Just back from another very successful show in New York with our friend Kevin Hayes from VAC and Sounds by Singer and a host of others. It was good to hear everyone giving us so much positive feedback from Art Dudley of Stereophile on our system this past weekend.
My Friday-morning train from upstate New York arrived in Manhattan ahead of schedule‚Äîhow often does that happen?‚Äîgiving me the luxury of walking, rather than taking a subway or a cab, to the Park Lane Hotel, located on West 59th Street: this year’s venue for the New York Audio Show. So I set out from Lexington Avenue and headed west on 57th Street, admiring as I did the window displays of the many high-end jewelers and clothiers and galleries along the way. By the time I cut north toward 59th Street‚Äîthe southern border of Central Park‚Äîthe passersby were more well-dressed, the uniformed doormen more numerous, shopping bags from Van Cleef & Arpels and Bergdorf Goodman more plentiful, diversity of humanity on the wane, the Yorkie count way, way up.
By the time I reached the Park Lane Hotel’s posh-minus entrance, I felt as though I’d entered a whole different world‚Äîbut this time I wasn’t sneering. Indeed, I was wondering: what would it take for all these people of means to take interest in our little world of handmade electronics and rare phono cartridges and loudspeakers that were surely meant to be enjoyed in the largest and grandest of rooms? For people who are used to the best of everything, is high-end audio really that big a leap?
Yeah, pretty much. And maybe that’s for the best: not that the wealthy aren’t as capable of enjoying art as investing in it, but at the New York Audio Show, the diversity missing from the hotel’s surroundings was restored, with attendees‚Äîsurprisingly large in number for a workday afternoon‚Äîfrom seemingly all walks of life. It was refreshing.
The same could be said of the playback systems I encountered there during my one-day visit: some grand, some humble, and most snugged solidly into high-end audio’s attainable-if-not-painlessly-so mainstream. So it was at the first exhibit I visited, that of Manhattan retailer Sound by Singer, where one of my favorite British loudspeakers, the Harbeth Reference Monitor 40.2 ($14,795/pair in cherry) was driven by VAC’s 100Wpc Signature 200 iQ power amp ($14,000) and Master Preamplifier ($27,000 for the line only version, plus $13,000 additional for the phono-stage option as demonstrated), Aurender N10 caching server ($8000), the Zero Uno tubed DAC by Canever Audio ($7995), and an Acoustic Signature Ascona Mk.II turntable ($33,999) plus 12″ TA-9000 tonearm ($18,999). It was a beautifully balanced system: explicit without being in-your-face on a digital file of Neil Young’s “There’s a World” (great sense of scale on that one, too) with no-less-great tone and presence on a selection from the LP Coleman Hawkins Encounters Ben Webster.