Welcome back to Part 3 of my coverage of the Florida Audio Expo 2022! We would like to thank Walter Liederman at Underwoood HiFi for sponsoring HiFiAudio.Guru’s coverage of Florida Audio Expo 2022, without the help of our fabulous sponsors we would not be able to bring you these wonderful experiences. We would also like to extend a hearty thank you to the FAE team for putting on a spectacular show and Qobuz for providing streaming music to all of the show’s participants.
First stop on the 6th floor was Margules Audio. Sublime sounds were being delivered by the Margules ‘Black Set’, which features their SF-220 Black Preamp feeding their Special ANNIVERSARY EDITION U-280 Black all-tube pure Class A power amp which is switchable between Ultralinear and Triode, as well as Stereo and Mono (Price TBD, but ~$10,000). This was driving their Orpheo Speakers. Source was their TT-10 turntable. I really enjoyed how the liquid midrange blended beautifully with the mid-bass without any sense of bloat.
Next stop was Illinois-based high-end audio retailer NEXT LEVEL HIFI. Morten Thyrrestrup from Audio Group Denmark was showcasing AAVIK Acoustics electronics cabled with Ansuz cables and driving the excellent Borreson 01 Silver edition ($60,000/Pair including stands), that replaces all copper wiring and parts with pure silver. It’s frankly astonishing the sound that they achieve from stand-mounted monitors. I heard several people asking about a non-existent subwoofer and, even more remarkable, they played to high volumes with ease.
Audio Note is a UK company that produces a complete chain from source to speakers. They described the products they were showing as ‘Level 3’ of 5 on their quality tiers. In this case, that meant their Meishu Tonmeister Integrated Amp driving their AN-E speakers with external crossover. Sources were their TT-Three Half Reference and CD 2.1x CD player.
Canadian company Tom Christiansen Audio’s Headphone Amps was my next room. Tom himself was their demonstrating his outstanding $899 HPA-1 headphone amp. The amp features SE and Balanced inputs and a 1.2Watt output into a 32ohm headphone load.
Keeping with the Headphone theme, my next stop was Mytek. Owner Michal Jurewicz was on hand for the launch of their Empire Streaker/DAC ($24,995). This aesthetically stunning product is an ideal digital streaming source and really the hub of an entire system. It features 9 preamp inputs including MM & MC phono stages, in addition to a myriad of digital inputs including USB, HDMI, SPDIF, and ethernet. It also has a built-in headphone amplifier that’s far more than a typical afterthought. In addition, they were showcasing their newly updated Liberty line. The Liberty DAC 2 and the Liberty THX AAA analog headphone amp. Each is $1,495. Michal shared that the Liberty line is voiced slightly warmer.
Graham Audio was my next stop. This British speaker manufacturer was showing their LS 8-1 speakers that are made in the tradition of the BBC speakers. Including stands, they run $9,700. The sound was never bright, but neither was it syrupy nor overly polite. There was great clarity and punch. Source was a Bergman Modi Turntable with their ‘Air Bearing’ Thor Tonearm.
Don’t call them Subwoofers! RJS Acoustics would prefer you call them BASS…Bass Augmentation Speaker System. Demo’d with a pair of Magnepan LRS’s, that’s an apropos description. Dual towers crossed over at ~70hz and amplified by Dayton Audio amplifiers, the Model MD-2 run $3,250/pair while the single tower MD-6 is $6,750. While I was there, the MD-2s were playing. I was pleasantly surprised at just how smooth the transition was from the Planars to the BASSs. That’s a notoriously hard thing to get right, and these did just that.
Fred Ainsley was on hand to demonstrate LampizatOr’s latest and greatest, the Horizon DAC ($49,000), which was making its worldwide debut and was doing double duty as it served as digital volume control for the system. Source was the excellent LampizatOr Gulf Stream Music Server ($8,000). The power was being supplied by the VAC 450iq Integrated amplifier ($150,000) which was driving the North American debut of the Tobian Sound System 12FH speakers ($32,500). The latter features a horn-loaded driver and a down-firing 12” woofer. The speakers showed a much wider dispersion pattern than I’m used to from horns and they certainly didn’t lack for bass. I’m looking forward to hearing more from this Swiss company. This was certainly a highlight room for me.
Black Ice Audio CEO Jerred Dunkerson was on hand to show off their beautiful and affordable line of tube electronics. Using 2 or 4 B&W speakers, Jerred demonstrated the unique offering of circuits designed by Jim Fosgate that are available to take you from simple yet exceptional 2-channel to enhanced 2-channel with crosstalk circuitry and 360 4-channel surround. I’m not one to generally go for 4-channel stereo, but Black Ice pulls it off in a subtle but astounding way…and all at a very reasonable price point!
Whether you hear the difference or think it’s all ‘Snake Oil’, Synergistic Research is likely to invoke a strong reaction. I attended a demo by David Weintraub about the SR BlackBox bass tool ($1,995ea). Strategically placed throughout your room, these small cubes roughly 12′ on each side with a triad of spikes are said to resolve any bass issues in your room. During the demo, David passed around one of the boxes and, when you tap on it, you can feel the ‘counter vibration’. He played the same track with the boxes in place and again without them. I suspect a room full of people with unfamiliar music playing is not the best environment to determine the efficacy, so I will reserve judgement until I can hear them in a more conducive environment.
Once again, we would like to thank Walter Liederman at Underwoood HiFi for sponsoring Headphone.Guru’s coverage of Florida Audio Expo 2022, if you enjoyed this or just want great HiFi and a great price, I suggest you visit Walter’s Webstore. Stay tuned for part 4.