Zesto, Vimberg, Merrill Williams, Tri-Planar, Stillpoints, Cardas, Sweet Home Audio | FLAX 2020

I found myself missing Doug White of That Voice That Is! at the 2020 Florida Audio Expo–I missed the sound of the big Tidal Audio systems he assembles and exhibits, that feeling of perfection in every detail. The spirit of Doug White was definitely there at FLAX in the room hosted by Clearwater dealer Sweet Home Audio. This exceptional room featured a whole rack of Zesto Audio gear matched to a pair of the Vimberg Mino loudspeakers ($31,000/pair), a brand that uses Tidal Audio designs without the price-no-object approach. $31K is certainly not inexpensive, but as Eric Franklin Shook once said, the Vimbergs are still the greatest bargain in high-end audio.

Sponsored by Core Power Technologies A/V
Florida Audio Expo 2020 coverage sponsored by Core Power Technologies A/V
Sponsored by Living Sounds Audio
Florida Audio Expo 2020 coverage sponsored by Living Sounds Audio

George and Carolyn Counnas of Zesto were running the room, of course, and their warmth and expertise were fully on display with their Andros 1.2 phono stage ($4700), Allasso SUT ($2995), Leto Ultra preamplifier ($9950) and Bia 120 stereo power amplifier ($10,000). The analog rig was equally impressive: Merrill Williams REAL 101.3 turntable ($8900), Tri-Planar U12 arm ($6200) and Benz Micro Gullwing SLR cartridge ($3600). Everything was connected with Cardas Audio Clear Beyond, and the rack was one of numerous Stillpoints ESS racks found at FLAX 2020.

I’ve started sort of a tradition with George and Carolyn, ever since High End 2019. I ask George to play his LP copy of The Soulful Moods of Gene Ammons because it sounds so rejuvenating and so beautiful. He obliged me once more, and again this system was another gorgeous oasis in the middle of a busy show. When you need a moment to catch your breath, this is where you should go.

I’ve heard systems based on Zesto Audio and Tidal Audio/Vimberg many times by now, and they’re always imbued with that sense of rightness, that feeling that there is no way this can get any better. I found the bass in this room tight and enthralling–for some reason that eludes me now, my notes refer to the low frequencies as “sexy.” While Doug White was relaxing on a beach in Mexico–yeah, that’s a good reason to skip a show–the folks at Sweet Home Audio were more than suitable as proxies. They put together a room that was, once again, one of my favorites at the show.