NY Audio Show 2016

This year, the show was located at the Park Lane Hotel just across the street from Central Park. This location offered easy access as opposed to last year’s horrendous location which required a 90 minutes drive from the city. Due to the much improved location, many more people showed up and on Saturday, the show as pretty busy. Some of the rooms had people lining for demos, which is always good. The rooms were scattered over 3 floors (7,8,9) and the second floor for registration, market, headphones and lounge. There was no need to spend the entire 3 days at the show unless you want to go to each and every room and spend many hours listening to music. Having familiarity with the equipment helps with identifying which rooms are worth my time. I bumped into Christina who works for The Chester Group (the group that runs the show) and she gave me press passes, after all, the GTAA is a known force in the industry.

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Queue a welcome message from VPI:

 

Onto the rooms….

Soulution / Magico

Excellent room. They paired the new S1 mk II ($14k) with $100k worth Soulution goodness. I heard the original S1 various times and they never sounded so well. Maybe it is due to the improved mark II version, the Soulution gear or both. Source material was played via a Accuphase CD Player.

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 PMC / AVM

Very nice room. Good sound and affordable as well. Good choice of music. I spent 15 minutes listening to Tom Wait’s Mule Variations.

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YG / Mola-Mola

I always enjoy this combination. The new YG Carmel ($24k) in their makk II sounded big, detailed and dynamic. Vocals were hanging in the air and bass was low enough. I give it a slight edge over Magico’s S1. IT is also more expensive. The source was a Macbook laptop with Roon feeding the Mola-Mola preamp via USB.

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Kubotek

I made an effort to visit this room per the request of Len and Lawrence. Not my kind of gear but the room had big traffic due to the fact they were playing a lot of Harry Pearson’s own vinyl from a recent estate sale. The room was only playing his records. Anyway, I spoke with Robert Bean (sales director) about the GTAA, Taves and of course, the new phono stage. Here is a video of him (please do not distribute it as per his request) taking about the new cartridges and phone stage:

The Cartridges:

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Kubo-San was in the room but was asked not be bothered while listening to music:

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They were playing Stravinsky’s The Firebird. 

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Gamut

Excellent room. Paul Simon’s Graceland on Vinyl sounded excellent. The system was presented by Web Bender of Wes Bender Audio.

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Hegel / Triangle 

Nice sounding room. Speakers were too big for this small room but never the less, the sound signature was pretty good.

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Random signs

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Axpona 2016 – Marten, CAT, TechDAS

Lovely room and the only cool turntable setup I really liked. Killer looking table!

 

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Axpona 20160 – Wilson, dCS, Doshi

Excellent room. The new Wilsons sounded open, detailed with tons of clarity. The dCS stack was playing some Blues music.

The new Speaker, Alexxxxxxxx or something like that, has new curvy lines not be be seen in WIlson of the past. The room was pretty big.

 

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Axpona 2016 – ELAC, Audio Alchemy

Three way speakers for $500 (Yes, Five Hundred) that sounded fantastic. This is an excellent value and will probably be my first recommendation for someone who wants to start his audio hobby. People were giggling when Andrew Jones (the designer) blasted Kraftwerk (Louis and David, you know the track…). The speakers are small enough to be placed in a shelf or if you want, on a stand.

 

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Axpona 2016, MSB, YG

Excellent room! State of the art digital DAC/Streamer from MSB. Played Midnight Sugar (Original Japanese pressings) via YG Sonja speakers. Impressive and the piano sounded like a real one. I have the recording and never heard it that good. Clean, crisp on the highs with deep, room filling lows.

 

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Axpona 2016 – Pass Labs, Focal, Berkley

Good sounding system. The Pass monos handled the speakers with ease.

 

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Axpona 2016 – AR, Sonus Faber

Very nice sounding system as you should expect from gear in that price range.

Music player was an Aurender playing some Hi-Res stuff. Gorgeous finish on the speakers.

