Thursday, April 18, 2013

Pics from the New York Audio Show

We just returned from the New York Audio Show, and frankly we're exhausted at CCI. New York is always a bit tougher when it comes to trade shows--traffic is brutal, the cost of everything is exorbitant and the attendees are knowledgeable and predictably hard to please. That said, I love New York. I love the food, the excitement, the gorgeous architecture (the show was held at the legendary New York Palace Hotel, and our room had exquisite views of St. Bart's and Rockefeller Center) and the food.

Did I mention how much I love the food in New York? While the hotel restaurant took some criticism for its tasty $13 bagels and remarkable $25 burgers--you could almost hear the ghost of Leona Helmsley yelling, "but it's worth it, you whiners!"--Colleen and I managed to hit Peter Luger's in Brooklyn with Jeff Joseph of Joseph Audio and Rob Robinson of Channel D. After the show, we snuck off to New Haven, Connecticut, to indulge in one of the finest pizzas on earth--Modern Apizza. (When we visited last year, we hit Pepe's.) Modern Apizza--my God.

We had equipment in three rooms. First was the MAD room, which Colleen and I ran. We featured the MAD Duke Royal Limited loudspeakers, the MAD 1920S mini-monitors, the PureAudio Reference monoblock amplifiers, the PureAudio Control preamplifier, the MSB Data IV digital transport, MSB's The Analog DAC and Furutech cabling and power management. Unfortunately, the Dukes had been shipped one too many times--they've been to five different shows in the last few months--and they weren't quite sounding right. We substituted the 1920S mini-monitor and achieved incredible sound. We thought it might be a blessing in disguise, since many New Yorkers live in small apartments and are really looking for smaller speakers that sound great. We heard many people complain that all of the rooms featured gigantic mega-speakers that wouldn't fit into their digs or their budgets. In the context of our extraordinary system, the 1920S wound up being huge crowd-pleasers.

Here's a pic of the two speakers standing next to each other, with one of the incredible PureAudio Reference monoblock amplifiers to the side.

This is the main system--the PureAudio amps and preamp, along with the MSB digital front end. I had a chance to play with the Data IV transport and The Analog DAC before the show, and I have to say that the build quality and the sound quality are both magnificent. The DAC is especially noteworthy because it looks like an isolation platform instead of a component. It's a solid piece of aluminum with small compartments milled out for the components, which isolates the circuitry. It's a gorgeous piece and offered some of the best digital sound I've heard yet.

As I said, we used power cords, speaker cables, interconnects and a powerline conditioner from Furutech of Japan. The construction, fit and finish of these cable products were amazing--these are probably the most beautiful cables I've used. The connectors were polished and gleaming. Furutech, in its own way, made our room more beautiful. Yes, they sounded fantastic as well. Colleen and I were extremely happy with Furutech and will definitely use them again in the future--in fact, at the upcoming T.H.E. Show in Newport Beach in June.

Here's a shot of the passive powerline conditioner. While the cables from Furutech are far from inexpensive, this conditioner retails for only about a grand--a considerable bargain compared to some of the other power management products we have used in the past that cost three, four or even five times as much.

Here are the loudspeaker cables plugged into the back of the red 1920S...

...and the black one. The mismatched colors of the cabinets of the two speakers had some people talking, but the 1920S were originally meant to be part of a static display. We even had a white one for CES earlier this year, but they were part of the pair that I auditioned last year and they were sold to a customer. We joked about the colors representing the right (red) and left (black) channels, but we even switched that. MAD speakers are built to such close tolerances, however, that even a pair of different colors is perfectly matched.

Here's the 1920S from the front. I've reviewed these before, so I won't go into much detail here. I will say that with all the exceptional ancilliary equipment, the 1920S sounded better than I've heard them before.

We also provided the MAD Baron speakers for the Care Audio room four doors down. Care Audio is our brand new MAD dealer in Edison, New Jersey, and proprietor Sunil Lekhi amazed us with his ability to build and tweak and extremely musical system--one that went far beyond our expectations. The Barons are smaller two-way versions of the Duke Royal Limited, and this was the first pair we've brought into the US and therefore the first pair we have heard. From the pics we had assumed that the Baron was a slightly smaller floorstander, but when we saw them we were surprised to see how small they were. Sitting on the floor, they barely reached past our knees. They produced a huge, exciting sound from the floor, but the soundstage was unique in that it seemed to exist below the floor--like you were listening from a balcony. That's certainly a legitimate perspective, but probably one that wouldn't generally work in the audio marketplace. Then we realized that the Baron are indeed stand-mounted speakers, albeit with relatively short stands. Once Sunil found a pair of suitable stands, we were in business.

The diminutive Barons throw up an amazingly huge soundstage, and they go fairly deep in the bass. And like the Dukes, they are gorgeous in both shape and finish. Jeremy Kipnis, of Kipnis Studio Standard (KSS) fame, is currently reviewing them. Colleen and I visited Jeremy and his wife Carolina in Connecticut after the show, and he was quite enthralled with their performance.

Finally, Jeff Joseph of Joseph Audio used our Unison Research Unico 50 integrated amplfier in his room, which he shared with Cardas Audio and Channel D/Pure Music. Jeff and Rob usually achieve "Best of Show" sound quality in their rooms, and we were honored that he chose the Unico 50 this time. Their system was beyond reproach--is there a stand-mounted speaker that can throw up a bigger soundstage and can offer more bass than the Joseph Audio Pulsars? I don't think so. He played a rare recording of Louis Armstrong playing the classic piece "St. James Infirmary" and I've never heard Satchmo sound more alive and real. I've forgotten the entire story of the recording--it might have been from a rare master tape which Rob processed through the Pure Music software. It was better than the clam pie at Modern Apizza.

I'll finish up with an observation/gripe about audiophiles at trade shows. In the photo above you'll see our room when it was basically packed. There's only one available seat, which happened to be the sweet spot. No one wanted to sit there. I'd repeatedly
watch one audiophile offer the sweet spot chair to another, only to have the other decline. "No, no," they would say, "you take it." And then both of them would sit elsewhere. It's as if no one wants to be a sweet spot hog!

Here's a tip: if you walk into a room at an audio trade show and the chair in the sweet spot is available, take it! Don't worry about being impolite. As an exhibitor, I worked hard to make my room sound its best, and it sounds its best in THAT chair. Sit down. Enjoy. Stay there for an hour. I want you to!

In Chicago, I had an audiophile walk into my empty room and then stand along the back wall and listen to the system. "Have a seat," I told him. "I'm getting some nasty room reflections against the back wall and it sounds awful there." He looked at me and sneered, "I'm aware." Then he walked out. In other words, he was more interested in showing how knowledgeable he was as an audiophile than hearing an excellent system. So please--show the sweet spot some lovin', dammit.

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