The New York Audio Show 2015

This year, as many know, the New York Audio Show moved out of New York City, a dash north of Manhattan, to Westchester County in the town of Rye Brook at the Hilton Westchester Hotel. Not having a car, getting there required about a 45 minute train ride on Metro-North to the Port Chester NY Station, then a quick 5 minutes by taxi to the venue. An inconvenience to a typical Manhattanite like me, but not that bad. And if you did have a car, the venue offered free parking right there.

More like a comfortable resort, this hotel is quite small with only several floors, of which two were devoted to the show. Beautiful colored Autumn leaves surrounded the hotel, falling gently to the ground, and in many rooms could be seen as a gorgeous backdrop through the windows.

Checking in during Press time, Friday at about 10:30AM, was a breeze; welcomed at the front desk (on the second floor, which is the Lobby Level) by Chester Group’s Christina Yuin and others. I was joined by my Audiophilia colleagues Martin Appel and Henry Wilkenson as we walked up a ramp to the 4th floor.

The first two rooms were mainly devoted to headphones, and the first table I came across was that of NYC based Master and Dynamic, who were showing some very cool new cans: The Bluetooth wireless MW60 at $549; with a special luxury custom version ($830) that includes a silver colored metal Zero Halliburton carrying case. I whipped out my own personal MacBook Air, paired it with the MW60, and played CD quality rips using iTunes; superb sound. They were also displaying their new very classy looking solid brass ME05 ear buds ($199) which allow not only replaceable tips, but also replaceable filters.

In the same room as headphones, was a visually stunning Metronome Technologie (from France) CD transport.

Shown by Tweak Studio (represented by amiable CEO/President Arnold P. Martinez), the Absolute Calypso, at $45,000 (which includes their separate high-end Elektra model power supply). It looked like a space ship/robot! The price goes down to $32,000 if coupled with their standard Calypso power supply.

At the table next to Master and Dynamic was Care Audio, with Mark Schneider (of Linear Tube Audio) graciously showing the very articulate and smooth sounding headphone amp, the microZOTL 2, which has a clear top and an external power supply (total for $1100). Schneider allowed us to use it with the exceptional open back HIFIMAN HD1000 ‘phones ($3000) as well as closed back Audeze LCD-XC ($1800), among other fine cans.

Martin Appel truly enjoyed the HIFIMAN HD1000, which require a lot of power to use; microZOTL 2 ran them easily.

Martin Appel truly enjoyed the HIFIMAN HD1000, which require a lot of power to use; microZOTL 2 ran them easily.

On Saturday, things were cooking with many more people attending, and even bringing family members. One delightful family attraction was the new ‘Piermont’ Planter Speaker ($6,000/pr) by Madison Fielding for outdoor use (rain or shine), such as a pool area. They are made right in the local area, in Port Chester, NY.

Kelly Powers, daughter of Madison Fielding owner, Art Powers Jr. kindly gave a me a run down of these beautiful new speakers that are weather proof and made of reforested slatted teak wood from Costa Rica; completely weather proof. Enthusiastic Art Powers Jr. further explained some of the care and workmanship that goes into these speakers. I was tempted to bring a pair home to my wife, who loves flowers—but I do not have a pool.

In the Audio Note UK Room, led by David Cope, passionate Cellist Vincent Belanger (photo below) gave lovely intimate live performances, and various LPs and CDs were played to demonstrate the prowess of the low cost Audio Note AZ Two D (2-drivers) speakers at a remarkably low price of $3250 per pair. These speakers have a 3⁄4” soft dome tweeter and an 8” hemp bass-midrange driver. In this new “D” edition, the cabinet’s front and back are MDF while a chipboard wrap makes up the top/bottom and sides.

Audiophilia’s own Martin Appel challenged the speakers with low church organ from the classic CD Cantate Domino, and admired their performance as did the audience.

In addition to the speakers they had the P2SE Signature integrated stereo amp ($6,000), CDT Three/II CD Transport ($11,775), DAC 3.1x/II ($9,900), Turntable TT Two Deluxe ($3,650), with Arm Three ($2,000) and IQ3 cartridge ($1,000).

