Upstream Audio and Musical Surroundings | FLAX 2023

upstream audio

You know when’s the best time to visit a room during a high-end audio show? Sunday morning, right when the show opens at ten in the morning or so. It’s quiet, the crowds are non-existent and all the exhibitors are playing soft and gentle music because everyone was out so late the night before. Upstream Audio and Musical Surroundings gets it.

Words and Photos by Marc Phillips

I walked into the Upstream Audio room 10 am on Sunday morning, last day of the show, and I was treated to a sound that was wet and warm just like Florida in February. (Which it was.) The system included Focal Kanta No.2 speakers ($10,999/pr USD), which Grover Neville reviewed and admired last year, Aesthetix amplification (a long-time favorite of mine, especially when it comes to phono preamps), Sonore digital and, of course, lots of Clearaudio analog products. This is, after all, Musical Surroundings. I bought both of my Koetsus from one of their dealers back in the day. They are superb at all things analog.

musical surroundings

But the Sonore digital was quite special, providing that wet and warm and luxuriant and rich tonality that curled up in my lap and purred. Despite my initial impressions of this Upstream Audio sanguine chamber of love, there was tremendous bass impact from these relatively svelte towers as well.

upstream audio

I would have loved to spend some time with the two gorgeous Clearaudio turntables sitting on top of that equipment rack, but I had to check out of my hotel and get to the airport. My loss. I have plenty of experience with Clearaudio over the years–I loved the Virtuoso Wood cartridge that I used for many years–and that would have been a good sound to rumble around in my memories during the trip home. But Upstream Audio and Sonore both ensured that my time in this room will still stick in my memories for a long time.


Upstream Audio system: Aesthetix Romulus Signature CD player/DAC ($12,000), Rhea phono pre ($10,000), Pallene preamplifier (starting at $6,000), Dione power amplifier ($7,500); Clearaudio Reference Jubilee turntable ($30,000), Concept Air turntable ($3,300), Ovation turntable ($12,000); Hana Umami Red cartridge ($3,950); DS Audio 003 cartridge ($6,000); Sonore Signature Rendu streamer ($4,800), SonicTransporter i9 optical server ($3,745); Iconoclast cabling.

If you would like to hear even more coverage from FLAX 2023, check out our recap report and highlights from our audiophile-oriented show The Occasional Podcast. You can stream the episode direct from the embed below, or from your favorite podcast platform including iTunesAndroidGoogle, Deezer, SpotifyiHeartRadio and more.


upstream audio

sonore rendu

upstream audio