I admit that posting my Top Five rooms at the 2023 Florida Audio Expo on Brian Hunter’s AudioHead site might have been premature. Now everyone already knows my Top Five, and I don’t want to just repeat that same info here. (Although I remain open to any type of lucrative syndication deal…Cha-CHING!) So I’m going to put together a Best of FLAX where I can elaborate a bit on those top rooms, and spread a little love out to the so-called honorable mentions. Once again I feel like I had to cull rooms that didn’t deserve to be culled, which is usually the sign of a great high-end audio show.
Words and Photos by Marc Phillips
Let’s begin Best of FLAX 2023 with a recap of my Top Five rooms. I was worried that my feelings about the AudioHead rankings might have shifted slightly over the last week, but it turns out the list remains intact and in proper order.
In the number 5 Best of FLAX spot, we have the Joseph Audio/Doshi Audio/Cardas Audio and Aurender room. If there’s a high-end audio show and I’m there and Joseph Audio speakers are there, chances are it’s going to make this list. But in this case, Jeff Joseph threw a little surprise into the room with video. Not just video, but video that matched up with the audio. WITH JUST TWO SPEAKERS–the truly excellent Joseph Audio Pulsar2 Graphene two-way monitors. Is this another rabbit hole for yours truly, this Home Theater 2.0? It just might be.
At number 4 on the Best of FLAX list we have Margules and Raidho. The new Margules U-280 SC 30th Anniversary integrated amplifier, at $12,000, is stunning in every way. Looks, sound, price–it’s all there, waiting for me to take it home and love it. The addition of Raidho at the last few shows gives the Margules gear a supreme sense of punch. As I mentioned, the Margules rooms sound better every time I visit. They’re onto something big in Mexico City.
Number 3 on the Best of FLAX 2023 combines a great pair of speakers with a truly entertaining and thoughtful exhibitor–Philip O’Hanlon from On a Higher Note. I’ve been tracking down the wily and elusive Graham Audio LS8/1 loudspeakers ($9,700/pr USD) for a couple of years, and I finally cornered them in this room and had an extended and joyful listen. (The Moonriver Audio electronics and Cardas cables helped.) I’m really hoping to review these speakers soon–they were everything I wanted them to be.
Number 2 on the Best of FLAX list is my dear friends at Audio Group Denmark. I’ve been obsessing over this gear since last summer, and I spent my winter listening to a plethora of gear from Aavik, Ansuz and Børresen. Audio Group Denmark had three rooms–the entry level room featured the surprising new Aavik Forte integrated/DAC/streamer for just $5,500, the middle room was almost exactly the same as my review system back home, and the upper system showed the gorgeous new Aavik I-880 integrated ($70K) along with the star of the show–the $100K/pair of mini-monitors known as the Børresen M1. At FLAX 2023, however, I sat back and let my colleagues discover what I already know–Audio Group Denmark is shaking up this industry in a big way.
Finally, my choice for Best of FLAX was Acora Acoustics and their new flagship, the VRC-1 loudspeakers. I’ve grown to dislike the sound of the big conference rooms at high-end audio shows, and the VRC-1s, with the help of VAC amplification and LampizatOr digital , single-handedly changed my mind. Whether it was Joni Mitchell’s solo voice or the best playing of “Chocolate Chip Trip” ever, the Acora Acoustics VRC-1 laid it down perfectly. Congratulations, Val Cora!
My Best of FLAX 2023 list does need to pay tribute to some truly special rooms and singular products that excited me:
The EMT 928 II turntable in the MoFi room created quite a kerfuffle on social media–$18,000 for a turntable/arm and cartridge is not “reasonable,” even though I said “relatively reasonable compared to restored 927s and 930s.” The original EMT folks are gone, EMT has the same parent company as Pro-Ject, blah blah blah. Here’s what I know: I heard it and it sounded excellent and I want to spend more time with it.
Speaking of MoFi, they had one of the last few pairs of the 50th Anniversary LS3/5a Gold Badge monitors from Falcon Acoustics. Florida was far too warm for me to wear a big overcoat and kipe those beautiful little gems, but you’d better watch yourselves in Chicago next month.
My Best of FLAX list also has to include rooms such as Ampsandsound and Acora, LTA and Credo, Aretai, Audio Note UK and the excellent new speaker from MC Audiotech, the TL-12. The 2023 High-End Audio Show season has officially begun, and the Florida Audio Expo launched it with plenty of style and excitement!
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 iTunes, Android, Google, Deezer, Spotify, iHeartRadio and more.
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