Things were really bopping with the excellent sounding GamuT Audio based system in the Wes Bender Studio NYC room, which was standing room only most of the time. Bender played from a super collection of audiophile quality albums upon request and together with GamuT’s Michael Vamos hosted one of the nicest rooms at the show; with GamuT showcasing their 2-driver monitor speakers and other fine equipment. At one point, the Autumn leaves beautifully seen falling from the trees through the window were exquisitely matched with the track “Autumn Leaves” from the classic LP (vinyl) Somethin’ Else by Cannonball Adderley.

Equipment included GamuT Audio RS3 Loudspeakers ($20,000/pr), the NYC debut of the GamuT Audio Di150 Limited Edition integrated amp ($11,990), GamuT Audio CD3 Compact Disk Player ($7990). The turntable was the Pear Audio-Kid Howard w/ Cornet 2 tonearm ($4995). The cartridge: Transfiguration Proteus MC ($6000). The system also included the Pear Audio Blue-Reference with separate power supply ($4995), the EAR MC4 step up transformer ($2295), Gamut Audio Reference cabling and racks by Audio Rack. All rested on Stillpoints ESS 34s.

Wes Bender and Michael Vamos of GamuT

Wes Bender and Michael Vamos of GamuT

As I continued walking down Floor 4, I came across one of the finest sounding rooms: Living Acoustic/Acoustic Zen in Room 4011; detailed, dynamic and alive. In use was a system with a total cost of $100,000. VPI Avenger Turntable with Magnetic Drive Assembly and 2 JMW 12 3DR Tonearms ($25,000), fitted with one VAS Audio Nova stereo moving coil cartridge ($1,500) and a VAS Audio mono moving coil cartridge (Price TBA), Merrill Audio Cara line preamplifier ($3,500), Merrill Audio Jens phono preamplifier ($14,500), Acoustic Zen Crescendo II loudspeakers ($18,000 per pair), VAS Audio Citation Sound 2 monoblock amps ($3,500 per pair). Wired 4 Sound DAC-2 DSDse DAC ($2,549), Wired 4 Sound MS-2 music server ($2,499). A pair of PS Audio P5 power plants ($3,499 each). Cabling was by Acoustic Zen.

A very high-end display was shown by HeadAmp Audio Electronics, showcasing, among other amps, their Blue Hawaii amp, this one on display equipped with an ALPS potentiometer, and an external power supply ($6500), and using a pair of open STAX SR007 Mark I ($2500). Other headphones on display included the HIFIMAN HD1000 ($3000), and other STAX models costing upwards of $4500. Audiophilia’s Henry Wilkenson really enjoyed this table.

It was great that live music was scheduled. Always good to give the ear palate a real life cleanse. Using a Hammond organ, I came across jazz organist Akiko Tsuruga playing live in the lobby on Saturday afternoon. Wonderful to see all the seats were filled.

It was great that live music was scheduled. Always good to give the ear palate a real life cleanse. Using a Hammond organ, I came across jazz organist Akiko Tsuruga playing live in the lobby on Saturday afternoon. Wonderful to see all the seats were filled.

At the Avatar Acoustics/iFi Audio table, a turntable made of bamboo (even the plate)! Called the “Pebbles”, from the Flintstones TV series, it was made by the Canadian company Tri-Art. It caught my eye immediately; and at first I was not sure wether it would be best to keep it in my living room or kitchen! Complete with a tonearm at a cost of $1295 (and an optional Denon cartridge for an additional $379), this table is plug and play.

The knowledgeable Darren Censullo was on hand showcasing a very impressive new iFi Audio “PRO SERIES” headphone amp. Complete with a line in stage (for inputs: 3 pair of RCA and 1 pair of XLR; for outputs 1 pair each of RCA, XLR) it had both a tube setting, a solid state setting or hybrid (between the two) setting. It was small and very light. This one attracted a lot of attention.

The Lawrence Audio room was another nice one in sound; musical and warm. Jeff Rowland was on hand hosting. The cello/bass-shaped speakers were the Lawrence Audio “Double Bass” ($28,000/pr). The powerful Daemon integrated amp ($39,000), had an extraordinary touch monitor display, 1500 Watts per channel, a bluetooth remote, and over 20 inputs. The gorgeous purple ribbon-shaped speaker cables were by MG Audio Design.

