New York Show Equipment Review

Hi Folks:

As I have stated in years past, it always feels like a reunion whenever I attend one of these shows. There is such an overwhelming sense of belonging to a unique group of people who take the time and the investment of money and research to create fascinating works of electronic art and the muse to which it serves; the music.

I have never seen the innards of the Waldorf Astoria before. And that was a treat. It's an interesting Art-Deco landmark because it combines that motif with clearly classical ideas in the hallways and in the rooms themselves. You don't get to typically see a Japanned highboy just standing in the hallway of just any hotel. The public areas shine like I have never seen them in recent years and that was an awesome feeling. A true bonus and apropos location.

I was on a mission this time. In the sense that I did not want to visit everywhere. I clearly limited my choices to the ones that interested me the most. That organizing truly paid off with my strong belief in the "less is more" mentality. Sometimes. Here then are my top rooms and thoughts on the equipment within:

Scaena - This was the number one reason why I wanted to attend this show. Waiting almost five years to hear them again was well worth it. I don't know how they do it. I have never been a fan of line array designs because although they play loud from floor to ceiling, there is a disjointedness in the sound of the music. All bravado but no inner sound stage detail the way that the best dynamic floor standing speakers do. And hardly enough width and depth in the sound. These speakers truly smoke my own stereotype. They look like Bauhaus works of art. I love the fact that each midrange driver is in it's own separate high mass enclosure. They combine both dynamic and ribbon technology and a separate sub-woofer. And the materials they use to build these things are very expensive according to the chief engineer that I met in the room. I played Bing and The Beach Boys. If speakers can't get vocals right, you should walk out immediately. I could have stayed all day and played my music collection on these, they just sounded that good to me. There is a direct lineage with the Nearfield Acoustics Pipedream's. The same team worked on these with newer generation technology. I urge you to hear these at least once. It was also nice to have them hooked up to CJ's flagship GAT amps and pre amp. All tube. Big fan. The Kronos turntable wasn't embarrassing either. You'll hear more about it I'm sure.

Woo Audio - They take headphone amps to high art. They love tubes. There built like tanks. They know what they are doing. And they sound fantastic with Stax and my personal favorite, AKG. I compared an EL34 based standard model with their souped up edition with the same Steely Dan selection. There was a whole other level of resolution.

Sony: The AR 2 rocked. Built well. I expected them to sound good but found them even better than expected. They got the midrange right. The Pass Labs X600's were another bonus but I think these speakers deserve tubes to shine even more. I would like to now hear the AR 1. My speaker voicing of choice is what I call " harmonically rich studio monitor". The Sony's fit that criteria.

VPI - Harry Weisfeld and son demoed their new turntable at a price point below the Scout. Wow! Zippy. Punchy and musical. You can look at all the turntables in the hobby, but no company that I have ever encountered delivers the combined engineering, build quality and sound of Harry's work at a relatively low price. He gets better and better for lower and lower money. This new table will be well reviewed. Trust me. Michael Frehmer was in the room playing his beat up test pressing of Diamonds On The Souls of Her Shoes and he was enjoying it. My timing was good.

TW Acoustic - Their flagship turntable called the Black Knight is one of the best that I have ever seen or heard. The Room contained a tall horn speaker made of beautiful wood. The sound was not too my taste but when the host played a mono Red Grange Prestige in pristine condition, that got my attention right quick. I want to hear this table again. It sounded that good. One of the few cost no object designs that I would actually consider owning. Worth a look into the company.

Kef Blade and Chord Amplifiers - The best KEF speaker I have ever heard. And I knew it within seconds. I was very skeptical. I expected them to not sound good. All look and no sound. I stand fully corrected. I knew and heard KEF years before I knew other favorite speakers existed and I know their house sound very well; forward midrange, peaky treble, ok bass. This is a MAJOR leap forward in coherence, speed, bandwidth and even musicality. I also had the pleasure of shaking hands with the chief designer of Chord solid state amplifiers. To cut to the chase, one of the richest and most musical sounding solid state amps I have ever heard. Almost too rich sounding. Incredible.


