2019 FL AUDIO EXPO thoughts and perspectives...

hello all,

attending the first ever audio show near me became something of a last minute decision. in fact I was forced to miss the opening day on Friday Feb. 8th. consequently, nearly all of these entries were from memory and as such, many specs and individual names have evaporated from the sieve I use for a brain, but below are my audible and emotional thunbnails for those units I visited, and of the folks presenting the event itself and the merchandise.

At each days end, naturally I jotted down some notes.

I was unable to meet and greet each and every room and or exhibition, therefore If I missed anyone,or anything, sorry.

Saturday, Feb. 9th

In the Pavilion

Classic Audio Loudspeakers Atmos-Sphere Music Systems Tri-Planar Tonearms Purist Audio Design

An analog front end fed a pair of Atmasphere 60wpc monos along with an Atmas phono preamp which pushed along the looming Classic Audio T1s in an expansive room but did not fail to significantly impress. Refering to the bottom end reproduction as thunderous would be short sighted for sure.

Given the entry fees for this outfit with the Classic Audio T1’s on board, it was ‘the stuff dreams are made of’, so long as the dream included an immense ball room with which to set up the merchandise.

As for the auditory impact and it has been said by any number of other listeners, ‘electorstatic speed and nuance with horn dynamics. Irresistible. Eerily thrilling. It was time to get out the ‘virtual autograph pad’ and ask for a likewise signature. Truly astounding.

This take on the sound comes from an off axis perspective as I never ended up in the sweet spot to get the full effect! Can’t really say if that was a good or a bad thing. Maybe bad as I would likely have wanted to extend my stay in the Pavillion and then exclude some other rooms from being investigated.

Speaking with ‘Classic Audio’ was a real treat too. I’m hard pressed to think I’ve met anyone more open or friendly and instructive. The entire affair there was almost breathtaking.

On the ‘more affordable’ side of the table,

Harbeth was showing in once particular instance with one of several Luxman 509X INT’’s with120 wpc @ 8, at $9,995, with I believe Wireworld cabling. A recently introduced Luxman phono $3850 includ tone arm and pointed by a $1200 cartridge (not from Luxman) made for a fascinating listening episode. The latest and special itteration of the Harbeth 5s in base config ran $6500, in the full fledged ‘all in’ , they slipped in just a tick under $8K. Some frugality with wiring and stands and one could have a well heeled virtually organic outfit for less than $25K asking price for table, cart, INT and the no holds barred outfitted speakers. I actually had to ask about what was supplying the bass reinforcement. The anser was ‘Nada.’ Its just the monitors. Really!? Sure.

As the room to room stumbling forward and onward expedition rambled along once more the Luxman 509X was the heartbeat for a pair of Magico A 3s. In this room the wiring loom was all Audio Quest. All media was played back via Digital CDs, you remember CDs, right? Well lets give it up for the Luxman CDP and 509x once and for all. With the entry level Magico A3s the presentation was powerful and vast.

As scintillating as was the Luxman and Harbethe one off no holds barred monitors had been, the Magicos flatly surpassed the previous arrangement. Do keep in mind the wirings were different and the Magico A3s speakers as well were another $7K donation is required.

Staying in losely the same speaker cost ball park, as the resounding Magico a3s, TAD had its say so as well. The TAD Micro Evolution Ones sitting around $12K and driven by an all Ayre drive train and DAC and being fed by kubus thru a wolf audio streamer and storage box was a realy tuff rig to walk away from. They presented a crystal clear tonally adeppt and intelligent presentation. Once more the lower octaves simply could not be taken to task. Given the truly modest enclosures the bass impact and tones were astonishingly accurate.

It looks like it is finally time to forget the notions mini monitors are just unable to suport the registry below 50 or 60Hz, and being forever forced to live with 40 or 45HZ at -6db.

its a Brave bnew World for monitors. unquestionably.

Sliding into the Bob Carver demo things got exciting. Maybe intriguing or phenomonol would be more explicit in relaying the sonic demonstration. A pair of KEF Blade IIs were being compelled by a Carver KT120 PP 75 wpc amp and the outcome was intense. The intensity rose when Bob Carver’s partner Frank disclosed the power plant was $2,750.00! this expo reversed the thinking of placing the majority of dough in front of the speakers and with a set of $20K plus units in tow vividly showed that there is more than one way to compile audio satisfaction. The source for tunes was all digital and quite up to the task as they used a Bel Canto DAC 3.2.

