirondack Audio offered 20% off all their wares (as did many exhibitors), their Technics-based system impressive for its large scale dynamics and pungent detail. The overall presentation was a little "hi-fi" sounding for my tastes, no doubt owing to a lack of vinyl and the Class-D Technics SE-R1 Stereo Power Amplifier. Except for the mammoth floor-standing speakers, the Technics system was a visual feast of white and brushed aluminum—not exactly earth tones! It was also hard to listen closely because the Adirondack representative—contrary to my earlier comment—wouldn't stop talking.

alexus audio

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I had better luck and a better listening experience at the shared room of AlexusAudio / Bache Audio. Playing vinyl through a large system that included AlexusAudio AB Audio Preamplifier ($2620), Perfect Line V.1 Preamplifier ($6,995), Perfect Phono Preamplifier ($6995), 833SE Single Ended Power Amplifiers, and Bache Audio 002 Design and Metro-001 floor-standers, the big rig had plenty of drama, color, and soundstage depth. Designed by Russian engineer Alex Chorine, the AA/BA system blasted louder than most, the music (tango by "Viverez" and beautiful choral sounds) filling the hallway and occasionally some annoyed vendor's rooms. I dug it!

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Living Acoustics of Clark Street, Brooklyn, presented $99,145 of sinewy sound portrayed by Acoustic  Zen Crescendo II speakers ($18,000), Merrill Audio Jens phono amp ($14,500), Merrill Audio Clara Line Preamp ($3500), Wyred 4 Sound DAC-2 DSD SE DAC ($2549), VAS Audio Citation Sound 2 monoblocks ($3500 per pair), and VPI Avenger Reference Turntable (with Magnetic Drive Assembly) and two JMW 12 3DR Tonearms ($25,000), fitted with VAS Audio Nova stereo moving coil cartridge ($1500) and VAS Audio mono moving coil cartridge (price TBA)—and that's just for starters! I greatly enjoyed this room and its very immediate, palpable and tonally rich presentation. Trumpeter Blue Mitchell's Blue Moods was spinning on the future-is-here-today, tricked-out VPI, and all was right in my world.

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At every show I've attended, Audio Note UK consistently creates a very natural sound from their comparatively tiny setup. When a system repeatedly plays this well, with such human scale and excellent color, you know it's got the goods. Audio Note never shouts or parades their wares like some over-ambitious manufacturers or exhibitors—heck, they could do with a little PR 101.

The Audio Note system was comprised of Audio Note AZ-Two speakers ($3250 per pair), P2SE Signature integrated stereo amp ($6,000), CDT Three/II CD Transport ($11,775), DAC 3.1x/II ($9900), Turntable TT Two Deluxe ($3650), with Arm Three ($2000) and IQ3 cartridge ($1000).

For my money Audio Note provides an oasis of musicality that implies everything "musical" means. Adding to the sense of naturalness, cellist Victor Belanger performed to his own prerecorded tracks in the Audio Note room for a sense of wholeness that defies words on the page.

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New Jersey's Care Audio played tenor master Ben Webster's Soulville LP through their tube-crazy, front- baffle only floor-standing speakers which laid down music sweet, soulful, and searing. We're talking pacing, timing, and dynamics with an SET heart. Ben obviously warmed to the Peacenik Audio / Bastanic Mandala Solo Speakers ($12,900), 60 wpc KR Audio VA 680i Kronzilla integrated amp ($27,500), TRL reel to reel deck, and Allnic DAC D-5000 DHT ($11,900). I did too.

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Another room based on tinier-tot electronics and Audio Note separates, England's Music First combined Audio Note AX-Two speakers, Audio Note TT-2 turntable and turntable power supply with their MM Phono Amplifier 632 and MC Step-Up 632. The sound was small in scale, but pleasing.


charney audio

Ok. Let's get crazy. Charney Audio's giant folded-horn, crossover-free, Lowther DX4-enabled Concerto speakers ($22,000/pr) had everyone buzzing. Some visitors were possibly thinking War of the Worlds, others gobsmacked at the New Jersey speaker's muscular dynamics. I was so taken with the sound I forgot to jot down the electronics. Big scale, baby! My lack of attention followed suite at the Teresonic room where the equally spectacular looking Ingenium XRs ($19,985 per pair) sounded exceptionally natural, if a bit soft and delicate. But it may have simply been a matter of volume or the music. This show had its share of audiophile drek, sad Diana Krall, and assorted sterile bluesmen. Dead sounds can make music listening a chore. But the Ingeniums are my choice for most beautiful speaker at the show, their lovely sound powered by an AMG Giro turntable ($9000), AMG Teatro cartridge ($2750), Fosgate Signature Mk 2 phono preamp ($2500), and Teresonic Reference 2A3 amplifier ($15,000).

There's no denying that leaving Manhattan is an appealing idea, even if an audio event isn't the reason for said escape. But since it was, the drive up with Michael Trei (Sound & Vision), who drove his comfortable Mercedes, and Steve Guttenberg (CNET's The Audiophiliac), made it all the more fun. Later, we had a roundtable chow-down with Stereophile's Art Dudley and Audiostream.com editor Michael Lavorgna, who, with Steve, spoke and took questions at the evening's final event, "Zen and the Art of Audio Reviewing." Listening to the best in the audio business talk shop only clarified my feelings about our way of life. Their passion, insight, and good humor topped off a day well spent. Music matters most!