Florida Audio Expo 2022 Show Report
On the 5th floor the LampizatOr North America team (with designer Lukasz Fikus basking quietly in the tube-suffused afterglow) gifted the assembled unworthy masses with the launch of their Horizon single-box reference DAC ($50k, paired with the firm's $8,170 Gulfstream server), the LNA ably joined by a VAC Statement 450i iQ Integrated Amplifier (a cool $150k) and Tobian 12fh speakers. In a packed room, the highly efficient Tobian speakers placed along the long wall, I heard full-bodied and Uber-dynamic sound with drop-dead gorgeous tone. Vivid and colorful, with see-through transparency, the sound was an oasis of relaxing clam. Natural sibilants, no overhang, and natural transients my notes stated.
The sound was also eerily holographic in almost 3D relief. Center of the planet bass weight and drive anchored the presentation to the here-and-now. Voice and piano bloomed with life-like urgency and natural tone and impact. This was amazing sound, just amazing. A Best Of Show contender. WOW!!!
Unique Home Audio of Dunedin, FL, one of a growing number of retailer/ exhibitors, thrilled with an Acoustic Signature Typhoon Neo turntable, Aguilar tonearm and cartridge, Gold Note electronics, new Atma-sphere Class B solid-state amps, and Gold Note A6 speakers. I spent a good half-hour grooving to a selection of tasty pop and soul classics, all vinyl gems. Mighty Sam McClain's moving Give it Up to Love delivered delicious touch, with excellent micro-dynamic expression, very good system focus, and a nice sense of flow. Sam's earthy, soulful growl took me back to the 1970s, the golden era of the great soul men. Moving stuff!
On a Higher Note's Philip O'Hanlon enchanted with his larger-than-life personality and large as life sound. The Swedish-designed and built Moonriver 404 Reference integrated amp ($4,995 with built-in phono stage) and Danish Bergmann Modi air-bearing turntable and Thor air-bearing arm ($8,990 for the table, $17K for the table/arm combo, plus $1,200 Hana MC cartridge) drove the Derek Hughes-authored Graham Audio LS 8/1 loudspeakers (approx. $9k per pair with stands) to truly gorgeous effect.
Everything O'Hanlon played sounded of a piece, with incredible coherence, superb focus, and scintillating naturalness. Composer/producer/bass guitar wunderkind Marcus Miller's Siesta soundtrack sounded positively otherworldly, with ambience, air, and electric tension thick enough to cut. A BOS contender, and proof positive that vinyl replay still holds the edge over digital in its ability to engage and delight the inner music lover.
Suncoast Audio's massive second floor room grooved courtesy of Vanessa Fernandez and a stellar line up of top-flight gear - Vivid Giya G1 Spirit loudspeakers ($93K), Czech Block Audio Class A mono SE amps ($60K the pair), matching preamp ($45K), Aurender N30SA server ($24K), MSB Select 2 DAC, Nordost cable loom (approx. $100K). My notes highlighted "vibrant, colorful sound, terrifically open, and eerily transparent. Good body and bloom, if not the best at the show. Great focus and clarity.Lovey mids and treble.
The G1s unusual nautilus-inspired form pays huge sonic dividends, sounding both incredibly coherent and magnificently "out of box". Almost panel-like in presentation but with big box slam and punch. Great depth of field layering. These are simply lovely speakers, sanely priced as such exotica goes, and sounding every bit like genuine full range references."
Although I lack the space to house the Block gear, I have put the Suncoast Audio team in touch with Mr. Hyper Audio himself, Greg Weaver, for a follow-up. This is one promising line of European electronics.
Around the corner, the Borresen Acoustics BØRRESEN 01 minis filled a large room with protean sound. Paul Simon's Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes soared. I particularly loved the wall-to-wall staging, hard-hitting dynamic swings, and seemingly center-of-the-earth low end extension (down to what sounded like the mid 30Hz range). All together this added up to near full-range delivery. Great timing, coherence, and focus rounded out a stellar package. Slap me, mama! Aavik electronics, Ansuz cabling (loomed), and minimal room treatment maximized dynamic expressiveness. Maybe, just maybe, the ribbon tweet sang a bit hot and came across as a touch raspy when driven too hard, but below that threshold, everything was smooth sailing. Wow! Music Qobuz streamed.
Florida Audio Expo 2022 Roundup
1. Most important new (well, almost new) electronics introduction: infigo Audio's stunning Method 3 Class A power amps and matching Method 4 DAC / preamp. Stunning sound, with breathtaking transient attack, lingering decays, and stellar dynamics. This room offered everything. The stellar Block electronics came in just behind the infigo products, offering to my ears, just a little bit less transient fidelity and speed.
2. Most important speaker introduction: the Von Schweikert ULTRA 7s really took my breath away. From top to bottom, their gravity defying ability to disappear into the exhibition room constantly dumbfounded this reviewer. In some ways, this may be the finest VSA speaker I have encountered, although Leif Swanson and Damon Von Schweikert would bestow that honor on the mammoth ULTRA 11s.
3. Most exciting audio discoveries: Two firms share this honor - The Orlando, Florida-based Alex Sound Technology distributor/retailer and the Blink Audio team. The former's pairing of the Blumenhofer Genuin FS-2 Mk.2 floor-standers with the lovely Takatsuki 300B integrated amplifier (8 Watts per channel at $29K) gifted extraordinarily lively, vivid, immersive sound that genuinely excited. Welcome back, Blumenhofer.
Blink High End, a USA distributor working with the Matterhorn Audio Group / FinkTeam, similarly thrilled this reviewer with their pairing of the diminutive FinkTeam KIM speakers to the Creek CD player (the Voyage $3,495)), Linn Klimax DSM server (with onboard Organik DAC $39K), and Aavik Acoustics i-580 integrated amplifier ($25,200). A perfect combination for space-starved musical lovers with some stock market-fired do-re-mi to burn on lovely gear and great sound.
4. Most exciting digital introduction: No mysteries here, friends. LampizatOr North America's launch of the new Horizon single-box reference DAC ($50k, paired with the firm's $8,170 Gulfstream server) may be a game changer. Vivid and colorful, with class-defining transparency, the Horizon is one to watch.
5. Best old school vibes: The nod here goes to On a Higher Note's dapper Philip O'Hanlon. Mr. O'Hanlon enchanted with a life-affirming combination of utter simplicity: the Moonriver 404 Reference integrated amp, the Danish Bergmann Modi air-bearing turntable and Thor air-bearing arm (plus Hana MC cartridge), and the old school/new body Graham Audio LS 8/1 loudspeakers.
The first great audio system I ever heard consisted of a pair of venerable Spendor SP1 speakers, Heybrook TT2 turntable, and Audio Research electronics. The sound that humble system gifted changed how I saw (and see) audio and floored me with its sheer musicality and charm. Philip's elegantly minimal setup conveyed that same magic, taking me full circle in my audio journey.
When it comes to system building, maybe simpler is better. And yes, I'm going to pester Philip for a review sample.