NYC Axpona Audio Show report

I just attended the audio show in NYC. I really enjoyed myself, but I was a bit disappointed in the sound of the various systems. However, two systems really stood out for me:

1. YG Acoustics, Solution, Brinkman, Air Tight (analog) GTT Audio Room
2. Scaena, new turntable?, SME 12" arm, Dynavector XV-1t (analog)

These two systems seemed very coherent, neutral and transparent. For me, they conveyed the emotion of large scale symphonic music very well. Lots of detail, dynamics and drama and above all, the clarity, timbre and scale reminiscent of good, live, classical music. They were VERY expensive systems though.

They were analog and I am biased toward that sound. Also the belt drive Brinkman Balance was on a Vibraplane and had the Air Tight Supreme cartridge that I use mounted on it. And the Scaena room had the new suspended belt drive table with two rotating platters (forgot the name) and the SME V-12 arm which I also own, so those components may have influenced my opinion.

Other systems which showed some potential were the Sony speakers with Pass amps, the small "Clue" speaker for $900 and the GT Works room with the $2700 electrostatic speakers. These all had good sound and high value, IMO.

I also enjoyed Michael Fremer's turntable setup seminar and the Stereophile reviewers round table discussion. The Waldorf is a great hotel and of course it is always nice to be in New York City.
Only wish I had been able to attend the show. It is great to have it relatively close. Would imagine it would be hard to really judge the merits of any system with all the hustle and bustle. But always nice to see gear one may not otherwise get a chance to view.
The thin rooster indicated that 'shows' as part of the hi end business model, are fading. Perhaps Rocky Mountain is the only exception. Most successful audio product lines use a business model of a strong dealer network, coupled with lavish attention to cultivating the audio media.

Dear Peterayer,

I am delighted that you enjoyed the sound from our big Scaena system. You are quite correct that this was an expensive setup however if you compare the two systems you liked we are about $80,000.00 less expensive than the other excellent room you mentioned!

The turntable is the magnificent Kronos which is priced at $28,000.00 and believe it or not is a remarkable value, for the level of build quality and engineering that went into the design.
Bill Parrish (GTT Audio) always does a great job. My take:
NYC is not well-suited for shows, and that may explain why these don't happen here much anymore. Several manufacturers chose to use local dealerships as their 'host' venue coinciding with the show- at first I thought this was unfair to the show organizers to ride their coattails, but I assume that they had much more control over the room acoustics. The labor/union thing in NY is pretty unworkable (you need to pay a guy to plug in a plug) and the Waldorf's 15th floor, where alot of the smaller rooms were, was somewhat gloomy.
I really also enjoyed HiWater Sounds room- Cessaro Horns with Tron 211 amp and the Acustic Raven table. I didn't make it to the MBL room, it was far too crowded on Friday, and that's the only day I was there.
The biggest kick for me was the Robyatt room, playing old Quads (yes, the original ESLs) using a Stellavox tape machine as source.
It was also good to see many old friends there- I have been in this hobby a long time and in NY area also along time, but hadn't been involved in any show or club pursuits in years. I walked into the check-in floor and immediately saw 15 people I hadn't seen in 20 years. It was nice to catch up.
Sometimes we forget its not just about the equipment. Music is made by people. And music reproduction equipment is too. One of the fascinating things about this hobby/pursuit/business is that it is still inventor driven at the high end and at shows such as this, you can often meet and speak with the people whose ideas and work are behind the devices.
Axpona did not produce this show. I believe it was a British outfit, the Chester Group.
That is correct, Chester Group organized. I wonder why hi-fi manufacturers don't do road shows or pop-up stores in areas where there are few dealers.
Introducing people beyond the usual assortment of folks who frequent the conventional dealerships, which are fewer and far between.
There even used to be 'live v. recorded' demonstrations -
I think hi-end hi fi seems to be enjoying a renaissance despite the ubiquitous MP3 and other diversions (like this one, on the Internet).
I'm constantly amazed at the proliferation of new turntables, phono stages (think back ten years compared to now- that market has literally exploded) and costly amps and speaker systems. And, the amazing variety of approaches, just when you think that it's all been done before, someone comes up with a new way to approach a nagging problem or revisits an old circuit or design and revitalizes it (Garrard 301, anybody?).
Bill Hart
I tried making the rounds and really liked the Robyatt room as well - which is a no brainer - but kept coming back to the Zellaton Berning Holborne room on the 18th floor. I thought this was best of show as it was the most natural and beautiful sound I heard. Everything else sounded typically audiophile but these had the best musical balance. Also the Holborne turntable was very interesting. I wanted to like the Cesaro horns but the bass was overwhelming and found myself fatigued after a while. Also liked the small Kudos speaker - not bad at all...
I thought the room featuring the Kudos speakers was one of the best of the (somewhat small) show, although the bass seemed a bit uncontrolled. Detailed, dynamic, and very compelling...