Frank’s take on sound quality was an earthy real world approach as he played cut after cut of popular and rock music without cherry picking purely audiophiliac favs. Of the exhibits this one was truly fun. The sound was competent and covered all the aspects of the it should have, or it must have, factors to be considered above average. Certainly this arrangement could easily satisfy many for many hours at a time, and or for a very long time before one could see a need to begin upgrading this or that in the signal path. Very good Frank.

As for the Blade Iis performance using 75 wpc of glass amp, it never came to my mind that the KEFs needed much if any more juice to function better. It has to be said though, this was not a large room and the Blades sat on the short wall. Sorry, didn’t notice if the bass drivers were facing inboard or out board. Regardless, the bass was responsive, taut, and deep. Punchy when asked for and supportive in all other concerns. Impressive.

With the exceedingly impressive Classic Audio and Atmashpere connection still haunting me, another well qualified opponent for blistering and prodigious bass was to be revealed in the Wilson and AR room. A pair of Wilson Sasha 3 D.A.W. commemorative special edition speakers ($36K sans grills), were fueled by a pair of Acoustic Research 150 monos simply got the jaw much closer to the floor when tones across the bottom end were being ordered up.

indeed, across the bandwidth there was simply a rightness to the presentation which was being readied digitally from tracks on a hard drive by Peter McGraff.

I formally take back everything I’ve ever said which could be in the least way shown as negative or derogatory almost, regarding Wilson speakers. Namely the WP series. I must as well testify each time I heard WPs, they were driven by all Ayre or similar SS power. While I’m biting the bullet here I might as well add the wiring was by T… I just can’t say it… OK… it was all Transparent audio. there! I said it. yes, this particular setup showed no evidence of bleaching, stridency, sterility, or dryness. My goodness even in a smallish sized room the presentation was fascinating, quick, tactile, and involving. apparently, Wilson’s adore AR power, and don’t need enormous gobs of it either. That room was a treat and an eye opener for me.

If I’m supposed to add any caveat it would be that perhaps the room size overall could well have been a fair amount larger, or as the bass seemed to lope on with less than precise braking when the music got really busy, it could be said, too, that assemblege could do mo’ betterer with more watts and more acoustic treatments, bass traps, etc., if there final resting place will be in a medium or less sized room.

The Sasha 3 DAW commemorative transducers would really shine in a quite large venue, easily. Very easily. If grills are a necessity, add $800 more.

About the quboz or Kubus or whatever the new upcoming streaming service from France is called…

A rep was demoing and informing folks in the TAD room as to what, when, and where the service could be used, installed, and or streamed. The release date is Valentines day no less. Registered Attendees to the 2019 Florida Audio Expo will be offered a free trial to check out the newcomer unfettered and unhendered. The info in that dicertation was it could be used in conjunction with many if not all present media players, Nirvanna, J River, or as a stand alone app. On Macs or Windows. The demo was accomplished using an iPad, and a dragonfly red feeding the ayre Q DaC and Ayre 5 pre, and Ayre 100 WpC stereo amp and pushing the new (post Andrew Jones) MicroEvolution Ones. natually having on hand a better streaming arrangement and DAC will be of considerable help. The Wy Fy at the Hotel was near non existant so the digital came via HDD or CD playback in most if not all of the rooms.

Never the less, this latest French based streaming affair if all ends up as proposed could turn out to be a slam dunk for quality music streaming recreation.

SUNDAY feb. 10th day two….

Hegel was the first line on the list so we begin there.

Hegel showed with a pair of Dyn Audio Contour C60s. The power plant was their recently introduced 590 INT shoving out 300wpc per side all inclusive I NT with multi faceted and wildly capable DAC on board. Truly a one box solution. No phono section as Hegel figures vinyl handlers will opt for a dedicated phono pre or already have one on station if they are already spinning those larger black CDs.

I got to spend some time in the Hegel Dyn Audio presentation and felt coming away that it was one of the more balanced top to bottom demos in the Expo. Nothing stood out which drew attention to itself in a poor light. Staging was resembelant of the recording and the articulation was even handed and distinctive with good seperation between the instruments and or vocals. The bottom end was spry and resounding all the while being quite supportive of the rest of its upper bandwidth. A place for everything and everything in its place.

By comparison Luxman 509x vs. Hegel 590 the 590 came across more articulate and defined, more affixed to neutral though this is not to say the Luxman INT was soft, decidedly warmer or clouded, and of course, the differing speaker sets and cabling certainly played a part. The Hegel room was using Nordost. The Luxman plus Magico A3 room being enlisted here used AQ cabling through out. Still I feel the diffs noticeable yet the results were essentially similar as both presentations were markedly enjoyable and involving with the A3s producing more pressureized bass into the room than did the C60s.

