New York Audio & AV Show 2012 – Report

The New York Audio & AV Show 2012 was held from Friday April 13 to Sunday April 15 2012 at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Manhattan. There were about 120 exhibitors spread across about 40 rooms on two floors. Attendance, unfortunately, didn’t seem huge, with a significant percentage of the attendees being Press. However, Saturday was the most crowded, and it was difficult to move around, with some rooms having lines to get in. Hopefully there was enough interest to ensure this type of event is held on a regular basis.

Friday April 13:

I got into town in good time, and had a quick lunch. After checking into the hotel, I headed over to the Show. There was quite a line to get in, but it moved quickly, and I was inside by 4P. I had time to take a quick circuit around to almost all the rooms so that I had an idea of what was there and which rooms I wanted to spend time in. At 7P I left the Show to meet Margarita and Boris, and we went for dinner at O’Neill’s, an Irish restaurant on 3rd Ave. between 45 and 46 streets. We had a nice meal and an excellent visit. After walking them back to catch their train at Grand Central I walked back up the Show and caught a few songs being DJ’d in the seminar room on the big Bermester speakers. It sounded very nice, with the volume good but comfortably below disco levels.

Saturday April 14:

I got to the Show when it opened at 10A, and was soon joined by Ben. We viewed most of the big rooms on the 18th floor and then went for a quick lunch. Paul joined us after lunch. We listened to a seminar about computer-based digital audio (the coming thing), saw the remainder of the 18th floor, and then went down to the 15th floor to see the smaller rooms. We ended the Show day back on the 18th floor for an extended end-of-day listening session in the MBL room, where they were really blasting out rock and roll (Metallica, The Who), and a spectacular exotic drum track. It was great fun hearing what that system can really do!

We then went out to dinner at Brazil Grill at 787 8th Ave at 48 St. There all three of us had the all-you-can-eat meat carving special. In spite of that, afterwards we walked down 8th Ave and across on 42nd street for ice cream in Times Square, and chatted outside until Paul had to leave to catch his train.

Sunday April 15:

I checked out of the hotel in the morning, and then walked to meet up with Ben at the Lyric HiFi showroom up on Lexington Ave. Lyric is one of the few remaining big New York audio dealers, and rather than rent space at the Show and move their systems there, they opened up their showrooms to the general public during the Show. We spent a great two hours listening to their high end systems, in their beautifully decorated and acoustically tuned rooms. We heard the Focal Grande Utopia ($198,000 per pair!), driven by expensive Macintosh tube electronics. We also heard the Nola Concert Grand Reference (a mere $197,000 per pair), driven by expensive Audio Research tube amplifiers. Ben preferred the Nolas due to their treble, and I slightly preferred the Focals due to their solid imaging, although it is difficult to be sure of preferences based on hearing just a few songs at the dealer-determined volume level. But both systems sounded world-class wonderful. We also listened to the Magneplanar 20.7’s, panel speakers (about $15,000 per pair) which were unbelievably smooth on the top end but a bit weak (as electrostatic speakers are) on the bass. For someone with good ears but not into heavy rock like me they would be a terrific value.

We ate lunch on the walk back to the Show, and then Ben departed due to previous engagements.

Back at the Show I met up with Steve. Steve had made a quick tour of the whole Show in the morning on his own. We attended the second day seminar on computer-based digital audio, which was quite a bit different than the Saturday version due to changes in the moderator, panel members, and audience questions. At both versions of the seminar it would have been nice to get even more technical detail. Then we reviewed the highlight rooms on the 18th floor, and spent most of the rest of the afternoon on the 15th floor, reviewing the smaller speakers that more interested Steve. At the end of the day, and the end of the Show, we ended up back on the 18th floor in the MBL room listening to the last few tunes.

We went out to dinner at Hunan Manor at 339 Lexington Ave between 38 and 39 streets, and had an authentic Chinese meal (and I got my semi-annual crispy fish!). We still had room to eat desert at Grand Central before catching our train back home.

Notable systems (in no particular order):

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The mighty MBL 101s The Legacy Whisper

Missing big vendors (most make world-class speakers):


General comments:

The music for the rooms was sourced almost equally between turntables, CD players, and laptop computers driving USB DACs, with (to my ears) equally good sound quality. Of more importance was whether the source and electronics were digital or analog.

It is difficult to understand how a system is performing at a Show. The demonstrators play music that they think shows off the strength of their systems, although they often let visitors provide CDs to play a track from, and they tend to keep the volume down so as not to drive everyone out of the room. The rooms are ordinary hotel rooms, suites, and meeting rooms, so are not acoustically friendly, even with some ad hoc room treatments applied, so there can be really difficult issues with floor, ceiling and wall bounce of the higher frequencies, and room mode bass imbalances. But the exhibitors are experienced pros, they know their equipment, and they usually manage to get a pretty good sound. The same equipment, properly set up in a showroom or at home, is going to sound even better.

Considering everything, the exhibitors did an excellent job at this show. They were a bit harried, because (rumor was) they hadn’t been able to even get into their rooms to begin setup until 5P on Thursday. Equipment lists and prices were difficult to come by in most rooms, but exhibitors were always willing to answer queries.

I was unable to attend any of the live musical performances, unfortunately. However, peeking in once, I did notice a singer using a microphone and sound reinforcement speakers! Sound reinforcement is simply unacceptable for an acoustic performer for an audiophile audience in a relatively small room.

There were two vendors selling audiophile grade CDs, and I managed to limit my purchases to just one CD. I buy most of my CDs over the internet, based on stuff I know and like, or recommendations in the audio magazines. (See my album listing).

I saw a lot of people from the press, and enjoyed recognizing many of the people who write for the audio magazines I read.

From my point of view, the Show was a great success. I learned a lot. I had a great time. The weather was perfect. I had good visits with good friends, and had some good meals.

Links to other Show reports:
Enjoy The Music

Looking forward to the next Show…!