After taking a year off from my annual pilgrimage to the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, the short one-hour drive from my home in Connecticut to the Chester Group's New York Audio Show in Rye Brook, New York was a refreshing change. With fewer than 30 exhibitor rooms, it did not offer the breadth and variety of RMAF but allowed visitors to actually relax into each room and get a better feel for what the systems could deliver. Too often, at RMAF, I felt that I had given short shrift to a room even though it may have simply been due to entering the room at a less than fortuitous time. The exhibitor rooms were all located on the fourth and fifth floors of the Hilton Westchester Hotel.  A large window at the far end of most of the rooms provided a lovely view of the autumn leaves, adding to the peaceful and unhurried feeling of the show.

Audio Note. Walking down the fourth floor hallway shortly after the show opened to the press at 10:00 am on Friday, many rooms appeared to still be setting up. The affable David Cope, veteran demo man for Audio Note, was open for business however. A new Audio Note floorstander, the AZ Two D ($3'250/pr), was being demoed with all Audio Note gear: the P2SE Signature integrated ($6'000), CDT Three/II CD transport ($11'775), DAC 3.1x/II ($9,'900), and Turntable TT Two Deluxe ($3'650) with Arm Three ($2'000) and IQ3 cartridge ($1'000). David described the speakers as a ¼-wave transmission line with a horn mouth on the back. They are slated for release in January 2016. David played an LP by an artist new to me, Sarah Jarosz. I thought it sounded a little boomy in the bass, with perhaps a hint of darkness in the treble but it exhibited the trademark Audio Note musicality. Count Basie's 88 Basie Street on Pablo Records (an excellent recording) fared much better and sounded great. In my experience, Audio Note speakers have never been known for airy and extended highs. In this regard, they can be said to follow the British monitor tradition. These are more about providing a convincing musical experience at a reasonable price through their seamless mating of an 8-inch hemp mid/woofer and a ¾-inch soft dome tweeter. Sadly I missed the live cello performances in this room by cellist Vincent Belanger later in the show.

Tavish Design/Wax Rax.
An enthusiastic David Stanavich greeted me with literature on his very attractive and sturdy LP racks on display in the room. One of the racks is even made as a cart that holds 400 LPs and can be rolled around with ease. The racks are made of powder-coated steel and anodized aluminium. The literature did not include pricing. For those who want more than an IKEA Expedit, the Wax Rax are better than anything I have seen. [Art Dudley's report mentions $4'000 - Ed.] Each unit is built to order in David's Brooklyn workshop. The Tavish Design half of the room comprised a selection of electronics designed by Scott Reynolds. Scott has a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and has been designing and building audio equipment as an amateur for over 35 years. After building preamps and amps for friends, he decided to take the plunge and begin marketing his designs. This show was the debut for his line of electronics: Minataur 140wpc direct-coupled hybrid amplifier (from $2'490), Adagio tube phono stage ($1'490) and Classic tube phono stage ($399 kit, $549 assembled). With the resurgence in vinyl, it would seem that the kit of the Classic should generate lots of interest. Scott was demonstrating the Minataur with a VPI Scout turntable and a pair of Magnepan 3.7 speakers. Scott played the Fantasy reissue of Sonny Rollins Saxophone Colossus and the amp acquitted itself well, although I don't think the speakers were positioned optimally for ample bass reproduction.

Living Acoustics/Acoustic Zen with Merrill Audio, VAS Audio, VPI Industries & Wyred4Sound. There was an interesting combination of pricey as well as more affordable gear in this room. It all came together beautifully though and produced among the better sound at the show. I was particularly intrigued by the new VPI turntable, the Avenger Reference with magnetic drive assembly ($25'000 as outfitted with two JMW 12-inch 3DR tonearms and SDS controller). Its top platter is magnetically suspended over the belt-driven sub platter to provide isolation and performance that I was told closely approaches the top-line VPI Direct Drive. Just a week before, an audio friend had told me about the VAS Audio Citation Sound 2 tube mono amps ($3'500/pr) being used in this room. Surprisingly, I learned that Steve Leung based in New Jersey, designer of these amps, was also offering his own hand-built moving coil cartridge. Wow! It is called the Nova and there are two versions: 0.8mv output ($1'500) and 0.4mv output ($1'800). Based on the excellent sound, these cartridges would appear to represent some of the best value in moving coil cartridges. Of course, that Merrill Audio phono stage should have contributed mightily at that price. Ditto for the VAS Audio tube amps!  Completing the system were the Merrill Audio Cara line preamplifier ($3'500), Merrill Audio Jens phono preamplifier ($14'500), Acoustic Zen Crescendo II loudspeakers ($18'000/pr), Wyred4Sound DAC-2 DSDse DAC ($2'549), Wired4Sound MS-2 music server ($2'499), a pair of PS Audio P5 power plants ($3'499/ea.), Acoustic Zen cables and last but not least, a Blue Circle PLC Thingee FX2 power filter. The total cost of the system was $99'145.

Lawrence Audio. I've heard various models of Lawrence Audio speakers for a number of years at RMAF and this was the best I have heard them. The model being demoed were the Double Bass ($28'000/pr). When I mentioned this to designer Lawrence Liao's marketing manager Angela Yang, she told me that the crossover parts had been significantly upgraded. A major factor contributing to the great sound had to be the Rowland Daemon integrated amp ($39'000) pumping out 1'500wpc with Bluetooth remote, touch screen display and over 20 inputs. The speaker cables were made by MG Audio Design. I did not get a price on them but they merit further investigation. I could see many people proclaiming that this room had the best sound of the show. I would not argue with them. However, my taste may be different in that I struggle with getting my ears to blend the highly revealing and fast transient performance of the AMT midrange drivers and ribbon tweeters with the slightly less so cone drivers all made by Aurum Cantus. I think that I might be particularly sensitive to this as there were obviously many listeners in sonic heaven here. When Jeff Rowland played the audiophile chestnut Jazz at the Pawnshop, the soundstage was wide open and transparent, with excellent tonal balance, dynamics and detail.  Overall, I must heartily applaud the designers of these speakers and electronics for a very impressive demo.

Audio Classics.
Despite seeing the Legacy Audio Aeris loudspeakers ($20'000/pr) at recent shows, I somehow never found the time to hear them. There was McIntosh equipment all over the room but the Aeris were being powered by an Audio Classics 9B stereo power amp ($8'000) that looked very much like a vintage Marantz 9 tube amp. The source was a VPI Prime turntable ($3'800). The sound was nicely balanced and this was the best sounding Legacy speaker I have heard. Overall it was a bit polite but this could be because it was kept at low volumes to allow conversation about all of the fantastic gear in the room.