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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 3

The gear in room 349 came from all over the country. The Volti Audio Vittora 3-way horn speakers came from Maine and were very open, transparent and with an effortlessness that comes with their 104dB sensitivity. The 15" bass drivers in the speaker were supplemented with an extended low frequency cabinet with an 18" downward facing driver. (Isn't this really a subwoofer?) The crossover and ELF amplifier were from Marchand Electronics in my home town, Rochester, NY. If you're too young to have ever heard the famous Altec Voice of the Theater speakers, here was your chance to get a taste of very high efficiency. And I can assure you the Volti sounds an awful lot better!  As you can see in the photo, the folded-horn bass units are separate from the 2" mid-range and1" high frequency compression driver in the upper horn unit. The two speakers sell for $21,500 direct from the factory or $25,000 with the ELF unit (including the amp). The speakers were driven by Raven Audio Silhouette Reference preamp, a 2014 model ($9,995), and their Spirit 300B Reference Stereo amp which puts out 26 wpc in push-pull configuration with Sophia Royal Princess tubes. (36 wpc is mentioned on their website, but this is probably at a higher distortion level...or a typo?) These are gorgeous amplifiers, which seem to have one of the largest power switches (on the left side of the face) I've seen in a while. Note the small blue LED lights on the volume and input selector of the preamp—a nice touch from this Texas company. The cables from Triode Wire Labs were reasonably priced. Power cords were $499 for 7 AWG, $349 for 10 AWG; "American Speaker Cables" with Cardas banana plugs were $599 per set. "Spirit" interconnects use Ohno Continuous Cast Copper for $349. The sound here was quite commendable, judging from a familiar cut from Elvis singing "Fever", as well as a female vocalist doing the same song. The digital front end included a Meitner CDSD transport and what was probably the DAC2X, also from EMMLabs. All totaled, this rig was probably north of $60,000 and I greatly appreciated the opportunity to hear it.

 

Rick Kernen was there from Vanatoo, who along with Gary Gesellchen formed a company that makes a single product—a powered monitor with built-in DAC for use with computer/cell phone/iPod/TV sources. Variations of their Transparent One speaker dressed in cherry and equipped for Bluetooth or AirPlay wireless can take the price up to $629 from the entry level black version at $499. While the price seems appropriate for the parts and construction involved, the results are extraordinary. These guys really know how to bake a cake. Walking into their room was one of those rare OMG moments where I found a product that could be recommended without hesitation. Aside from a source component and possibly some upgraded cables, this is a complete audio rig in a box for $499! If the price falls below your radar, add a very expensive subwoofer, though with the built-in passive radiator and DSP, most people will not need one. While their distribution is sparse, they market factory direct with a 30-day return policy. This one's really special.

 

In the next room was a small Sony rig comprised of their HAP-S1 home music system and a pair of their stand mounted SS-NA5ES 3-way monitors. Sony also had a larger conference room that I didn't get to see.

 

A PrimaLuna Dialog Premium integrated amplifier was driving a pair of Acoustic Zen floorstanders. There was a Jolida Glass FX Tube DAC III W and a bel canto transport on the table to the right of a Merrill-Williams 101.2 R.E.A.L. turntable ($6400 without the peripheral ring and record weight, $7400 with those). The turntable incorporates a new plinth, an oil bath for the motor, as well as a lot of other vibration absorbing technology. I noticed new footer which replaced the hemispheric ones on the original version. The cartridge was an Ortofon Cadenza Blue moving coil. It was a rare opportunity to see this fine turntable from Memphis, TN. A Sutherland phono stage and a Musical Surroundings MYDAC II were to the left, along with a Tortuga Audio LDRx computer controlled passive volume control (with the large blue LEDs) with an introductory price of $1495. An Apple remote controls volume, balance, source selection and dims the blue numbers on the faceplate. Inside, a computer controls the exact intensity of LEDs (which are not linear) with special algorithms. The LEDs shine onto photo-sensitive material that decreases resistance with exposure to light, thus controlling the volume without any mechanical switches or metal-to-metal contact. Source selection is accomplished in a similar way, with on-off switching, rather than variable as with the volume control. Thus the analog signal passes straight through, directly to the theater input of the PrimaLuna integrated amp. The LDRx is single ended inputs (3) and output, but other models are available for balanced signals. Note the fine bamboo plywood side panels on this minimalist design. And speaking of wood...on some wooden crates from The Pop Shop was a pair of tube monoblocks sporting KT150 tubes with separate power supplies (?). There was a lot of gear in this room, including another pair of speakers and it was difficult to figure out exactly what was playing. Allan Rohde of Bright Home Theater and Audio was a great help in sorting out the multitude of gear in this room and explaining the Tortuga, which was new to me. Not to be overlooked was the Isotek EVO3 Sigma SE power conditioner and their EVO3 Synchro power cord that incorporates a "can" with filtration that eliminates DC from the AC current, thus eliminating a tendency for transformers to vibrate in all the power supplies.

 

\

Analog always reigns supreme in the Soundsmith room where I renewed my acquaintance with Peter Ledermann. He was showcasing his new series of medium output moving iron cartridges designed to maximize performance with phono stages having moderate gain in the 48dB to 54dB range. He claims they have the same performance level as their high and low output counterparts and range in price from $1800 to $7500. If you have medium gain in your phono stage, these should put your volume control in the sweet spot where you have fine control of the volume without over-driving your amp and speakers. The rig here was set up with the electronics on a unique Plexiglas rack that put the focus on the gear—not that I'm crazy for the blinking and pulsating blue lights on the SoundSmith stuff, but he at least gets my attention with some very nice wood chasses. Both the Soundsmith Dragonfly ($3000/pr.) and Monarch ($4000/pr.) monitors on stands were present. (I heard the Monarchs, here, though I've heard both before.) Peter was talking about his HE-150M power amplifiers, a bridged mode He-150, putting out 450 watts with a damping factor of 200, S/N ratio of 105dB and a bandwidth of 1.5MHz. The sound was very good here, though I was not familiar with the music. I had to wonder about the diffraction caused by the many hard surfaces of the Plexiglas rack. Oh, and the front end, you ask? It was a VPI HRX, which I haven't seen at a show in quite a while, equipped with a Schroeder Reference SQ tonearm ($9000) with a wood tube (which I've never seen before) that was absolutely gorgeous. Soundsmith also does cartridge repairs and markets modified Denon DL 103 MC cartridges that are more affordable than their own moving iron carts. An audio buddy sent his Sumiko Blackbird to them and had the worn stylus replaced with a ruby cantilever and new tip with very good results for a lot less money than buying a new cartridge.

 

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