Welcome to our coverage of the 2023 Florida Audio Expo. We would like to express our thanks and appreciation to XSA-Labs for sponsoring our coverage, despite their not exhibiting at this show, showing their generous enthusiasm for the industry, and commitment to the community.
This was my first time to FAE but was told that it was the largest ever, which was quite believable as there were 12 floors of exhibitors. And every room was packed to the gills with attendees all three days of the show so it was definitely a success for all involved.
Once again Qobuz was the official streaming service for the show, though I managed to miss meeting David Solomon throughout the entire show, Aurender was kind enough to share their space with Qobuz demonstrating their fantastic streaming music servers including the Aurender A20 ($15,000) which has a built-in single-ended headphone amp and the Aurender A30 ($19,000), which offers both single-ended and balanced headphone outputs along with a CD ripper, with a selection of headphones.
My first stop of the day was Moon Audio, who per usual was exhibiting a full array of exciting products including the exquisite dCS Lina System ($31,150) which shows the very pinnacle of what personal audio is capable of. Also on display for your sampling was the Lina’s little brother the brand new dCS Bartók Apex DAC/Headphone Amplifier ($22,950). What caught my eye was the Cayin HA-3A Tube Headphone Amplifier (1,599) paired up with the Matrix Audio X-Sabre 3 Pro MQA DAC ($2,999) so I selected a pair of Dan Clark Audio Stealth Headphones ($3,999) and gave it a listen, spectacular!
Next up was Warwick Acoustics with their legendary Bravura Electrostatic Headphone System ($5,995 for silver including Sonoma DAC/Amp, $6,795 for black). Of course, the highlight was their flagship Aperio Limited Edition Black Electrostatic Headphone System ($36,000) which for my money is the state of the art in headphone design and sound.
Spirit Torino has long been a favorite with their unique Isobaric headphones, but their new Spirit Torino Centauri Planar Magnetic Headphones ($3,200) offer a whole new level in sound. They are also introducing a new headband design that is a significant improvement in comfort and seal, which will filter back into revised versions of many of their older models. Of further interest, they were displaying their $12,000 flagship Spirit Torino Valkyria Titanium Twin Pulse Isobaric headphone and their fantastic Sigfrid Headphone/Speaker Hybrid Amp ($12,438.61).
Wyred 4 Sound
One of the more exciting finds at the show was the newly released Wyred 4 Sound Pro Power Stream power conditioner ($999) which was in the Margules room. Unfortunately, it arrived too late to be used in the show though they did take the opportunity to test it Sunday morning before the show opened for the day. According to Bruce Ball of AV Luxury Group International, the drop in noise floor was quite significant, but that the change in sound was so dramatic that it would have required them to completely redo the setup which was simply not warranted at such a late date.
Rising star (though at almost a hundred years in business, can’t say newcomer) Margules were back with their fantastic tube amps, driving a pair of Raidho Speakers TD2.2 Loudspeakers ($46,000). When matched up with the Margules Audio U280-SC 30th Anniversary Limited Edition Class A Tube Amplifiers ($12,000), a Margules Audio SF220 Special Edition Tube Preamplifier ($8,000), and Margules Audio’s yet-to-be-released Music Server (TBA) I would give them best sound of the show, but even with the tiny Margules Audio Magenta ACRH-3 Hybrid Integrated Amplifier the sound was spectacular.
Focal Naim/House of Stereo/VPI
Focal Naim shared space with Jacksonville Florida dealer House of Stereo. The true show stopper was the Naim Statement system ($200,000) driving a pair of Focal Maestro Utopia EVO loudspeakers ($38,000/Each) fed by a Naim NDX 2 Music Streamer ($8,799), the sound was simply fantastic. Also available for your listening pleasure was Naim’s Uniti Atom Headphone Edition ($3,799) with a selection of Focal Headphones, Focal Stellia Headphones ($2,990), Focal Utopia Headphones ($5,000), Focal Clear MG Headphones ($1,499). In a separate room, Naim was featuring their New Classic 200 series with the NSC 222 streaming preamplifier ($8,999), the NAP 250 power amplifier ($8,999), and NPX 300 external power supply ($8,999) driving a pair of Electric Orange Focal Sopra N°2 Loudspeakers ($20,998/pair), and a beautiful VPI Industries Avenger Direct Turntable ($36,000).
Across the hallway House of Stereo was hosting the global debut of the outstanding Avantgarde Acoustic Duo GT loudspeaker system ($61,050/pair passive, $74,000 active), these were matched up with a VPI Industries Titan Turntable ($51,000), a Phasemation EA-2000 Tube Phono Stage ($54,000), a Phasemation CA-1000 Control Amplifier ($51,500), a pair of Phasemation MA-2000 tubed monoblock amplifiers ($51,500), along with a T+A SD 3100 HV Reference Streaming DAC ($36,000). The most impressive part of this was a live performance by singer-harpist Isabeau Corriveau against a backdrop of her recorded self run through the system.
Newcomer family owned and operated Geshelli Labs are expanding on their line of excellent personal audio products to enter into the two-channel loudspeaker market with their brand-new integrated amplifier the Zoofa (TBA) which they had running a pair of Klipsch R-800F Loudspeakers ($599 each) and a Klipsch R-101SW Subwoofer ($349) producing excellent sound. The true focus of the show was their new Geshelli Labs Archel 3 PRO Headphone Amplifier ($599) featuring discreet opamps from Sparkos Labs. The craftsmanship that this family puts into building their products is stunning. Their reasonably priced Amps and DACs are available in a wide range of customizable options such as metal or wood handmade cases with an array of color choices for both the case and the plexiglass front panel, and a choice of DAC chips.
That concludes part 1 of our Florida Audio Expo coverage, stay tuned for part 2.