Welcome back to our coverage of the 2023 Florida Audio Expo. We would like to express our thanks and appreciation to XSA-Labs for sponsoring our coverage, despite their not exhibiting at this show, showing their generous enthusiasm for the industry, and commitment to the community.
Nordost/Suncoast Audio/Clarisys Audio/Block Audio/Aurender/MSB Technology/VPI
Per usual Nordost hosted one of the huge ballrooms on the second floor, teaming up with Suncoast Audio for the USA premiere of the Clarisys Audio Auditorium Neo Panel Loudspeakers ($140,000/pr) one of several Apogee style (and in this case openly admitted to as inspiration) ribbon driver/planar hybrid speakers. This was powered by Block Audio SE monoblock amps ($60,000 each) and an SE preamp ($45K). An Aurender N20 ($12,500) and an MSB Technology Select DAC ($115,000) provided digital source while A VPI Avenger Direct turntable ($36,000) and a beautifully restored Studer Reel-to-Reel deck made up the analog side. Along with Nordost’s amazing cable, Nordost Sort Kone isolation was used throughout the system, and Nordost’s QRT Audio Enhancers including a Nordost QPOINT ($874.99) and Nordost QSOURCE ($2,749.99) were also found in evidence.
One intriguing find was Endow Audio with their Point Array™ Speaker Technology designed to provide pinpoint imaging with a large enveloping soundstage. On demo were the Endow Audio Bravura 12 Loudspeakers ($14,000/pr) powered by a Hegel Music Systems H590 integrated amplifier ($12,000), cooled by an AC Infinity Aircom T10 cooling system ($129), and sourced an iFi Audio Pro iDSD Signature DAC ($3,249). On static display outside the room was a pair of their Endow Audio Bravura 7 Stand Mount Monitors ($6,500/pr).
Another speaker that caught my attention was the Coastal Source 12.0 Line Source Loudspeaker ($9,500/ea). There was a smattering of these unique-looking speakers free-standing around the show, including out by the pool. I’ll admit that at first, I wasn’t impressed with the sound until I learned they were meant for outdoor use, then their sound profile all made sense. As a musician, I know all about the issues of producing sound in an open environment, bass and sound in general is simply sucked away. I wish I had been able to catch their outdoor presentation, but there is little question that these speakers will provide the ultimate in outdoor entertainment. The other thing that impressed me about their presentation was their choice of source, a vintage Studer studio console.
CAD (Computer Audio Design) had an impressive display of their digital and grounding products. Sound was provided by Egglestonworks Oso speakers ($13,395/pr) powered by an Aesthetix Mimas Amplifier ($9,000) with the CAD 1543 MkII DAC ($12,000) and CAD Audio Transport ($14,000) providing source. Rounding out the system were some all-new products, a CAD USB II-R Cable ($1,500), CAD USB Control ($750), newly updated GC1.1 Ground Controls ($2,250 ea), and CAD GC3.1 Ground Controls ($5,400).
It was a surprise to see that apart from their display in the Moon Audio room, TEAC had their own separate room dedicated to two-channel loudspeakers. Driving a pair of Canton Reference 5K Loudspeakers ($9,995/pr) was a TEAC AP-701 Class D Power Amplifier ($3,799.99) with a UD-701N USB DAC/Network Player/Preamp ($4,299.99), paired with a TEAC CG-10M Master Clock Generator ($1,799.99), as well as a TEAC PE-505 Fully-Balanced Phono Amplifier ($2,099.99) and a TEAC TN-3B-SE Manual Belt-Drive Turntable ($529.99), proving you can have audiophile sound without paying the cost of a new car.
On a Higher Note/Graham Audio/Moon River Audio/Bergmann Audio
Phillip O’Hanlon of On a Higher Note set up his room sideways from most of the other rooms, and for good reason, though this made the room shallower, the sound was balanced and musical, which was an improvement over most of the rooms where the bass skewed towards the left due apparently to some acoustical quirk of the room design. Providing unmatched musicality were a pair of Graham Audio LS8/1 Speakers ($9,700/pr) driven by a Moon River Audio Model 404 Reference Stereo Integrated Amplifier ($4,995) with a Moon River Audio Model 505 phono stage ($5995), fed by a Danish-made Bergmann Modi turntable ($17,000).
