We would like to thank Walter Liederman at Underwoood HiFi for sponsoring Headphone.Guru’s coverage of Florida Audio Expo 2022, without the help of our fabulous sponsors we would not be able to bring you these wonderful experiences.
Welcome back! Angela Cardas of Cardas Cables said that this show feels almost like a High School Reunion. We’re all getting to see one another for the first time in years! Thus was so spot on! It’s great to be back, listening to music, seeing new gear, and reconnecting with great people.
I learned long ago that the best way to tackle a show like this is to start at the top floor and work my way down via the stairs since the elevators are always slow and crowded…something I was happy to avoid, especially in these times. So, off I went to the 12th floor of the Embassy Suites in Tampa.
Let me actually begin by saying that I was generally impressed by the sound quality from the rooms. I’ve heard one of these complete systems in the past and I think they sounded great in these suites. Kudos to Bart Andeer, show coordinator, for finding a hotel with good-sounding rooms! First stop upon arriving on the 12th floor was the Convergent Audio Technology room where Ken Stevens was spinning Mark Knofler’s ‘Sailing to Philadelphia’ on the VPI HW-40 Limited Edition turntable ($20,000) through the CAT SL1 Legend Black Path Extreme Preamp ($39,995) and JL5 Stereo power amp ($14,990) driving Magico S5’s ($51,000). My notes include words like ‘effortless’, ‘organic’, ‘bass authority’, and finally ‘Big sound that belies the small room.’ https://www.catamps.com
Next stop is a company that was new to me…Haniwa Audio. They take a full system approach in that all of their components are optimized to work together. That’s why they sell as a package only. Their Integrated amp and Speakers come together as one package The speakers are a full range driver paired with a subwoofer and they clock in at a 1.8-ohm load! Their turntable, cartridge, and phono preamp are similarly designed specifically for each other and are optimized for ultra-low tracking force. Playing Dark Side of the Moon, the system demonstrated an excellent ability to image, with detailed placement side to side as well as front to back. The full full-system…Cartridge, table, Phono State, Integrated Amp, and speakers will set you back about $60,000. https://haniwaaudio.com
Heading down the hall, I visited the AGD productions room. This room solidified my feelings about the quality of the rooms at the show. I had heard this exact setup at Capital Audio Fest in November and recall feeling something didn’t seem right. Here in Tampa, the room sounded spectacular. The system consisted of their Andante DAC/Preamp/Phono Streamer ($13,999) feeding their Gran Vivace monobloc amplifiers ($18,500) using their proprietary Gallium Nitride Mosfet power stage built into a vacuum tube. This delivers up to 400w into a 4-ohm load. That load was provided by excellent Ocean Way Audio Eureka speakers ($12,000). https://agdproduction.com
Florida retailer Suncoast Audio had two rooms at the show, one of the large rooms on the main floor and a standard suite on the 12th floor. We begin therewith, they were getting a HUGE sound from a pair of Kharma DB-7 Signature speakers ($31,250) being driven by a pair of MSB M200 monoblocs (TBA). The analog front end consisted of a Rega P8 turntable ($3,495) feeding a Boulder 508 phono stage ($5,000), while the digital source was an Aurender ACS10 Network Server ($6,000) connected to an MSB Discrete DAC ($9,950). They further did a great job with room treatments by BiCoustic. The sound was very dynamic and the imaging was very detailed while playing Hugh Masekela’s Stimela (The Coal Train) from his Hope Album. https://www.suncoastaudio.com
Heading down to the 11th floor brought me to the room put together by High-End Audio distributor Alex Sound Technology. Their brands included the Blumenhofer-Acoustics Genuin FS 3 MK2 horn speakers being driven by Japanese tube amplifiers by Takatsuki (TA-S01) which were, in turn, being fed by a Sforzato DSP-030EX2 Network player. Cabling was all True Power Lab. I tend to be pre-biased against horn designs…they’ve just never been my favorites. That said, this was an exception. They offered wide dispersion and smooth sound that left me wanting to hear more. https://alexsoundtech.com
Massachusetts audio shop, Blink High End was on hand showing a system consisting of Danish electronics and cabling from Aavik Acoustics (I-580 integrated amp) and Ansuz Acoustics respectively. The front end was a Creek Audio Voyage CD player or a Linn Climax DSM and Organik DAC. All this was driving Fink Team Kim loudspeakers. While I was there an attendee requested some Toto…and I was impressed by the sound from the system. Punchy, dynamic, and liquid are the terms that came to mind!
Across the hall was the room by Massachusetts distributor Matterhorn Audio Group. Clearly associated with Blink, this room also featured gear from Creek, Linn, and Fink Team.
Taking the stairs down to the 10th floor brought me to the room by industry veteran Mark Conti who was showing his MC Audiotech Forty-10 speakers ($35,000 pr) driven by the Linear Tube Audio microZOTL preamp ($5,750) and ZOTL40 Reference+ power amp ($6,800). Cabling was handled by Audience Front Row interconnects and speaker cables. The Forty-10 speakers are both visually and technologically unique. They use an array of 10 proprietary polyester drivers that handle the range from 100hz and up, meaning there’s no crossover in the critical vocal ranges. From 100hz down is handled by a quartet of 18” drivers that deliver room-filling bass down below 25hz. This bi-amped system’s crossover is handled by an adjustable outboard active crossover. The sound? Equally unique. Delicate when needed, but with dynamic slam that will hit you in the chest. The image is wide and deep, often appearing well behind the cabinets.
Down the hall, I found 2 rooms by high-end retailer, Tenacious Sound. Owner Shane Tennace was on hand to showcase speakers by Perlisten (both R and S series towers). I heard the $10,000 R7t’s (paper resin cone drivers and silk tweeter as opposed to the thin-ply carbon diaphragms and Beryllium teeter of the S-series) being driven by the Unison Research Sinfonia amplifier and fed by the Mitchel Engineering turntable with a Goldring cartridge. There was an inherent ‘rightness’ to everything they played. This was a great-sounding room.
The second Tenacious room featured a budget system that sounded better than it had any right to! Cyrus Audio electronics were driving Q-Acoustics Concept 50 speakers in a system that was under $5,000 all in. While it lacked some of the fine detail retrieval of the more expensive room, it was a musically satisfying system that I could live with without feeling I was compromising.
Last stop on the 10th floor was Tampa-based speaker manufacturer, Soundfield Audio. The model playing was their 1212 Overture that features front and rear dispersion and a remote controllable wide/narrow dispersion option that changes the active crossover allowing you to customize the sound from your seat. The speakers had a great sense of ease about them, but were overpowering the small room on bassier tracks.
Once again, we would like to thank Walter Liederman at Underwoood HiFi for sponsoring Headphone.Guru’s coverage of Florida Audio Expo 2022, if you enjoyed this or just want great HiFi and a great price, I suggest you visit Walter’s Webstore. Stay tuned for part 2.
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