Florida Audio Expo 2022 Show Report
Picking up where I left off in Part I of my FLAX 2022 show report, I headed up to Room 1109, the Blink High End encampment. There I was treated to a superb system built around the stellar compact/stand-mount Fink Team KIM speakers ($12K the pair with stands), a Creek CD player (the Voyage $3,495), Linn Klimax DSM server (with onboard Organik DAC – $39K), Aavik Acoustics i-580 integrated amplifier (a cool $25,200), and Ansuz cable loom. The $12k speakers (featuring skinny but highly effective open-framed steel stands) delivered punchy, detailed, superbly natural sound. The whole system boasted great dynamic expressiveness, tight bass, with nice air and shimmer up top, this no doubt a signature feature of the excellent ribbon tweeter. Money for Nothing by Dire Straits impressed with great depth layering, Mark Knofler's husky vocals projecting into the room with real power and focus.
The setup unearthed fine tone and texture from my
CD version of Bill Evans' Gloria's Steps (Sunday at the Village
Vanguard). The whole system sounded just swell to my ears, gifting
lightening quick transients, crisp focus, excellent coherence, and lots of top
octave air. Wow! An unexpected Best Of Show contender.
Across the hall in Room 1109, the same creative team stunned with the remarkable $120k/pair Kroma Audio Elektra floor standers, these powered by humble Creek Audio electronics to great effect. The novel Elektra model banishes music-distorting vibrations through the generous use of Krion, a new solid surface material made of 2/3rds natural minerals (Alumina Trihydrate) and a small quantity of high-resistance resins. The material is said to offer superb damping and resonance-suppressing qualities.
Herbie Hancock and team electrified the room with a grooving rendition of the Great American Songbook crowd pleaser It Ain't Necessarily So (Herbie Hancock / Gershwin's World / Verve), this reproduced with "life-affirming" urgency, gripping presence, and lovely tonal shading. The rear ambient tweeter delivered oodles of the air and sparkle that I can never seem to get enough of. Another BOS contender, and a real win for the Matterhorn Audio Distribution team, one that is now on my audio radar.
Down on the 9th floor, Ozan Turan's HIGH END
BY OZ thrilled with a system that featured a Thrax and Vitus front end:
Thrax direct-drive Yatrus turntable and Frank Schroder-designed CB tonearm;
Thrax speakers (the compact Lyra sitting on dedicated Hades
stands-cum-subwoofers, all aluminum enclosed); Thrax Ares Mk2 Modular Audiophile
System/integrated amplifier (with onboard DAC, dual-mono layout, and dedicated
phono stage), and Vitus CD player. This show marked the Hades subwoofer/stand's
world premiere. Hugh Masekela's Stimela (the Train Song) pulsated with
life and infectious energy. The system captured Hugh's gravely vocals and
growling delivery expertly. With massive dynamic swings and gut-crushing power.
My notes detailed a "very coherent sound with punch and weight exceeding the speaker's small dimensions. Alan Parsons grooved, the system tracking the dynamic gradations of the song like a bloodhound. Excellent image focus and sound-staging. This system plays big, with great dynamic expressiveness, mile high staging, and nice tone. Deep, tight bass." The system delivered all the thrills I'm used to hearing from the Tanya cut on Dexter's seminal One Flight Up LP (Blue Note / Tone Poet).
I noted superb focus, outstanding transient
attack, and palpable textures. The speakers reproduced the drum kit with
ferocious punch and vitality. Controlled, precise sonic violence superbly
controlled, I thought. Midrange textures came across as ever-so-slightly subdued
I felt, but overall, this was a very, very good outing for Sir Oz (who should
let me review the Ares amp as soon as possible)! Sorry Oz, but I neglected to
In Room 804, the headphone bleeding edge, not my usual audio playground, beckoned. The HeadAmp Blue Hawaii SE Electrostatic Headphone amp ($ 6,495.00 with a quartet of lovely EL 34s a-glowing) driving top-of-the-line STAX SR-X9000 electrostatic headphones phones ($6,200) sounded just swell, delivering air and bloom, light and openness that rivalled the best speakers I have ever heard, with tight focus, class leading transient attack and just great sound.
Mr. Evans and squad lovingly transported me to
the Village Vanguard courtesy of Gloria's Step, the system delivering a
remarkable sense of musical immersion and intimacy. The Naim Uniti Atom server
(around $3K) sounded great, delivering the famous pacing and bounce that made
the brand famous but with lovely tone, gripping textures, and excellent
This system did nothing wrong, and oh so much so
very right. A near top-of-the-heap Best Of Show contender.
New to me, and probably to anyone that missed the Capital Audiofest Show, Dutch newcomer Infigo Audio stunned with world class sound. The Class A Method 3 mono block amps ($50K the pair) and separate Method 4 DAC/line stage ($35,000) ensemble floored me with supremely black backgrounds, lightening quick transients, reference caliber tone and timbre, and delicate decays. The amp/DAC combo delivered music with real weight, gravitas, and momentum, and nary a hint of strain or noise. Air and bloom rivalled the finest tube amps I have ever heard.
Ahmad Jamal's lovely rendition of the jazz
standard I'm in the Mood for Love was a musical tour de force. The system
nailed the instrument's natural power and weight with bone-crushing dynamic
contrasts. One of the truly stellar amps currently available and an unqualified
Best of Show contender.AudioKinesis speakers (the Gina, my notes say at around
$22K per pair) and Fluvius streamer at $1,750 rounded out the package.
The Canadians teamed up this year with some American assistance to deliver a real treat. The Gershman/Cardas/exaSound room, joined by Yankee interloper Krell, gifted punchy taught bass, holographic sound staging, and fine focus. The Gershman Avant Garde speakers looked great in their painted blue high gloss finish and sounded even better.
Miles' Blue in Green
shimmered on top with lots of air and bloom, something I didn't really expect
from a Krell-powered system, particularly given that brand's traditional center
of the earth tonal weighting. Bass sounded taught, quick, and beautiful
extended. Another no turntable room, but one that coaxed, coddled, and cajoled
great sound from all-digital sources. A Best Of Show contender.
The House of Stereo squad put together a swell system featuring TAD Evolution One (E1TX) speakers ($29,900), T+A electronics, Wolf digital servers, VPI Avenger table and Van den Hul grail phono stage.
digital notes highlighted sound that was "vivid, electric, superbly transparent,
and captivating. Great image focus and clarity, if not quite the bloom I'm used
to hearing from my home setup. Great depth layering and quick transients. Vocals
were highly intelligible with fine focus and very good system timing.
Microscopic detail retrieval."