I saw two familiar faces in the On A Higher Note room; the perpetually pleasant proprietor Philip O'Hanlon and the Luxman DA-06 DAC ($5,990) that I reviewed back in June (see review). This time, as was the case the last time I saw Philip at the New York Audio Show, he had a listening comparison up his sleeve (Philip has long sleeves). We were to compare the same track in 24/192, DSD, and LP.
It seems like each year at RMAF a few people tell me I have to hear the system put together by Distributor Fidelis AV. This year was no exception and they were right, again. Two constants from last year were the Harbeth Monitor 30.1 speakers ($5,995/pair) and the Bricasti M1 DAC ($8,495) the latter should be heading to Steve Plaskin's place any day now.
A lot of people were talking about Gordon Rankin's Wavelength Audio room. Some for the plasma tweeters perched atop the Vaughn Audio Plasma Speakers ($15,000, signature series with upgraded power and MagneQuest custom modulation transformers $20,000), others for his new limited edition all silver Napoleon amplifiers, and others still were going on about the new Europa network player/DAC ($7,500 pictured on the right). And rightfully so.
ModWright Instruments was showing a pre-production prototype of their 24/192-capable Elyse USB Tube DAC ($TBD). The Elyse is "fully asynchronous, transformer coupled in and out, Class A direct-coupled design".
In the ENIGMAcoustics room, their electrostatic Sopranino Supertweeters ($3,690/pair) augmented the output from a pair of Magico speakers being driven by Pass Labs amplification while the Light Harmonic Da Vinci DAC ($20,000) took care of the digits.
Another room that always warms my show-going spirit is the VTL room hosted by Luke Manley and Bea Lam. They are at once warm, inviting, and deeply interested in music so a visit is to their room works wonders as a spiritual re-charge.
dB Audio Labs had their Evolution battery-powered DSD DAC ($1,495) fed its digits from their modified Mac Mini server ($1,495-$2,295) paired with amplification from Dodd Audio and the physically overwhelming GR Research LSX Speaker System. I was running late for an appointment so I unfortunately didn't have time to get more info on dB Audio's intriguing products.
I always enjoy my visit to the TAD room for two reasons; it always sounds great and TAD Director of Engineering Andrew Jones is always entertaining. And while you'd think these two qualities would be running rampant at a hi-fi trade show, they sadly ain't, in my experience.
Playback Designs had their in-production IPS-3 Integrated Playback System ($13,000) coupled with the Evolution Acoustics MMMicroOne loudspeakers ($4,000/pair which I continue to think is pretty amazing considering how they sound) for another simple and superb sounding system. The IPS-3 is a DXD and DSD (up to 6.1MHz) capable DAC, preamplifier, and 130W/channel amplifier all wrapped up in one box.
John Tucker at Exemplar Audio offers his own ground-up products like the eXception 4 input 24/192 tubed DAC ($4,000), eXception SE Line stage ($4,250), and eXception Integrated amplifier ($4,950) on display in his room shared with Eficon who showed their Eficon F300 Speakers ($18,100). He also modifies gear and here we see his Expo T105 ($4,750) which is obviously a modified Oppo 105.