 

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Axpona 2015 – Day three

Carrying memories from Rick’s music room where the big Tidal speakers where offending every ear in the room, I stepped into the Bricasti room with doubt. Bricasti were showing off their new monoblcks, who, by the way, got a less than positive review from Micahel Fremer. Not that I care about what Fremer has to day, but on paper, the room did not have a good start. The 10 minutes I spent in the Bricasti room were wonderful. The small Tidal speakers sounded just about right for me with tons of slam and punch thanks to the Bricasti monos. Later I stumbled upon Wynn Wong and he confirmed that indeed, to his ears, the small Tidals sounded better.

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Bricasti DAC / Bricasti Monoblocks / Aurender / Tidal

 

exaSound / Magnepan / Pass Labs

George’s room had one the best sound at the show. The 3.7 Maggies sang bravely in a small challenging room. Most of the music was two channel but George also demoed four channel DSD with the smaller Maggies at the rear.

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Maggies 3.7 / Pass Labs Amps / exaSound DACs

 

Zu Audio / Luxman

Zu speakers are easy to drive, they sound big and do not cost much. Their had two big room that played the exact content. They also had a DJ who played some records on a Luxman PD-444 (when was the last time you have seen one…?). If someone wants to start building his first system, Zu audio will be on the top of my list.

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Luxman PD-444 Direct Drive table with a place for two arms

 

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Zu Audio speakers

Muraudio / Moon

New Canadian brand based in Ottawa. The system played loud and punchy. Its like MBL and Martin Logan had a child. Moon was used by many and I really like their new line. Build quality to sonic presentation. Good stuff.

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Muraudio / Moon

 

Last words on the show will be sent later. Got to catch the flight back home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Axpona 2015 – Day Two Report

The show organizers did a smart thing this year by placing the all exhibitors in the main floors two rooms apart. For those who could not afford the 12th floor or the huge rooms in the ground level, having no noise to from your left or right was kind. Like last year, some the presentations were the same. I find no motivation to report on yet another MBL, Wilson or JBL. I am always looking for cool new technologies and ideas. This brings me to Meridian. MQA (http://www.musicischanging.com/) is new and interesting technology that was developed specifically for the emerging streaming market. There was a “sales” presentation and at the end, they took some questions from the audience. Trust me when I say that my questions made them cringe as the GTAA motto is “Tolerate no BS”. To make a long story short, MQA uses the low frequencies between 1Hz to 10Hz to store data that can be used to recreate frequencies higher than 22.5kHz. This allows a company like Tidal to stream redbook specs files (16bit / 44.1kHz) to be used with an MQA capable DAC, the DAC will see the embedded data and will treat the file as a higher resolution bucket. Their demo was impressive but with nothing to compare the file to, we will have to wait. Currently, according to MEridian, there are more than 70 DAC manufactures who have signed on to use this technology. I can cover a day’s worth of technical seminar about this topic. Maybe in the summer…

 

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Meridian / Sooloos / MQA demo

 

AIX / Benchmark / Revel 

Probably not the first names that come into your mind when you think about ultra high end. Never the less, the 5.1 Hi-Res demo was nothing short of stunning. AIX captured live performance in a studio in stereo and surround. Now, I am not taking about surround sound when engineers use the rear channel to create ambiance. This is a real full range recording with 5 unique full range channels. The .1 channel wen to the two sub-woofers. You need to suspend your faith in two channel audio for this. I had my doubt along with other folks in the room but once the music started, it was very pleasing. The highlight was an unreleased track by Jennifer Warnes. It is a huge financial commitment to set up something life this and very few recordings support this but it was nice to see what can be accomplished.

 

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Revel / Benchmark / AIX / DH Labs

 

Legacy / Coda

Another home run was the Legacy room. Here we have another unorthodox setup with active speakers and a DAC / Crossover / Preamp. The sound was excellent. All the things you want to have in your system (for most of us). The room was huge and had three dedicated setups. There is an excellent synergy between those brands. One day, if budget permits, I would like to reevaluate Coda in my system. Bill Dudleston, the designer and CEO of Legacy was there and took the time to answer all questions.