In fact, the two Integrated amps’ rooms layouts were using the same floor plan. Between these two setups, one could see them as a coin toss perhaps and be happy regardless the side facing up. It was pretty close on all the audio nervosa accounts with the A3s leading the bottom end race wire to wire. The $3K disparity fromj the Magico to the Dyn C60s could be the decider though.

Folks in room 513 were showing Vienna Acoustics with a pair of ‘listz’ being pushed by DSA (Dynamic Sound Associates power which runs 125 Class A wpc bias into 8. The DSA amps were in A/B config and the source was purely analog style with a table and phono pre. This was an higher dollar arrangement which noted how vastly important what is in front of your speakers really means to the audio reproduction, room not with standing as its import can not be slighted or ignored.

As with the hegel & Dyn exhibit the DSA & Vienna Listz dotted all the audio eyes and crossed all the sonic T’s. Perhaps the single noteworthy and subjective account was the Listz demo had a tick or two more roundness towards the leading edges, while keeping spot on accuracy with imaging. Likely such a result from the Listz’ derived from its analog source being the only source used in its demo.

Paradigm and Anthem teamed up exhibiting the 9Fs driven by Anthem’s 400 wpc SS amp. There is something to be said for powered bass in floor standing speakers to be sure. It seems impossible someone could cry ‘not enough bottom end’ after hearing the 9Fs. Exceedingly speedy, flat, and eelctronically corrected via the anthem pre/pro on board proprietary room correction technology. It sounded real either inside the room or out in the hallway. A highly resolute outfit. No question about it.

One of the bright spots on Sunday’s stumble and sit marathon was the Joseph Audio and Doshi Audio demo using Cardas Clear cabling. The $7400 JA Pulsars were being excited by the Doshi Audio $20K 75wpc tube amp and the results were fascinating. Near tangible imaging with lustrous sonics. albeit, nothing was euphonic or overtly saturated. Every note was rendered harmonically. clean, clear. Naturalness was the word that kept coming to mind while I sat listening. Sweet also works here. Memorable.

IMO the pulsar’s lower registry did not draw attention to itself yet somehow I felt it could have been a touch more promenate. This last notion comes merrely from preffs, and possibly the content being played during my visit. In all, I felt this demo/setup one of the best sounding on the two day stumble, fumble and sit around listening tour.

For those whose audio driven virtual reality needs are seldom satisfied, the Mur audio and Merrill Audio combo would have definitely and strikingly absconded with your attention! A 16K pair of ‘stats and an $18K 300 wpc amp caused the hair on my arms to stand up. Vocals were deliniated outlined, filled in and portrayed as organically as one might wish. This was a room where I whished I had waited to sit in the sweet spot. I did not though but did talked to the man whose power amp was conveying an enormity of honesty and emotional engagement for a few minutes to get the lay of the land there, so to speak. remarkable. Although once Moore IMHO subs would be required for me to find audio nirvanna, were I to lay down $34k at retail, the audio recreation was simply outstanding. The illusion of reality therein was just plain spooky good. Only the most difficult to please audio nuts could ever hoep to be remorseful after pouncing on that setup.

indeed, acquiring subs would not needs be a swift process either!

Another room which posted up some hair raising and markedly stirring audio was the Ferrari consulting demo. AVM MP 8.2 1200 wpc monos were guiding the Raedo 2.1s. also in the chain was the aVM modular pre (recently reviewed in Stereophile by M Fremer) with reportedly built in non obsolescence due to its own ‘modular’ OEM upgrade paths.

The bottom end was simply concussive. Kicking you in the belly bass. Imaging was spot on with each cut being played back.

An adjacent room saw the Raedo bookshelf models being urged along with the AVM INT., whose out put was a modest 500 wpc. yikes! Apparently my meanderings had dropped me smack dab into the Land of Lots O watts yet the sonic reproduction was sheer transparency in the larger of the two rooms.

Only time ushered me onward and outward or I’d have had no issue at all hanging out with Mr. Ferrari a good while longer. Stunning bass reproduction. swift. sure. dynamic. impactful. No bloat or overhang. It took nothing from the rest of the music being portrayed. This would be an outfit I would have to spend a good deal more time with

were I sincerely interested in returning to the world of SS delights, I’d be looking for my own ease with the presentation. I sat in the SP or right near it and felt that possibly in time, the leading edge definition might be a skosh to defined. This may well be readily addressed with cabling or a good PLC. It was a ‘show’ afterall and not too large a room.

