The folks from TreeHaus Audiolab were exhibiting one of the audio world’s most instantly identifiable speaker designs, essentially a beautifully-finished live-edge slab of black walnut wood with open-backed speakers mounted on them, including a field-coil midrange driver. Treehaus also created the vacuum-tube electronics, featuring complimentary wood enclosures. and the room was constantly busy with visitors.
Open-backed speakers were in evidence elsewhere at the show. After all these years of folks perfecting carefully-calibrated and tuned enclosures and ports, it’s interesting to see something of a shift to open-backed enclosure-less designs (planar magnetics and electrostats from companies like Magnepan and MartinLogan notwithstanding). One listener joked, “maybe the prices of the speakers will go down, now that three quarters of the box is missing,” He and I speculated about the inevitable marketing of “Audiophile Air” for the rears of open-backed speakers, to insure optimum sonics, perhaps in conjunction with John Darko’s hilarious “Houseplants for Audiophiles” video.
New York audio dealer HiFi Loft had two rooms, one featuring Luxman, Harbeth Audio loudspeakers, and products from Antal Audio Group and Fidelis. The other showcased Triangle Magellan Cello 40th Anniversary loudspeakers, Electrocompaniet electronics, Soulines turntables, and Nordost cables and accessories. I thought both rooms sounded excellent.
Haniwa Audio exhibited its fascinating 20-20 SuperWoofer System ($22,000). The speakers, which I kept mistakenly thinking of as horns, were actually single-driver dynamic designs on pole-type stands. The system, sounded excellent, with precise placement of instruments and vocals, though as the volume got really loud a hard edge crept into the sound (but for that to happen, it had to be pretty loud). The system features dedicated electronics, including phono equalization and digital processing in the effort to achieve optimal frequency and impulse response.
Bache Audio (speakers), Alexus Audio (vacuum-tube electronics), and DS Audio (phono cartridges and accessories) shared a room that was filled with music and good times. A few doors down, New Jersey dealer Verdant Audio featured the 3zero speakers from Wilson Benesch, the Playback Designs MPD-6 Edelweiss DAC with Stream X2 Module ($18,000 as exhibited), an Art Audio Conductor Simply 2 preamp ($8,495) and Opus 4 monoblock amps ($16,499/pair), and an Antipodes Audio K50 music server ($17,500). I found the Wilson Benesch 3zero loudspeakers ($33,400 per pair) to be of great interest. The smallish speakers featured downward-, dual front-firing, and open-backed rear-firing drivers and their sound enveloped the room, providing that often-spoken-about but hard-to-achieve three-dimensional soundstage.
Taking the stairs up one flight took us to the always-popular Triode Wire Labs (cables) room, complete with Volti Audio Razz-LE horn loudspeakers ($6,500/pair) and a Border Patrol DAC S/SE-i DAC ($1,525 – $1,995) and P21EXD amplifier ($18,000 as configured). While I spent some time there and got to enjoy some exceptional sound, it was always crowded and one the rooms I’d hoped to return to, but ran out of time.
One of the most talked-about rooms at the show featured Pure Audio Project open-baffle speakers, Pass Labs, a Denafrips DAC, and a VPI Scout turntable equipped with a VPI Shirley Moving Magnet Cartridge. This was my colleague Frankie Schramm’s favorite room, especially since Pure Audio Project’s Ze’Ev Schlik was delighted to play whatever hardcore rap he requested (including (“U.G.K,” a track from F1lthy and Lucki from their album Wake Up Lucki). Another popular room featured the LTA (Linear Tube Audio) Z40+ integrated amplifier ($7,650), Spatial Audio Lab X4 speakers ($7,950 – $8,500/pair), LampizatOr Baltic 3 DAC ($6,600), an Innuos ZENith Mk3 music streamer ($4,699), and Anticables. As my photos show, it was also one of the more packed rooms.
The presence of LampizatOr can’t be denied. The first time I saw and heard one of their DACs was at Capitol Audio Fest, and we quickly became aware that many of the best rooms had a LampizatOr DAC or electronics in the system. Accordingly, they made a presence at AXPONA and in New York as well, and there were plaudits all around whenever LampizatOr came up for discussion. Of course, in an audio show, you can’t actually compare components; everything is wired up and ready to go, and swapping cables and components isn’t possible. (Fortunately, there are still value-added retailers who can do just that for customers.) I think it’s difficult or impossible in a show setting to ascertain what components are doing what, with the exception of loudspeakers. As the last link in the reproduction chain, they make their sonic signature immediately apparent.
Mac Edition Radio contributing writer Frank Schramm attended one day, and the next day I accompanied his college-aged son Frankie to the show, who was suitably impressed, although it highlighted the fact that two areas of audio were not represented, namely headphones and budget audio. In order to make sure that audio shows don’t become the exclusive province of the gray hairs, no matter how stunningly attractive their beards might be, intro and budget-level gear as well as headphones should be in the mix. As evidenced by the runaway success of the various CanJam shows, and the younger, passionate demographic they attract, I think it’s worth considering adding a headphones area for next year’s iteration of the show.
All in all, Frank, Frankie, and myself all found the New York Audio Show 2022 to be a fun, relaxed, educational, and easy-to-enjoy event. Not too large, not too packed, and as Goldilocks might conclude, just right.
Here are more photos from the show.
Header image: the DaVa field coil cartridge.
All photos courtesy of Harris Fogel.