 

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Legacy V / Coda 15.5
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Legacy Aries / Coda
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Legacy / Coda

 

Pure Vinyl / Channel D

I had great time taking to Rob Robinson. The guy designer the software for Pure Music. So here it goes: What if you could archive your vinyl collection on a format that will retain the sound that came from your cartridge, arm ,table and phono stage? Will you do that knowing that you can replay the file at any given time and it will always sound like the original? Interesting idea. The Pure Vinyl software allows you to make vinyl rip (needle drops) of you beloved album via your beloved set up. Once you do that, you can always use the files created to play back the album. The sonic signature will remain, pops and clicks included.

 

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Pure Vinyl in action

 

 

Polymer / Thrax

Excellent room. Thrax is from Bulgaria. $33k for their DAC. I didn’t ask the prices for the rest of the gear but it looks very nice, all machined aluminium.

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Polymer / Thrax / Weiss
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Thrax mono block
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Weiss / Thrax Pre / Thrax DAC

 

 

Constellation

Very impressive sound. The speakers are from a California based company (Again, forgot the name..). The monoblocks are $9k per amplifier and the pre is $10k. This might fit the 5 year plan. I believe the speakers are going for around $30k.

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Constellation

 

That is for now. I am going to spend Sunday attending seminars and going through some other rooms.


Axpona 2015 – Day One Report

The Westin O’hare is a lovely hotel. It adds a lot when considering the rooms, restaurants and the overall scenery. Unlike the stuffy hotel used for RMAF, the Westin is modern, accessible and have that fresh feeling (hotel dwellers, you know what I mean). This year, the show is divided to three sections. Section one, is the 12th floor where you have all the big rooms. Section two, are floors 2 to 5 for the regular rooms and last section are the two lower floors named Lower and Lobby. On Friday, I spent all my time between the 12th floor and the 5th floor.

Magico / Aesthetix / Clearaudio / Pass Labs

On demo, were the big Mark II Magicos. They also added a sub-woofer. When I set there, they were playing Copeland’s “Fanfare for the common audiophile man”. Truth to be told, I wasn’t impressed. Ah!, but then they played some modern Jazz trio and the system made a 180 and started to exhibit all the good things we love about Hi-End audio. Yes, the Bass as amazing. These speakers throw a lot of air at you.

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Magico / Aesthetix
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Magico Sub-Woofer

 

 

 

Audio Research / Wadia / Sonus Faber

Nice sounding. Speakers’ finish is amazing.

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Sonus Faber / Audio Research

 

Auralic / Ryan

Ryan speakers are made in the US. The all Auralic setup with the Rayn’s sounded very good. Tonality was even across the spectrum and the musical presentation was very pleasing. I will probably go back to this room again as I have no experience with these speakers before.

 

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Auralic electronics and Ryan Speakers

 

 

Marky Mark / JBL / Clear Audio  / Lumin

Why, oh why would Harman stuff the room with everything but the kitchen sink? We heard these speakers before, we know what they are capable. Not this year.

 

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Davialet / Focal

Nice surprise! The small Davialets drove the speakers with ease. They were playing some records and some Hi-Res stuff.

 

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Something for rich people

Magico’s new M project. VTL, Clearaudio and dCS. So what? Chancesa are I will never own these speakers but the 5 minutes I spent in the room was a memorable occasion. The were giving handkerchiefs when you left the room. I think it said on the door “go cry elsewhere”.

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Brand new car

 

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Kids’ education plan

 

Goldmund

I don’t remember the speaker’s brand ($65k) but along with Goldmuind’s new line, the sound was excellent. Goldmund has moved away from their conservative design into something sleek and modern. I will probably go to this room again.

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Goldmund
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Goldmund transport and Preamp / DAC
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Aurender – but they didn’t use it for the demo.

 

That’s it for Friday. There were many other rooms but these are the highlights.