For the home theater enthusiast, SVS Sound always provides a show, and this year was no exception, with their new SVS Prime Wireless Pro Powered Speakers ($899.99/ea) with HDMI input to enable them to replace a soundbar for true stereo sound, plus a subwoofer out for thumping bass. What really impressed me though was their amazing SVS 3000 Micro Subwoofer ($899.99/ea) with the speed of dual Opposing 8″ woofers (for a resonance-free cabinet) and 2500+ Watts peak power, it is able to keep up with audiophile quality speakers and still provide room shaking bass. Of course, the demo would not be complete without their complete SVS Prime Pinnacle Tower Surround System including an SVS Ultra Center Speaker ($799.99), SVS Prime Pinnacle Tower Speakers ($899.99/ea), and two Prime Elevation Speakers ($249.99/ea) for surround which was matched up with their SVS SB-3000 Subwoofer ($1,099.99/ea).
Probably the most fun room and certainly the most nostalgic, was Just Audio’s Vintage Audio room which featured a complete stack of 70’s era classic Pioneer gear including a Pioneer Rt-707 Reel to Reel tape deck and a pair of Acrylic Pioneer HPM 100 loudspeakers which were apparently made for demonstration purposes and are extremely rare.
Returning to the modern world, at the back of the room was a display of the amazing Audio-Technica Headphones including Audio-Technica ATH-WP900 Over-Ear Maple Wood Headphones ($649.99), Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Professional Monitor Wired Headphones ($169), Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 Wireless Over-Ear Headphones ($219), Audio-Technica ATH-AWKT Audiophile Closed-back Dynamic Wooden Headphones ($1,899), Audio-Technica ATH-ADX5000 Audiophile Open-Air Dynamic Headphones ($1,999), Audio-Technica ATH-AP2000Ti Over-Ear High-Resolution Headphones ($1,250), and an Audio-Technica AT-LP60X Fully Automatic Belt-Drive Turntable ($149)
In their second room, they were playing 2 pairs of Wharfedale speakers, the Wharfedale Lintons ($1,799/pair with stands) and the Wharfedale Elysian 1 ($5,495/pair with stands) which were paired up with a Leak CDT CD Transport ($895) and Leak Stereo 230 Integrated Amp ($1,695), a Mastersound Box Integrated Amplifier ($3,995), and HiFiRose RS250a ($2,695) and RS520 ($3,695) streamers. Quite impressive sound at a reasonable budget.
It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of planar speakers, whether they be electrostatic or planar magnetic, and one of my very favorites, since back in the late ’80s when I was a dealer for them, was Eminent Technology, so it was a pleasant surprise to find that designer Bruce Thigpen was still making them (he also designed my favorite tonearm and my favorite turntable of that period) and the Eminent Technology Model 18 LS ($15,000) with their built-in tri-amplification were everything I remembered and then some.
Scott Walker Audio/VAC/VPI/Berkeley Audio Design/Synergistic Research
The most eye-catching item at the show was the candy apple red VPI Avenger Direct Turntable ($36,000) in the Scott Walker Sound room, that and the near matching Von Schweikert Endeavor SE Loudspeakers ($31,000/pr) powered by beautiful VAC Master 300 Monoblocks ($37,000/ea) and equally beautiful VAC Master Signature Pre Amplifier with Phono Stage ($44,000). To match the analog stage there was a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 DAC ($28,000) with a Berkeley Audio Design USB Module ($1,995). And to round everything out there was $131,919.95 worth of Synergistic Research Power Conditioning, Acoustic Room Treatment, Racks and Shelves, Grounding Blocks, Cables, and network accessories. In the price is no object category it was definitely something to behold.
That concludes Part 3 of our FLAX coverage, stay tuned for Part 4.