I attended the NY Audio Show in Manhattan from Friday 11/4/2016 through Sunday 11/6/2016. It was held at the Park Lane Hotel on Central Park South.
Thursday, I traveled down to Manhattan and checked into my hotel on Park Avenue South. Then I explored the High Line, walking over to 34th St. at 12th Ave. and down to 12th St. The High Line is quite interesting, very different than the rest of Manhattan, and an up and coming part of the City. I ended up in the Village and saw the movie “Tampopo” which was fun.
Friday morning before the Show opened I went down to Ground Zero. I saw the big pools in the footprint of the original World Trade towers. They were impressive and somber, although I’m not sure it is a good use of NYC real estate. I also explored the new transportation hub, which is quite a place! I did not visit the 9/11 Museum ($24).
Friday afternoon I signed in at the Show and did a quick run-through of the rooms to get a feel for the layout and exhibiters.
Friday evening, I took the subway to Flushing Queens to visit Ben. Flushing is quite a place! It is a major Chinatown. It was bustling, and I felt like I was in China or Hong Kong. Ben took me to a Chinese restaurant where we had a terrific (and big) dinner as we usually do. We had a great conversation and caught up with each other. I also got to say hello to his wife Janice, and his son and daughter-in-law as well as his little grandson.
Saturday, James came into town for the Show and we toured the Show together, taking time to explore some of the rooms in depth. James is one of the scientists behind the Solar Grand Plan article published in Scientific American, and I run the solar-oriented asap.com website for him. James liked an unusual pair of speakers, and then found out they cost $54K! We had dinner at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Terminal. We had a great time talking about his work (energy analysis) and the world in general.
Sunday, Paul came into town for the Show. Paul is a financial programmer/architect and team leader who hired me twice when I was working, including giving me my first programming job. He has also done some speaker design. We had a great time talking about programming, electronics, and technology while visiting the various Show exhibits and learning about and admiring the engineering in the various products. That evening I had a nice Italian dinner before taking the train back home.
MQA is a new audio format that uses variable bitrate encoding to achieve improved quality with smaller file sizes. It has the potential to become a major format. Mytek Digital, a company based in Brooklyn NY with a professional audio background, was showing their preamp / DAC that handles MQA, although I did not get to try it out. They have a $2000 version and a $6000 version.
I listened to some good-quality headphones, and although they are nice, they just don’t have the visceral impact of full-size speakers.
Bob Carver Corporation was showing their new “line source” speakers. They are about 7 feet tall, very skinny, and contain a stack of ribbon tweeters on the front and very small woofers on the sides. The goal is to provide a planar wave front to the user rather than the spherical wave front that comes from a single speaker. Personally, I prefer single-source speakers – it is rather intimidating to have a closely-mic’ed speaker with a 6-foot-high mouth in my living room! The speaker arrays were combined with a 2700-watt dual 12-inch subwoofer, which really got the room shaking. The whole speaker system is available for $18000. Bob Carver himself was in the room, and I got to shake his hand. He is a legend for a variety of unique and reasonably-priced amplifiers and speakers. I said “You like to break the rules, don’t you?!”, and he replied “Not of physics!”.
One of the rooms was showing a pair of horn loudspeakers, by Sadurni Acoustics. These really have to be seen to be believed. (See photo at left, taken from their website.) The speakers are a series of three horns (think old Victrola phonograph speakers) that get bigger from tweeter to midrange to bass. The bass horns were three feet across, and sitting on the floor. They sound pretty good, and have got good reviews (and are very expensive), but I still think they have the problems most horns have: the three drivers all sound separate from each other, and there is a bit of “cupped hands” quality to the sound. They sure looked impressive, but would not be welcome décor in most living rooms!
One of the best-sounding rooms was a full suite of products from Electrocompaniet. The total system cost had to be over $100,000, but it sure sounded nice, with good-sized speakers.
There were new medium-size Monitor Audio speakers in one room, which sounded really good. Monitor Audio has been in business a long time, has a full range of speakers, and they know how to price things correctly. I have smaller Monitor speakers as my back surround speakers.
Martin Logan was showing a couple of medium-large electrostatic speakers from their new line, and they sounded gorgeous in a treated room. They were driven by (expensive) Martin Logan electronics. These speakers are clear(!) panels between electrically-driven mesh screens that provide a flat wave front with no crossovers in the ear-critical frequency range. This makes electrostatics great in the highs and mid-range, but they are often difficult to coordinate with the traditional woofers needed for bass, but Martin Logan is the only company I’ve heard that can do it. Unfortunately, electrostatics also can’t play extremely loud, so they aren’t ideal for the rock music I often listen to.
One room was showing new big speakers from Alta, driven by relatively midsize Krell amps (Krell also makes some of the world’s largest and best amps). The system was making some of the best sounds at the Show.
One of the rooms was playing small speakers on stands, with just a tweeter and a 6-inch woofer. But they were playing them very loudly, and it was difficult to believe that such great and nearly full-range sound was coming from such small speakers. Then we found out that the speakers were the new Carmel 2 from YG Acoustics, and cost $24,000/pair! That explained it – YG Acoustics makes some of the best speakers in the world. All their speaker enclosures are machined from single blocks of aluminum! I’ve heard their bigger speakers at other shows and they also sound great.
One room was using $15,000 speaker cables! The experts claim that cables of that quality do make a difference, but I have my doubts especially in a “lower-end” system like mine. That is about the cost of my entire system.
There were some “budget” items at the show, besides headphones. One room was showing a pair of single-driver omnidirectional speakers (they face the ceiling, to bounce the sound around) that sounded very nice, for only $2000! They would work well for filling a room with background music. It was a new line from a small company, Ohm Accoustics. The owner/designer was in the room, and clearly was looking for buyers, as well as for dealers to carry the line.
In general, the rooms sounded good, although many suffered from bass-bloat due to the small rooms and hard walls. The rooms that were treated with sound-absorbing panels leaning against the walls or in the corners definitely sounded better than the untreated rooms.
The variety of engineering on display was staggering. There were little tube amps and big solid state amps. There were little full-range speakers and big speakers with subwoofers. There were turntables, CD players, music servers, and the Carver system was playing directly from the Tidal streaming service! Almost all systems were controlled by phone apps or tablets. The big companies have big engineering staffs and dedicated testing facilities of course, but many of the exhibitors are small companies and their products represent the life work of a single talented and determined engineer.
The Show this year was relatively small, but still very interesting. The most expensive speakers weren’t there, but their smaller versions were. The latest technologies were on display. Most of the vendors were offering “Show Special” pricing with big discounts for purchases made at the Show, and there clearly was some business being done. Attendance seemed good, with the rooms and hallways getting quite crowded at times.
For more reporting on the Show, as well as pictures, see the professional Show reports:
http://www.stereophile.com (Look for the blog reports from the Show)
That's all for this year! Hopefully there will be another Show next year, and I hope to see you there!
Thanks for reading this!