CT Audio Society

Dear Mr. Hirsh,

Thank you so much for acknowledging both of our suites and what we accomplished in terms of creating two great sounding rooms.

The Scaena CJ room with the Kronos turntable was absolutely remarkable, and this was indeed a stunningly life like system.

The KEF Blades with the Chord was another great accomplishment, after living with the Blades I feel that the Blades represent the sound of a $75,000.00 loudspeaker for $30k! The Chord electronics are one of my favorite discoveries.

We now have both the Kronos turntable and the Merrill Turntables on display with the Tri Planer tonearm on the Merrill and we just ordered a Graham Supreme for the Kronos.

Overall I think the show was a great success and we met a lot of great people.
Hi Dan,

Nice system! I have heard good things about that set up from various sources. I also am a big CJ fan, having owned CJ equipment for 12 consecutive years...and still going!

Nice write up! Thanks for taking the time to do that...very enjoyable.
Maybe those who went to give us an overall rating of the show, with a 10 being a knockout. How about it guys.
Buconero; I attented this show some 5 or 6 yrs ago and back then it was a much better affair in terms of sheer number of exhibitors / equipment / variety.
This year's show was relatively small.
There were still some gems but you could see (hear) it all in half a day so to speak.
Thanks very much for your exceptionally well written report on the show, D.H. Great job!

I have to say the most discouraging aspect of the show for me was the age of the attendees. At 42, my friend and I were easily among the younger crowd at the event. Indeed, while we waited in line, we were likely the youngest. I asked him, a non-audiophile, what he noticed. First answer, "No women." True, true, but I asked what else, "Uh, it looks like everyone here is a senior citizen." Contrast that with a political rally I attended this past Sunday where I was one of the older people in the crowd, and the differences could not be more stark.

Personally, the highlight of the show were the Quad ESL57 loudspeakers, driven by Miyajima OTL amplification. I give them BEST OF SHOW. Easily the best I've heard from OTL, which I can confirm mate superbly with the electrostatic loudspeakers. Say what you will about the narrow sweet spot, and limited volume and low frequencies. For me, audio is not a team sport, and the Quads made music in a way that speakers that cost tens of thousands of dollars could never dream of.

You did an excellent job on the Scaena loudspeakers. While I didn't stay there perhaps as long as I should have, color me impressed.

The Kef loudspeaker demo I attended felt a bit canned with the Japanese drumming intended to overwhelm. As such, though I'm not here to complain, I have to reserve judgement overall.

Outside of it being the hue of the Philadelphia Flyers, I don't care much for the color orange. Still, I'd welcome the Kaiser Vivace speakers into my living room with open arms.

Veloce not only produces some of the most innovative in the industry, but some of the best sounding as well.

When it comes to best sounding, I consider Audio Note probably that, yet both of their rooms sounded thin, harsh, hifi, and overall pretty lousy.

Also, not sure why the VAC/Verity combination sounded as amusical as it did, but I did expect more flesh and blood.

You and I are of the same mind when it comes to the Sony loudspeakers.

Likewise, when it comes to the TW Acustic turntable, I agree the results sounded spectacular. I stood there amazed at the profound solidity of sound, something that you just absolutely do not encounter in high-end audio. Though usually a horn fan, I thought the Cesseros might not be right for me.

I felt happy to see Matthew Weisfeld further immersing himself into VPI. Both the new Traveler and Classic IV turntables purported themselves extremely well.

Speaking of turntables, Lloyd Walker's room, pairing his Proscenium with an otherwise Burmester system sounded more than good - rich, full-bodied, and powerful.

Once again, nicely done...

Thank you Trelja for your kind words. I enjoyed reading your thoughts as well.

CT Audio Society