Publisher Profile

2012 New York Audio & AV Show: Part II

Robert Lighton Audio/Audio Note UK, Sound by Singer/Verity/VAC/Playback Designs, Walker Audio/Burmester, Redwine Audio/Kudos/Tellurium Q, Wes Bend Studio NYC/Hansen Audio/Viola Audio Labs/Redpoint Audio Designs/Triplanar/Graham/Dynavector/Transfiguration/Zesto/Jorma Design/Kaplan Cable/Audioquest, Audio Note UK, VMAX/Amphion, Haniwa, Music First, Light Harmonic/Pass Labs/Wilson/MIT

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Robert Lighton Audio displayed their RL10 speaker ($20,000), along with Audio Note UK electronics. The RL10 uses a 10” alnico magnet, hand-made paper cone woofer, and a 1” fabric dome with alnico magnet tweeter. The cabinet is magnificent solid wood – teak or mahogany.

Robert’s other business is designing and manufacturing extremely high quality furniture. Electronics were the AN Meishu Silver Signature integrated amplifier with phono ($18,850), AN CD 4.1x CD player ($10,800), AN S8 stepup transformer ($10,800), AN TT3.5 Reference 3 motor turntable ($39,600), AN tonearm with Sogon wiring ($13,156), and Benzs TR cartidge ($3,500). The sound was detailed rich and musical, erring more on the side of “romantic.” I’ll have more to report after I visit Robert’s new store in NYC, scheduled to open within the next few weeks.

NYC dealer Sound by Singer had a few rooms, one of which had the new Verity Amadis speakers ($30,000), which are one step above the very successful Parsifals. The Amadis is a 3-way speaker with a rear-mounted 9” woofer; distributor John Quick explained to me that it uses a new tweeter that is derived from the Ring Radiator, but which brings some significant improvements. Amplification was the VAC 450 Signature ($39,000), which outputs 225W via its KT88s. The front-end was the Playback Designs MPS-5 CD/SACD player ($17,000). I didn’t stay long in this room, but what I heard was sweet and enticing.

Walker Audio showed their drool-inducing ‘table with Burmester electronics and speakers. I forgot to write down the models and prices, but the sound was superb.

Vinnie Rossi of Redwine Audio had a full array of his battery-powered electronics, driving a pair of Kudos Cardea C20 speakers ($6,500). Cabling was from Tellurium Q. Vinnie no longer used Tripath-based amps, having switched to ClassA/B designs with a tube input stage. The system consisted of the Isabella preamp/DAC ($4,000), and Liliana monoblocks (115W/230W into 8 and 4 Ohms, respectively; $6,000). This was a wonderful sounding system, and a great deal for the money.

Wes Bender Studio NYC had a system featuring the NYC debut of the Hansen Audio Prince E speakers ($39,00/pair), driven by Viola Audio Labs electronics, including the Crescendo preamp with integrated DAC, $19,000, and the NYC debut of the Forte monoblock amps, $19,000/pair. The analog system was the magnificent Redpoint Audio Designs Model MG special edition ($65,000) with Triplanar Ultimate Mk VII-UII ($3,900) and Graham Phantom II Supreme B-44/12 ($5,999) tonearms; cartridges were the Dynavector DRT XV-1s ($5,450) and Transfiguration Phoenix ($4,250), along with the much-heralded Zesto phonostage ($3,900). Cabling was from Jorma Design, Kaplan Cable, and Audioquest. I will soon be visiting Wes at his studio in Brooklyn, for a more extended listening session under better conditions.

Left: Wes Bender

Audio Note UK had – of course- a full Audio Note system, based around the AN/E Lexus Signature speakers (I forgot to write down the price, but I think they are approximately $17,000/pair). Amplification was via the Jinro 211-based integrated amp (($32,000). On the analog side were the TT Two Deluxe ‘table ($3,650) with Arm Three V2 ($2,000), IOI cartridge ($4,250), S-4 stepup ($6,400), and M3 phono preamp (($11,200). Digital duties were via the CDT One/II transport ($4,250), DAC 3.1x/II ($10,250). As I’ve come to expect from Audio Note, the sound was warm, inviting and relaxing.

Importer VMAX of Chazy NY paired products from Norwegian manufacturers Amphion speakers and Hegel electronics. The speakers were the Argon 72 (approx. $7,000), the preamplifier the P30 ($7,500), the amplifier was the H30 (350W/channel; $15,000), and the DAC was the 32 Bit HD11 ($1,200). The amplifiers use a technology Hegel calls adaptive feed forward error correction, which took Hegel five years to develop. It is claimed to have a 10-fold lower cross-over distortion, and 10-fold higher damping factor. I had no familiarity with this system, but it had superbly taut bass, certainly consistent with the claimed damping factor. All-in-all, this was a very good system.

Japanese company Haniwa had a system the workings of which I do not understand. It comprises a 2-way speaker with a horn on top and woofer cone below, powered by an amplifier which connects to a computer. Information is transmitted both from computer to amp, and from amp to computer; and it is claimed to not have a DAC. Based on a quick diagram from the designer, PCM is converted to PWM, a fact I will leave to those more knowledgeable to ponder. The system is sold as a package for $36,000, and sounded pretty darn good.

Music First showed their transformer-based attenuators. The front end was a Revox reel-to-reel, and speakers were vintage Rogers LS 3/5A’s. Both times I stopped by they were playing a Buddy Holly track; the speakers have obvious limitations but within their limits, the sound was seductive.

Last but not least, Light Harmonic was showing their 384 USB Da Vinci DAC ($20,000), which I first heard at AXPONA last Spring. The source was a Mac Mini, amplification was from Pass Labs (XP20- preamp and XA100.5 amp), speakers were Wilson Sashas, and cabling was from MIT. High-rez recordings, especially some very special never-released studio out-takes, were breath-taking.

All-in-all-all, this was a delightful show. As always, I wish to express my thanks to the show organizers, the exhibitors, and to the attendees.

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