You can’t distill New York City. There is no single adjective that can capture the variety, the scope, the abundance or the smell. It’s the most human city in North America, and a visit there is like having your skull pried open to the wild possibility, the sheer lunacy, of the human condition. All of it. Every last, beautiful and poignant noisy and noisome bit.
If all that reads as if I felt like guppy tossed into the shark tank, well, that’s fair. It’s really hard to take it all in if you’re not from there and have all the necessary filters fully developed and deployed. They New York attitude, well, it’s like shields. I think it’s the forced proximity and all that rubbing up on top of everyone else. In NYC, you have the option of being devoured, or, growing skin thick enough to keep you in one piece and teeth sharp enough to fend off the others. The loud survive.
Getting off the elevator on the 18th floor of the Waldorf Astoria on Day 1 of the New York Audio Show, I felt pretty much the same as I did when I drove in the night before. That is, bludgeoned. The crowd thronged at the elevator and choked the hall all the way to the registration desk, 100’ away. Standing there, stunned for a moment, I ducked into the press area, which was only marginally less crowded. I picked up my pass, screwed my intestinal fortitude down a notch or two, and pushed my way through to the first listening rooms. And bounced off a wall of show-goers. Defeat, so soon? “Oh, no you don’t!” muttered I, and pushed my way in.
This was going to be a whole different kind of show.
Take, for example, the mbl room. It had a line. Yes, a line. With the throbbing of the music inside, I was suddenly a lonely 20-something dude hoping to score, but now stuck in a line with all the other dudes while all the hot chicks were already inside, dancing and enjoying their free drinks. Except there were no drinks, very few women, and all those dudes were in their fifties. Ahh, right, we were at an audio show!
AXPONA re-taught me that certain speakers must be heard from a specific “sweet spot” to get their full effect. So in New York, I played bouncer. I actively ejected folks from their choice seating in rooms featuring mbl, Scaena, and Quad. “Time’s up!” I pushed my way into a couple of rooms featuring YG to claim my seat. A giant tripod really helps here, by the way. I used it to block a lovely woman in the Verity room so that I could snag the seat a gentleman had just evacuated for her – and then ignored all her glares. Oh yes, NYC was rubbing off on me.
“Hey, I’m woikin’ heah!”
The impatient schemery pays off. I heard some fantastic equipment, configured and set up by experts, and got what all the fuss was about. Man, oh, man.
I heard pre-release pressings, super high-resolution files, and music that just opened my ears, expanded my mind, and caused severe internal hemorrhaging. Sometimes all at once.
Strangers lectured me on speaker placement, crossover design, and the deleterious affects of ambient radiation and reflection. And that was all in the first hour.
I quizzed the Olympian audio reviewers. I learned, in some serious detail, how I set my turntable up wrong.
I heard some fantastic live music and was entertained by a world-class DJ while sipping on a monster bourbon. Who pours like that? My god.
I ate at a world-class restaurant, a highlight in my dining experiences to date courtesy of my new publisher, and then spent the following day nursing a hangover the size of which I haven’t heard a rumor of in over 20 years.
I got to meet and chat with folks I’ve read, and others I’ve read about, for decades.
I took cabs up and down Manhattan and learned that standing in the middle of the street is the only sure-fire way to get one to stop. It’s also a great way to get squished.
I laughed. I cried. I took over a thousand pictures.
The New York Audio show wasn’t huge, by show standards. But it was extremely well attended. And the audiophiles that haunted it were every bit as weird and wonderful as the gear in the rooms.
The show goers I talked to were awed and thrilled by the venue and completely put off by it. The loved the demos and thought they were all crap. They declaimed about the glory days of the high-end and how it’s all headed into the toilet while whispering about the coming vinyl/digital renaissance that’s “right around the corner”.
There was no consensus – anywhere, about anything – but everyone had an opinion they weren’t afraid to share. And when I asked, they did, though I usually didn’t have to ask. They just shared. Big sharers. To anyone who’d listen.
Ah, New York. It’s as wild and fierce and strange and dangerous as the people who make it breathe. It’s magic. And like magic, you never know what’s gonna happen.
It was a blast.
Quick aside: TONEAudio sponsored me for this trip — thanks, Jeff! What’s published here about the NYAV12 show is with their kind permission.
On with the show!