Florida Audio Expo 2022
Instead of writing-up these Florida Audio Expo rooms individually (something Eric Franklin Shook is known for) I’ve decided to write round-up specifically about the rooms I liked in the larger, 2nd floor areas. I’m not doing any kind of ranking, as they all sounded great and quite different.
MBL | Florida Conference Room
This was my virgin MBL experience and it was a doozy. MBL brought their brand new flagship speaker, the Radialstrahler 101 X-treme. Everything about the 101 X-treme is well, extreme including a price tag of $263,000 USD. The subwoofer towers alone contain six 12” aluminum-cone drivers and a 500 watt (2200 watt peak) built-in amp, per side.
Your floors better be prepared to handle the 2,600 lb gross weight of this MBL system. Yikes! Of course, MBL chooses to exhibit with their line of amps, preamp, dac, and lederhosen – oh wait they don’t make clothes. Yet. The lone non-MBL component was a reel-to-reel tape deck from United Home Audio that was playing the tunes each time I visited the room.
The sound was powerful and expansive. It also had a relatively pinpoint quality to image placement–which is a nice trick when considering the omnidirectional nature of MBL’s Radialstrahler design philosophy. The bass impact and depth in this room was insane. I was quite impressed and had a sublime listening experience each time I visited this room.
The Audio Company, VAC, Von Schweikert, Kronos, Aurender, Esoteric, Masterbuilt, Critical Mass Systems | Bayshore Ballroom
As most of y’all regular show attendees know, The Audio Company puts together very impressive systems for hifi events – FLAX 2022 was no exception.
This was the third show I’ve put ears on these Von Schweikert Audio, Valve Amplification Company, and Esoteric, powered extravaganzas. I think in many ways it was their best-sounding presentation I’ve yet to hear.
What was different you ask? The brand spanking new Ultra 7 loudspeakers from Von Schweikert. They should be great at $180,000 USD a pair, and boy was it ever. Pick any adjective – coherence, imaging, low end, resolution, whatever. Imagine a superb level of all those terms rolled into a package and you’ll only have a small idea of what I drooled over every time I visited this room.
Being powered by top-of-the-line VAC amps and preamps certainly didn’t hurt. The Ultra 7 was powered by four, count ‘em four, of Kevin Hayes’ incredible VAC Statement 452 iQ amps. Keith and Gordon from The Audio Company played vinyl most of the time and while the selections were mainly audiophile chestnuts, they were the ones I like hearing. Sorry, I forgot to write down which Kronos turntable, arm, and cart were used but it was fancy and sounded great. Whether spinning Fleetwood Mac or vintage OG Telarc, I found this room to be a deeply rewarding listening experience.
Acora Acoustics, VAC, | Westshore Ballroom
Most of you guys know by now that I have become an Acora speaker owner. I now use a pair of SRC-2 in my mastering studio and as a result, feel that my work has never been better. Judging from my client’s reactions since adding the SRC-2s to my studio, I think they too would agree.
Valerio Cora put together an ultra-impressive system in what was by my account the largest room at FLAX. The SRC-2s ($37,000 USD) powered by a pair of VAC Statement 452 iQ not only filled the room without breaking a sweat but displayed that fun-with-truth-telling imaging thing Acora is known for having. Although the size of the room had a long, low-frequency decay time, the low end was big as life but never felt exaggerated.
The MBL room might have had that cool imaging thing you get with their omnidirectional speakers, but I found the imaging in the Acora room to be even more compelling. Acora doesn’t make lederhosen either, so they had that much in common.
Just like in the Audio Company room, VAC Statement-level preamp and phono pre were employed.
Dr. Vinyl (his friends call him Jose) played the part of DJ and brought along a J. Sikora Standard Max table and an IntegrityHiFi Canada TRU-GLIDER arm with a DS Audio optical cartridge. I’m talkin’ great sound AND bizarre out-of-the-box-thinking-tech as evidenced in the Tru-Glider and DS audio components. A re-done Tascam R2R by United Home Audio was used to play tapes. Digital was played using an Ideon Epsilon DAC. Niiiice.
BØRRESEN Acoustics, Thrax, Ansuz, High-End by Oz | Kennedy Conference Room
High-End by Oz put on quite a few great rooms at FLAX this year, most of note to me was the one located on floor two. I’ve known about Borresen for a while but this was another speaker that was a first-time listen for me. Borresen brought a couple of models but when I ventured into this room, their tall, 2.5 way, 4 woofers, 2 midranges, and a ribbon tweeter, Z5 speaker ($64,350 USD) was the star. Ansuz electronics were used throughout. I found a lot of things to love about this system. Unlike most of the larger rooms, the front row seats were very much a near-field listening experience. This is my preferred seat position. The Borresen room didn’t have a lot of obvious, temporary, acoustical treatment sometimes used by exhibitors to tame an unruly hotel environment – and the sound didn’t seem to suffer in the least. Imaging was pinpoint and holographic. The low end was massive and tight.
Also, I found the Z5s in this room to have some of the fastest, punchiest, deepest, bass I’ve ever heard. The Borresen demo rooms have a little bit of a rep for gratuitous crankage, but wow, was it ever clean. And smooth. I went in here a few times and the quiet stuff sounded just as good as the loud, so whatever. I talked tech to one of the Borresen dudes and he definitely knows his stuff. Making their own drivers from scratch is no doubt partly responsible for all the clarity and freedom from any even minuscule nastiness, that I heard. I’ve found that when I hit a lot of rooms at a show, it’s instantly apparent to me which rooms have stuff designed by experienced folks who are working at a very high level of design, testing, and build quality. This was one of those rooms.
Someday I’d love to take a pair of these for a test drive in my own sound sanctuary.