The Return of the New York Audio Show

Posted by: Alan Taffel at 2:02 pm, April 30th, 2012


But New York’s biggest surprise, other than that it took place at all, lay in the fact that so many vendors chose an unproven regional event to introduce new products—some of them quite significant.


For example, Sony used the platform to give the SS-AR2 ($20k) its first live airing. (The speaker was on static display at CES.) The acclaimed SS-AR1’s little brother struggled to fill its grand surroundings, and suffered mightily from the Waldorf’s acoustics. Consequently, musical scale seemed small, and both dynamic verve and transparency dissipated into the dead space. Bass was overly plump, which certainly didn’t help the fuzzy rhythms. Even so, the speaker family’s unforced, natural character came through. For a real test, we’ll have to wait for an audition in a more conducive environment. 

Another new speaker making its U.S. debut was the Kudos Cardea C-30. The floor-stander ($11–12k) also sounded quite dull at the show. Here the venue’s deficiencies were amplified by the use of a printer-grade USB cable from the music server. Folks, you mustn’t do that! Meanwhile, in the LessLoss room, the Kaiser Vivace speakers ($42,500) were holding court. Though not quite a debut, this was only the second time in many years that the speakers have been shown publicly. They need to be heard more often, because the Vivace was resolving and engaging, though with obvious SPL limitations.

New DACs were everywhere in New York, and none created more buzz than the Light Harmonics DaVinci ($20k). A stunning piece of industrial engineering, the DAC is noteworthy for its purist approach (the company says DaVinci employs no digital filters or upsampling), a three-stage buffer said to banish jitter, support for resolutions up to 384/32. Like nearly every other new DAC at the show, the DaVinci embraces the new DSD-over-S/PDIF standard that will finally allow audiophiles to stream DSD files. As played through Pass electronics, MIT cables and interconnects, and another set of Sashas, the DaVinci proved capable of prodigious bass, lightning reflexes, and an ability to get timing right—something that is not exactly common in USB DACs.

While the DaVinci stole the show, the new Meitner EMM Labs 2X SE DAC ($15k) stole my heart. I know little about its internal workings—save that it upconverts everything to DSD—but I do know that it sounded astoundingly analog. I heard the 2X SE in the other Audio Doctor room, playing through KEF Reference 207 speakers. There was a turntable sitting directly above the DAC, and if I hadn’t known otherwise I would have assumed it was the source. Really. At the other end of the same room, Esoteric unveiled their D-02 ($23,500). This DAC was clearly retrieving a tremendous amount of detail in a very natural way, but other than that I couldn’t tell much since the KEF Blades anchoring its system were not well placed.

In non-DAC news, Veloce showed off a new line battery powered amps incorporating the latest Hypex Class D module. Available in the Fall, the $15k/pr monoblocks I heard sounded lovely and grainless. VPI chose New York to introduce not one but two turntables. The Traveler is the company’s new entry-level offering. At a mere $1299, it has many of the features of the Scout (which remains in the line), minus the standalone motor. Traveler’s base plate and platter are aluminum, and its tonearm is VPI’s first gimbaled design. The company also introduced the Classic 4 ($10k), a new mid-line model that includes both 10” and 12” unipivot arms. “Why should you have to choose?” a spokesman said.

Finally, at the show’s only formal press conference, David Chesky announced that HDTracks will soon offer a series of “Binaural Plus” albums. The company claims that, unlike typical binaural recordings, these will play equally well through speakers as well as the usual headphones. Over the next year, Chesky said, a new high-resolution crosstalk filter will take things even further, allowing speakers to create a holographic image. In the meantime, Chesky promises that 192/24 binaural files will be available on HDTracks by the end of May.

In the end, the 2012 New York Audio Show proved both fun and informative. Next year, if the Chester Group switches from the Waldorf to something equally classy but less opulent, say the Four Seasons, it might well be perfect.


sales@audiodoct... -- Tue, 05/01/2012 - 14:13


Dear Mr. Taffel thank you so much for the nice comments about the EMM Labs DAC 2X. I too thought the DAC was stunning and in some ways represents the best digital I have ever heard! On Saturday we were demonstrating Waltz for Debbie 24/192 HD tracks through the DAC, and it was spooky how real the sound was even out of such an old recording! We did try several positions with the KEF Blades and unfortunately the more in to the room position killed off some of the sound stage, so I made a compromise between a little bass bloat or a more constrained sound stage, I think next year we will try a few more tube traps.
Also thank you a second time for noticing the Scaena/CJ system with the remarkable Kudos turntable. I thought the Scaenas were magical in this room and given a few more days of tweaking and setup we could have created even more magic.

