New York Audio Show 2017 – Report

I attended the NY Audio Show in Manhattan from Friday 11/10/2017 through Sunday 11/12/2017. It was held at the Park Lane Hotel on Central Park South.

The Show:

The Show was quite a bit smaller than last year. Apparently there were problems getting a weekend and a hotel for the Show, and the ballrooms were not available. So all exhibits at the Show were in upstairs hotel rooms. The small hotel rooms significantly hampered the larger exhibitors and the larger speakers. The large New York City audio sellers did not attend. Being a smaller show, the world's really big speakers were not being shown, unfortunately. However, many companies did bring their intermediate models, with good results, at system prices in the $100K range. There were 25 rooms to visit, so I had time to do all of them carefully.

Most of the rooms had no acoustic panels, which was unusual for a Show. This helped the small speakers by giving them more apparent bass, but hindered the larger speakers which room-locked bass notes in the 80 Hertz range. Some of the rooms improved things by setting up the speakers across a room corner rather than across a wall to minimize room reflections, which did seem to help. A couple of rooms were using digital signal processing for room correction, which made for a big improvement.

The engineering on display was impressive. One room was showing what appeared to be a simple table-top all-in-one turntable and speaker system, but the product turned out to be loaded with electronics for digital signal processing and Bluetooth control and input capability! The smaller speakers generally sounded good, having been well-designed within the frequency limits of small boxes. It is more difficult to design a speaker with full bass response (down to 20 Hertz) due to the physics involved - much bigger drivers and cabinets are required, and room interaction becomes a real problem. There were lots of high-tech tweeters, and expensive woofer cones. The majority of the rooms were using tube amplifiers, which disappointed me because I feel tubes provide a less precise sound at higher frequencies - there were several rooms where I felt the high-end sizzle was missing. The larger speakers (other than a couple of experimental ones) were generally impressive examples of serious corporate engineering. Companies with access to anechoic chambers, custom finite element analysis programs, materials labs, and computer programming teams can do amazing things. Speaker cabinets are being built with exotic combinations of materials now, to minimize cabinet resonance. More and more products are incorporating electronics and computer-driven digital signal processing to provide frequency responses that are not possible in a pure analog world.

Laufer Teknik / Orinda Acoustics big speakers

The Laufer Teknik / Orinda Acoustics room was playing the most expensive speakers at the Show: an enormous pair of boxes with horn drivers on the treble and midrange, at $238K and weighing 1000 pounds each. They barely fit into the room, so we were seated very close to them - too close to get a properly integrated sound from the various drivers. But the individual drivers were very crisp and clear. See photo at left. Note the tangle of power and speaker cables behind - not the most living-room friendly system!

The Marantz room was particularly interesting. They had a home theater setup. They were demonstrating Dolby Atmos, one of the two competing formats for immersive theater sound. Dolby Atmos allows sound to be engineered to appear anywhere in the room, and utilizes surround speakers as well as height speakers. Marantz was demonstrating their latest electronics (amps and processors). The source was an Oppo universal player. Oppo produces the world's best-value players that will play any disk, in the $1K to $2K range, depending on analog output options. I have an older Oppo model. The display was a Sony OLED, which was impressive - the whites just blazed off the screen. The speakers were the latest from Definitive Technology, a supplier of high-value affordable speakers. There were five speakers (one in each corner, and a smaller center channel). The corner speakers had built-in height speakers (tilted up to bounce sound off the ceiling) and built-in powered subwoofers, providing an 11.4 system (7 channels, 4 height channels, 4 subwoofers). I believe they said the system cost $24,000 - not bad for a complete modern system.

Electrocompaniet had a really nice room, so nice that I didn't even bother to ask the prices. They had big solid full-range speakers. The amps were monoblocks capable of suppling 600 watts into 8 ohms, 1200 into 4 ohms, and 2400 into 2 ohms - a very difficult, impressive, and expensive engineering feat. These amps could drive any speaker on the market.

The Soulution/Piega room was impressive. Piega speakers are always great-sounding, although the models I've seen don't have quite the full bass capability I like. The Soulution electronics driving them are some of the most expensive in the world. This room sure sounded wonderful - everything sounded exceptionally smooth and solid.

The Triangle speakers sounded gorgeous as always. But they are quite expensive, and without the massive bass capability I like.