One recalls those instances that got their complete attention though, and the AVM and Raedo combo did exactly that for me. In a word? startling. And in a good way!

perhaps the best part of this inaugural epic was the people attending, and especially those responsible for it all. the promoters, presenters, dealers and manufacturers representing their own goods.

it seemed as though everyone there was there to help out anyone at all find whatever it was they were interested in.

the Hotel staff was exceptionally open and available in getting the needs of folks attending the event and they did it in the most pleasant way possible if or when such situations arose.

wandering into the Legacy Audio room I first met Bill Doodelson’s daughter and later Bill’s wife. both were immensely forthcoming and helpful with Mr. Doodleson’s wife escorting me to an entirely different room on another floor so I could investigate the goods therein. these are some very special people indeed.

dashing into the Suncoast Audio MSB and Avante Gard display sat Grant Samuels playing track after track thru the MSB stack into a pair of AG Uno Fino’s which boasted their own 500w amps for the bass driver. . Grant could not have been more personable, gracious

with but two days at the inaugural Fla Audio Expo a goodly number of demos had to be missed. Some of them most regrettably. Many were memorable and all were interesting or as much as fascinating. There were several demos which led the sound quality pack and even the one room I last visited which showed Project Audio and Sumiko had an out the door price tag of just $9K for the whole setup!! Its sound? Mature and honest.

For a first time ever event, this one was stunningly smashing. Hopefully it becomes a trend and ‘THE’ winter audio show for a very long time.

If there are questions I’ll try to fill in what ever blanks. Thanks for dropping by.


As much controversy surrounds and revolves about wires and or cabling in general, I refused to list much if any content on it or them. of course, I pointed out some brands but that was it. Finding out later, exactly how pricey some full on cabling looms were priced at I have to say I'm aghast and amazed .

looking back now on what I experienced and knowing now the expense of wiring involved in many rooms, I feel it simply unfair on occasion one is obliged to consider adding in this or that wire maker best wires to obtain the sound being demonstrated in the various rooms and setups. it is mind boggling and for the vast majority, entirely out of reach, and it implies one will not acquire that certain something which may or may not have grabbed you during what ever audition unless you opt in for that specific brand and models across the board.

I mean really, $11K for a pair of ICS? OMG.

enough of that soapbox.

I missed the price tag on the Meril Audio monos a wee bit. actually by half. $18K ea. not for both. yikes. but man they sounded fantastic.

another slight correction and this according to another account on this show is on the Carver exhibit... the 75wpc KT120 push pull stereo amp is the model 275. simple. its cost is actually $2,495.00, not $2750 as I wrote. even better!! it comes with a five year warranty... and covers the tubes too! wow. the Carver 275 is only one of three such amps and each one up the chain offers yet more power output. naturally at higher costs as well, but that's more than reasonable. lastly, these are not room space heaters either. they run quite cool as tube amps go. being able to touch the output tubes is uncommon and a big no no usually.  it was said they were self healing! the outputs tube  are fused. reputedly this design prevents the tubes from flaming out and only costing a fuse to be replaced to be back in biz. very cool.

the main regret was not attending Friday as that would have enabled more interaction with more providers, dealers, and reps. and of course the gear. next time I'll be all in all the time.
Thanks for taking time to post those observations, Jim. Enjoyed reading through them.

you are very welcome. one thing for sure, it was all entirely done as blind testing. 

Hey Jim,
Sounds like you had a great time. Hopefully it brought some insight into a possible system for you.
Jim, thank you for the detailed descriptions of your aural experiences at the show. Your time and efforts are very much appreciated.


it was fun.  

it was tiring too. it was impossible to see it all in just two days. 

I should have bitten the bullet and gone on Friday too.

I regret missing some of the rooms. VAnnatoo, for example. tiny speakers with huge great sounds.

 as well not seeing the latest iteration of the JBL Century 100s. wow. do those things bring back memories. in the day they ran around $200 or $250 pr. I think. maybe less. 

there were a few other demos I'd like to have attended. but then there's next year! Yes. though the next Expo is going to very likely be at a larger venue!! yikes. 

I  may need skates. 

that should be interesting 

with some luck maybe then I”ll be able to make a deal on something there!


Thank you.

yes. it was outstanding all in all. can not wait to do it again.  

maybe the most interesting part of it all was seeing things put together one might not actually consider putting together! 

the huge disappointment if one could be mentioned was the cost of the varying cable arrays associated with their parternered hardware. one could buy a new tesla for what the TA cabling cost in the Wilson room alone.

apart from the rooms, the people involved with the show, and those exhibiters, and the Hotel crew were simoply outstanding. cordial. warm. polite. it made for a confortable and extremely enjoyable affair. 

again, can’t wait till….