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New York Audio Show Report 2014
New York Audio Show Report 2014
Bringin' it to Brooklyn 
Show Coverage By Rick Becker

Part 2

  First, a quick correction… the Vandersteen/Audio Research/Basis rig mentioned in Part 1 was actually up on the 3rd floor in the Ferry Room, so I merely went around the corner to immerse myself in real world (sort of) gear. Some of you questioned my need to parachute upwards to the third floor. It wasn't really necessary.

Moving along, Woodbridge Stereo crossed the Hudson from New Jersey with a boat of Scandinavian gear, mostly GamuT(Denmark) and Hegel (Norway). In room 386 was a $90,000 system completed with a GamuT RS5 floorstanding speaker ($29,999) that carries the distinctive protective grill-word I first saw on their flagship model years ago. The brushed vertical metal rods and horizontal bungee-type cords fly in the face of those who fear the effects of diffraction. I heard no unwanted consequences from this visually elegant and intriguing solution. The base of the speaker was a constrained layer sandwich of metal and proprietary material to damp unwanted vibrations coming from (or going to) the floor. (It's important to do both.) A nominal 4 Ohm load with 89.5dB/W/m sensitivity, it is probably best driven with solid state electronics unless you're willing to spend very large for tubes. With GamuT's M250i monoblocks ($22,998 per pair) and their Reference Bi-wire speaker cable ($5999 per pair) they were obviously taking the same approach Richard Vandersteen was preaching earlier. The amp is rated at 250 watts into 8 Ohms, and doubles down to 500 watts at 4 Ohms or 900 watts at 2 Ohms if you've got some really difficult speakers. The Preamp (D3i, $8999) and CD player (CD3, $7999) and interconnects (Wormholes Signature, $2599 per pair) were also GamuT. With a name like "Wormholes Signature" I should have asked about the interconnects. This was another of the Best Rooms at the show and it didn't want for power. It was fast, full and tight…an example of the rapid gains in excellence GamuT has made in recent years.

 

Next door in 385, Woodbridge paired Hegel electronics with GamuT M7 speakers ($14,999) that also sounded very good, but lacked the touch of class brought to the RS5 by the grill treatment. They were driven by Hegel's H30 amp ($14,999), a stereo beast in its own right, capable of driving 1 Ohm loads, P30 preamp ($7499) and CD2A Transport/CD ($2649) and HD12 DAC ($1399). The same GamuT interconnects and speaker cable was used here, too. The system cost dropped to $49,999. Still, this was very much a Big League sound and a real treat to hear the Hegel separates. (More often we hear about the integrated amplifiers that share an enviable reputation at a much lower price point.) Leonard Cohen's deep voice seemed spot on and very natural, while an instrumental piece conveyed a rich sense of space in a piece that might have come from a Hearts of Space program.

 

Dave Cope, who represents Audio Note UK, was present with his familiar Audio Note rig with speakers placed in the corners of the room. But the real delight was to hear Vincent Belanger (from Quebec?) play cello, live to his own CD La (Fidelio FACD032). I had been alerted by a friend in Canada to keep an ear out for him, and I entered the room just in time to catch a minute of his playing and snap a quick photo. Now, I'm not an avid cello fan, but I'm an original groupie of Break of Reality, a cello rock band from the Eastman School of Music that I've been following since 2005, so I kind of know what a cello sounds like. Vincent is really good and the experience of hearing him play to his own CD was seamless. It made the entire performance sound like it was being played by live musicians, so I guess this bodes well for Audio Note as well as Fidelio, who made the recording. Vincent graciously posed for a photograph with some people who were either already his fans, or simply recognized his exceptional talent and wanted a photo with him. I'll have more to say about him later when I caught him again and was able to listen to an entire piece. Meanwhile, back with the Audio Note rig, I was impressed with the IQ3 moving magnet cartridge ($980) which has the same stylus and cantilever as their IO1 moving coil which is over $4000. Hmmm…do I sense a bargain here?

 

Robert Lighton Audio in Manhattan is an authorized Audio Note UK dealer, but Mr. Lighton is also a high-end furniture maker so his Audio Note presentation takes an elegant twist. His Regency 300B integrated amplifier ($16,500) features a shaped and hand polished mahogany surround with solid copper top plate and is tricked out with solid bronze screws and knobs to match the bronze painted transformer covers. But what really excited me were the Psvane 300B power tubes from China that are among the very best in the world. (I have excellent performance from Psvane 845 tubes in a SET amp I own.) I first heard about these tubes from the late Ian Grant of Grant Fidelity and his wife and partner, Rachael. Psvane is a break-away company from Shuguang that took their tubes to an even higher level. I understand Shuguang is recovering from the shake-up and has re-established quality control—at least for the tubes coming in from Grant Fidelity. But getting back to the Lighton Audio presentation, their Essex turntable ($8500) featured an Audio Note Io2 cartridge on a metal armtube but will eventually have a rosewood armtube in the Audio Note tonearm to match the rosewood armboard in the Essex turntable. The platter has a 0.25" layer of copper on top of the aluminum that not only coordinates visually with the copper top of the amp, but likely improves the sound, as I've seen copper mats offered in the past by TTWeights in Canada. In the larger rig that was playing was the RL8 monitor speakers ($20,000) constructed from solid mahogany with no parallel sides. The cabinets were said to act as the body of an instrument for the two-way speaker with Japanese drivers with paper cones and alnico magnets. The RL8 uses an 8" woofer, while the RL5 ($10,000) uses a 5" driver. In the photo of the cabinet you can see the finely finished tuned wood port. The speakers have matching mahogany stands, all hand finished. Even the set of listening chairs in the room was of his design and manufacture, but since they were designed for dining, they lacked the comfort of a true listening chair. All in all, this was a fine sounding, elegant traditional rig.

 

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