Jeff Rowland, designer extraordinaire

Jeff Rowland, designer extraordinaire

Up on the 5th Floor were several fine listening rooms including Charney Audio; hosted by Brian Charney. A real eye opener were the 7 feet tall, 1-driver (horn based) Charney Audio Concerto speakers ($22,000/pr), that surely only a bachelor could keep at home! The driver was an 8” Lowther DX4, and the speaker is endowed with a 21” x 21” throat/horn opening. They were very dynamic. The peripheral equipment was all custom made (hence no prices). Charney was also displaying (but not connected) the much smaller “Maestro” speakers ($6500 per pair), that have a 6.5” driver.

In room 5021 was Beauty Of Sound; and yes the system sound was smooth, sweet, dynamic— just beautiful. Speakers were the Bastanis Mandala Open Baffle ($12,500/pr), and a stunning looking Tourbillon Turntable ($19,500). TubeGuru Reference Phono Stage ($7500), Whammerdyne 2a3 amp ($15,000), and Emia Permalloy 50 amps ($15000). Audio-Magic “The Natural” speaker cables ($7000 for an 8 foot pair).

Room 5007 had yet another horn speaker set up that sounded sweet, dynamic, dimensional and open. The Volti-Audio/Vinnie-Rossi/Triode Wire Labs room. Speakers: Volti Audio Vittora system ($25,000/as a 5-piece set). Upon entering , one could write comments on a white board; and they certainly received high regards. ELF cabinet amp by Marchand Electronics MB42 ($1,900). Vinnie Rossi VR120 ultra capacitor-powered amp ($4,995 for stereo amp, $9,595 fora pair of mono blocks). Cabling by Triode Wire Labs. (The turntable was someone’s personal table, not for sale).

Although VPI did not have their own room, their presence was felt, and their wonderful turntables were being used by several rooms. On Saturday I ran into the always cheerful President of VPI Mat Weisfeld in the lobby during lunch with a VPI Nomad in hand. (Martin Appel is pointing.) I told him about Master and Dynamic’s new wireless (Bluetooth) headphones, and he was excited to go right away and try them out—which he did.

Jonathan Billington from the UK’s Music First Audio displaying his exceptional ware including the new Classic Phono Amplifier 632 (MC-Step-Up 632) at $1000 (small red one), and new Classic MM phono Amplifier 632 ($3000) (large blue one).

Jonathan Billington from the UK’s Music First Audio displaying his exceptional ware including the new Classic Phono Amplifier 632 (MC-Step-Up 632) at $1000 (small red one), and new Classic MM phono Amplifier 632 ($3000) (large blue one).

Some of the finest LP racks made: WAX RAX (Owner David Stanavich). The elegant way they used one of their racks between the speakers was most attractive (unknown price). The amp is the Tavish Design LLC Minataur ($2750).

Some of the finest LP racks made: WAX RAX (Owner David Stanavich). The elegant way they used one of their racks between the speakers was most attractive (unknown price). The amp is the Tavish Design LLC Minataur ($2750).

The Alexus Audio room: Showcasing the new Bache Metro-001 Speakers (the smaller ones in the photo) (about $10,000/pr), [the larger ones (model 002) were not connected], and the AlexusAudio class A 833 SE Mono block amps ($10,000/pr) with enormous tubes. The left mono larger tube glowed with a reddish color since it was a different type than the right amp (I enquired). Very musical and warm sound.

Near the end of Saturday, I could not resist a nice wallop of small batch Rye Whiskey offered to me by the kind enthusiastic Art Powers Jr in the Madison Fielding room; cheers!

Near the end of Saturday, I could not resist a nice wallop of small batch Rye Whiskey offered to me by the kind enthusiastic Art Powers Jr in the Madison Fielding room; cheers!

Me and the wonderful Art Dudley. Art ran a Ask-the-Editors panel

Me and the wonderful Art Dudley. Art ran a Ask-the-Editors panel

If you’ve read Anthony’s show advance, you’ll know that the organizer Chester Group is making a real go of the NYC Audio Show. It’s here to stay. Good news, I say. No organizer has made the show survive in Manhattan. Just too many hurdles, some placed haphazardly. This venue works. Although a small show by previous standards, there were some very fine rooms, and some superb equipment/sound. And as always, fun enthusiastic audiophiles to hang out with. Besides, I got a ride home via car door-to-door; no train or taxis needed—a real treat for a Manhattanite.

I’m looking forward to an even bigger show next year in this excellent venue.