The Legacy room was my favorite. I admit I'm biased. They make the speakers I have. They specialize in high-performance speakers at reasonable prices. At the Show they were playing the next-larger size from mine, the Aeris, and I was impressed. For (only!) $21K, a bargain in the big speaker world, they are pretty much the full package. They are full range, a six-driver 4.5-way design, include digital room-correction, and weigh 171 pounds. They have built-in bass amplifiers. The treble and midrange are open baffle - there is no back cabinet wall in this section of the speaker, which supposedly provides better in-room dispersion. The two different-sized tweeters are folded ribbons - no domes. Legacy has dropped all usage of dome tweeters. The founder of the company, Bill Duddleston, was there in person on Sunday and I got to exchange a few words with him.

Legacy was also showing their new Calibre stand-mounted speaker. They somehow managed to cram an internal amplifier and 3 drivers with 4 radiating surfaces into the little cabinet, and they sounded really good for their size.

Martin Logan was showing one of their middle-of-the-range electrostatic speakers. The sound was the most realistic at the Show - just walking into the room was startling. However, I spent a lot of time in this room listening, and decided that I didn't like the soundstage; side-to-side was excellent, but the 4-foot tall panels make everything seem diffuse vertically which was particularly annoying with more intimate music such as jazz instruments and vocals (a four-foot high mouth can be disturbing!). The other limitation with electrostatic speakers is that they have limited power capability and aren't ideal for the loud rock music I sometimes play. But, wow, they sure sound nice on the right material...

I bought a couple of CDs at the Chesky booth. The Chesky brothers produce some of the world's best sounding CDs, and with the at-Show price discount they were cheap.

Attendance at the Show didn't seem very high, although without the big ballrooms it was difficult to compare to previous shows. At times on Friday and Saturday it was difficult to move around and get into particular rooms. Sunday attendance was lighter and I was able to get good seats in the rooms I was interested in. I hope this smaller Show and possible lower attendance does not indicate that there will be fewer Shows in NYC in the future. NYC is almost prohibitively expensive for the exhibitors.

For more reporting on the Show, as well as pictures, here is a professional Show report:

Extra Curricular Activities:

I traveled to NYC on Wednesday, to allow for some sightseeing.

After checking into my motel, I went to out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant for my annual Crispy Fish dinner. Then I went to the Seaport Museum area to see the movie "Rafael", about the Renaissance artist. The scenes from inside the Vatican were spectacular.

Thursday morning I went to the Cooper Hewitt Museum. They have upgraded some of their exhibits to be interactive, which I was interested in playing with. They did have some drawing apps running on big tables, which I played with a bit but would be more interesting to a person in the Design business. They also had an exhibit of large 3D-printed objects, including chairs, tables, and even a footbridge section, along with short videos showing their construction. Some of the 3D printers make molds, but some also work directly with the finished materials, including one that builds up objects by spot-welding on additional metal layer by layer. Quite impressive.

In the afternoon I went to Chelsea to see the movie Bladerunner 2049. It was pretty good, raising some interesting questions about robots in the future, and it had some great scenery and was quite a spectacle.

Friday morning I went to the Morgan Library. I hadn't been there since its expansion by Renzo Piano. It is quite a place - well worth seeing.

In the afternoon I went to the Show. Ben came in to meet me for dinner (non-Chinese!), and we had a good visit.

Saturday I spent at the Show with Paul, and we were able to get to all the rooms. We had a great time talking about speaker and electronic engineering. He also stayed for dinner, and it was good to catch up on each other's activities.

Sunday I went to the Show and spent considerable time in the rooms I liked best (the most expensive ones, sigh...). Afterwards I went to the East Village for a Chinese dinner and to see a couple of avantgarde Russian movies. Then I took the train back home.

New York City seems to be doing well financially. The older run-down areas such as the meat-packing district and the lower east side are booming with Millennials, and there are expensive restaurants everywhere. The streets are jammed with huge black livery SUVs. Costs of things in New York City in general are becoming more and more expensive.

Upon returning home, I of course fired up my own system. Not bad at all, compared to the mid-range-sized systems I heard at the Show. I really like full-range speakers like mine. My main limitations: soft-dome tweeters rather than metal-domes or ribbons, a (relatively) cheap though powerful amplifier, and probably the biggest is no room treatment. As a next step, I am seriously considering uglifying my room with acoustic panels. So yeah, I could do considerably better, but at a high cost. The really big systems I've heard at previous Shows clearly are way better than mine, but they cost well over $200K. So, I'm doing okay with what I have for now with my $15K system!


The Show was worthwhile. It always is a good experience to get my ears recalibrated to really good sound. And I had a great time at the Show and in NYC.

That's all for this year! Hopefully there will be another Show next year, and I hope to see you there!

Thanks for reading this!