NYAV12: Wes Bender Studio presents Hansen, Viola, Redpoint

Wes Bender Studio NYC put together something more than a room at NYAV this year. It was a tour-de-force. Hansen speakers. Redpoint Audio Design with Zesto for vinyl. Lindemann for discs. Viola Audio Labs for computer audio, power and control. Jorma Designs, Kaplan and Audioquest for all your cabling needs.

You have to give credit where it’s due. First up? Setup. Bass power. Treble clarity. Mid range draw. It was unreal! Well done.

Let’s chat about the Hansen “Prince E”. $39,000 will get you a pair of these newbies from Hansen. Wes says the ‘E’ stands for “Enlightened”.

Smack talk? Not even.

What’s new? Wes says:

  • The PRINCE E is shorter than the PRINCE V2 & it is considerably heavier (the “E” is approximately 230 lbs).  The new enclosure also features a different shape.
  • The new PRINCE has a narrower front baffle that tapers out getting wider as it reaches the back.
  • While the PROPRIETARY drivers are essentially the same as the V2, the “E” has an additional rear-firing tweeter
  • It has a new crossover — still 1st order, which enables the new enclosure to reach deeper into the lower bass frequencies — rendering it flat to 20Hz (the V2 was flat to 24Hz)
  • The most obvious change is of course the exterior finish which has gone from hand painted automotive to a man made leather material that is also used in luxury automobiles such as Bentley.

I have to admit, when I walked in the room, I was really surprised by the Galibier table on the rack.

Of course, it wasn’t a Galibier table. I’m feel a bit foolish for even suggesting that it was. But … it really does look like a Stelvio.

Wes, very kindly, sorted me out about the history behind Redpoint, Galibier and Teres. I’m not going to dig in to this particularly fecund heap here, but if you’re curious, call Wes. Anyway, while the $65,000 Redpoint MG Special Edition and the Galibier Stelvio do share a common design aesthetic, I mean, both have polished facets on the tables, and mylar ribbons as belts — but that’s about all they share. That’s not nothing, but the MG does use the Redpoint approach of a “pod design” that had ALL elements separated and isolated from the spinning mass of the base and platter.

Of course, the turntable isn’t working on it’s own. Here, the Redpoint got a bit of help carrying the signal off the platter — the Tri-Planar Ultimate Mk VII-UII, here carrying a $5,450 Dynavector DRT XV-1s.

Stereophile’s Michael Fremer showed up while I was taking pictures. Yes, he brings his own vinyl to every room. Yes, there’s some witty repartee before he takes his seat and yes, he produces LPs with a theatrical flourish. Say what you want about Fremer. But. That man knows his vinyl and he’s a hawk for good sound.

It’s an impressive hunk of turntable, you have to admit. The facets on the spinning platter throws a lot of light around; it definitely draws the eye. Not a table for shrinking violets, this one is going to get a lot of attention in any room it goes in.

Zesto Audio Andros PS-1 Phono preamp: $3900. Aside from the Mac holding the digital audio tuneage, which I never got to hear, this was the cheapest thing in the room!

Viola Audio Labs made a another bow here, too. On display was the new $19,000 Crescendo preamplifier which features a spiffy new on-board DAC that supports 24bit/192kHz over S/PDIF and USB.

Power came from the matching $19,000/pair Forte Mono Power Amplifiers that are good for 300wpc at 8ohms and 550wpc at 4ohms.

Have to say, the polished aluminum machining on the Crescendo is pretty hot. Reminds me of the Ayre “R” series gear, but a lot more minimalist. That lit panel in the middle is the volume control — everything else is run off an iPad/iPhone app.

If you haven’t heard, Viola Audio Labs has been around for some time and was put together by a pair of Mark Levinson alums. They’re now making a big push into the US market, so I expect we’ll be hearing more of them in the near future.