On Sunday during tear down I played the Blade system without the Shakti Hollographs and the Acoustic System resonators which were discreetly placed around the room, and boy did the system suffer!
I agree with you that the attendance was good but doesn't harken back to the uber-exciting audio shows of the ninties, I would have liked to see non audio journalists covering the show, such as Wired, Rolling Stones, WSJ, Time Out NY, and the New York Times.

Now more than ever high end is more affordable and really excellent, and the masses need to know there is a world of quality audio that they are missing from the big box merchants, and Amazon, hopefully next years show will include all of the excellent audio journalists plus a whole lot more! Thanks for visiting with us.
Dave Lalin, President, Audio Doctor, -- Thu, 05/03/2012 - 17:37

<<Now more than ever high end is more affordable>>
15K for a DAC? Thats affordable?? To who may I ask?
Even the Weiss at half the price is out of reach for most audiophiles!!
Do we live on the same planet??

mbrooks@nyinter... -- Thu, 05/03/2012 - 19:18

 1.   The show manager needs to do a far better job with registration.    It's ridiculous to have to wait in line for 30 minutes just to get into the show.  There's absolutely no reason why tickets couldn't have been sold online instead of just taking "reservations" online.   You get to the show, you show that you've paid...maybe they scan the barcode so the ticket can't be used more than once and they hand you the wristband.    Another problem was that only one registration line was taking credit cards.   
2.  While decades ago, the AES used to be held at the Waldorf, the Waldorf "ain't" what it used to be and I didn't find it "fancy" at all.    The maze-like hallways were not especially luxurious and many of the exhibition rooms were far too small.  No one should have to wait in a long line for a demo.
3.   While I'll admit to not having my younger ears, I was disappointed in the sound of most of the equipment demonstrated at the show, especially at the prices offered.   I'm happy there's a market for hand-crafted, U.S.-built equipment, but there were plenty of speakers in the $10,000 and up category that I wouldn't have wanted for $700.    Most systems I heard had absolutely no life to them and I find it hard to believe that the room acoustics played that large a role.
4.  While I don't think the show should include the cheap products of the international conglomerates, I do think the show could be expanded to include quality, but not necessarily esoteric, equipment and it should also encourge vendors of multchannel, not just stereo, systems.     If you're going to hold a show in New York City and expect people who live in the city to attend, a majority of those people live in apartments and there should be systems shown that are suitable for apartments.   

sales@audiodoct... -- Thu, 05/03/2012 - 20:56

to bymc98
You totally missed the point, I was not talking about a $15,000.00 DAC in my post,  I was talking about the state of the entire industry:
At my shop we sell PSB speakers for $300.00 Cambridge audio amplifers for $500.00 etc. If you look at the sound quality of many, of today's affordable products you can produce a fantastic sounding system for $1,500.00-$5,000.00 that will crush many of yesteryear's much more expensive systems!
There are so many affordable products that are offering fantastic peformance for  reasonable amounts of money.
At the show we demonstrated the new Merrill Willaims Turntable which is priced at $6,000.00 -$7,200.00 which outperformed  George Meririll's last turntable the MS 21   which sold for $24,000.00!
So value is where you see it, even the $15,000.00 EMM Labs Dac is a value in that it competes with much more expensive reference class digital products.

Dave Lalin, President, Audio Doctor,

radberanek -- Fri, 05/04/2012 - 01:33

@sales : What price to listen to music - whoa!!! Who can afford what question becomes moot if we are not told which musick (sic) is actually worth the price. Pray tell, or no... don't answer, we already know it - different strokes etc.
But seriously, why do we even try to fight the obvious pop culture trends with these high prices?  The hipsters watch sports on their Iphones and listen to their sounds on their Ipods and like it that way. Nobody wants their musical tastes under scrutiny and besides, a rhythmic sound defeats loneliness most of the time, then only obsession remains, if you have the moolah.
Happy listening

romrom14 -- Thu, 06/14/2012 - 14:05

I wish they would come up with a section for high end but-not-the-latest audio devices which they can sell at bargain prices. I have been searching for a kickass audio setup for my room and i do not want to settle for mediocre brands yet i also have budget constraint issues.

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