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Essential Sound

Thursday, March 12, 2020

EAN Audio Show Spotlight!
Florida Audio Expo 2020 Part II:
The South's Up And Coming Hi-Fi Show!


by Paul Elliott
  After a lively Friday with a good crowd going through the show, Saturday, Day 2,  could only be described as crowded. There were some rooms that I could not get into and I had to note to myself to come back. The Florida Audio Expo, was held Feb. 2 and 3 at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Tampa.
  These shows are great because there is always something new. I do not mean a new model or version of a previous product, but something that is really new in our realm. There is a company that has heard the cry of “bring out a product that makes sense!”

Andover's neo console
  Andover has brought a record player that can be considered by the way it sounds an entry-level audiophile product. The Model One Record Player dose sounds just great. Almost a throwback to the console. It is modular in that you can start off with the top (Model One), which consists of a built-in TT (Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Espirit SB), and cartridge (Ortofon OM2 Silver).

Consoles are cool again

  In this box, there are proprietary isolation for the TT, four woofers and two air motion tweeters, full-range preamp, bi-amplification, dedicated headphone amp, wireless Bluetooth, analog and digital connectivity, including Streaming Device Support. The digital connectivity includes a mini-USB connector for a two-way PC connection that will allow a 16-bit connection. There is an optical (24 bit/96k) and coax connection (24 bit/192k) for an external DAC connection. Sometime in the next three months, there will be a $100 streamer called the Songbird available. That is a lot of stuff in this small tabletop box.  
  But there’s more. You can add LP storage and or a subwoofer. The system needs to be against the wall and have space on either side. The sound radiates out the sides and bounces of the wall to give an extremely wide image. Yes, the Model One images; it’s dispersed, not sharp distinct instruments but has a very pleasant sound that would be home in any living room or dorm room. I consider this a lifestyle product for the average Joe. I am sure the high-end critics could pick the sound apart. But this is a product to play and enjoy music. Andover also has the Spinbase which is just the amp and speakers with built-in isolation for a user-supplied TT. 

Andover Planr magnetic PM-50 HPs

  And the surprises just keep coming. Andover has a planar magnetic headphone, the PM-50. These are open back, very comfortable and in keeping with the rest of Andover’s products, sound great at a very reasonable price point. $500. I do not think you can hear a better headphone unless you spend three times more.  Click Here for more company info.

Meze Empyrean HP and HeadAmp GS-X Mini-Amp

  I have made it a personal goal this year to gain an understanding of the headphone world of audio reproduction. I have been lucky to have a dedicated music room and felt there was no need in my life for headphones other than at the gym or on my workbench. So, at this show instead of skipping the headphone vendors, I started to explore with a renewed enthusiasm.
  I listened to the Meze Empyrean up in the Benchmark room, which I liked very much. So here in the HeadAmp room, I had another chance, coupled to their GS-X mini amp. Boy, was this a good combination. Talking about being there = into the music. Talking about silky smooth, like diving into a tub of warm peanut butter.

HeadAmp Blue Hawaii: perfect for playing Elvis music

  Their flagship system included a Blue Hawaii and the SR-009s Stax headphones. These headphones come alive with detail, transparency, and bass control unheard with lesser amplifiers. This was a very special sound; also, very fast and precise. The Blue Hawaii amp uses EL84 output tubes. They have solved the production lag time and can now promise four-week delivery. Click Here for more company info.

ML Renaissance alway first class
  The Martin Logan room was sounding great, better than I have heard at other shows.The Renaissance ESL 15A (Featuring a 15-inch (CLS™) XStat™ electrostatic transducer, dual 12-inch PoweredForce Forward™ woofers powered by dual 500-watt Class-D amplifiers, and controlled by a 24-Bit Vojtko™ DSP Engine and Anthem Room Correction). This efficient speaker is capable of 22 Hz to 21 kHz frequency response (the demo room did not need the Balanced Force 212 subwoofer).

MartinLogan Renaissance And the Mac 352 INT

  ML’s Dennis Chern set up the room perfectly with a very wide image and no beaming of the highs. The music was very fine from anywhere in the room. The new McIntosh 352 Integrated amp a hybrid design with a vacuum tube preamp and solid-state power amp, capable of 200 Watts into 8 Ohms and 320 Watts into 4 Ohms with a 5-band tone control. MAC has kept the classic look in this unit, for all the MAC lovers out there. Click Here for more company info.

70 wpc made-in-Greece Tsakiridis Aeolos Ultra integrated amp

  Antal Audio Group, an upstate NY dealer, was showing a pair of french Triangle Signature Delta speakers driven by Tsakiridis electronics. Tsakiridis are Greek designed and built. I find the Tsakiridis equipment most intriguing. First, there was lots of glass, and I like tube amps.
  There was a configuration the would make just about anyone happy. SET’s, push-pull's, Integrated, power amps, monoblocks, preamps, you name it and they have it, in what I call as an updated classic form. Very handsome looking stuff, at a price point that is hard to believe. The sound was excellent, would make anyone very happy to have in their living room.

Triangle Signature Delta

  What we were hearing was the middle of the line of Triangle speakers, driven by very reasonably priced electronics. The Alexander line-level preamp with phono retails for $2,695. The Orpheus (211) 15w monoblocks were $3,600/pair. The Aeolos Ultra (KT150) 70 watt integrated is $3295. This stuff is a bargain. Click Here for more conpany info.

Spatial Audio And LTA
  In the Spatial Audio room, they had a show special for $10.5k that was a shocker. The sound was alive, a being there moment. We had the Spatial Audio M3 Sapphire, introduced earlier this year with the Lampizator Amber 3 DAC ($2750) and the Linear Tube Audio Z10 Integrated amp ($4,900). If you did the math you were practically getting the DAC for free. When they said, “Show Special” they meant it.

Spatial Audio M3

  I have known Mark Schnieder from the beginning of LTA and watched and listen to the growth and improvements in the products over time. But I noticed a big change at last year's Axpona. Music was becoming more to my liking, sweeter, rounder, and most satisfying. So when I had the chance I asked, “what changed”? Besides the obvious, Mark told me   that the new case work not looks really good, but it also dampens vibrations in the unit.
  He told me they just spent a lot of time listening to various components in the signal path and made changes where it was a positive change. This integrated amp if your speakers are highly efficient is a beautiful piece of kit.

Made-in-Maryland Linear Tube Audio Z10 integrded amplifier

  The Spatial Audio M3 is a good match for this Integrated. This is a two-way open baffle speaker. I am a big fan of dipoles. They present what I feel is a very realistic image. There is nothing holding anything back here. Nothing to get in the way of the music. Presence, presence, presence. Drop the mike.
I went back on Sunday morning and listened again talked with Clayton Shaw for a while, and bought a pair. Click Here for more Spatial Audio info. Click Here for more LTA info.

"Kick-ass" HP amp from TCA
  On TCA’s website under the “About” tab, it says – “I am Tom Christiansen, and I design kick-ass audio circuits!” I heartily agree. Tom Christiansen designs and builds the little HPA-1 headphone amp in Canada. Only the case is made overseas.

The TCA HPA-1 will "catch your ear"

  This amp can drive almost any headphone (Non-electrostatics) with 1-watt output at 32 ohms and .25 watt at 300 ohms. The noise floor is in a black hole along with the THD; “kick-ass” is right. I listened with the Sennheiser HD-600 and a Tidal feed. I could have spent the rest of the day there, mining the music library, and I know I would never tire of the sound. This $899 amp gave up a large and highly realistic soundstage that kept my interest note after note. 
  Click Here for more company info.

MoFi $10,000 Audio System
 The final room for the day was the MoFi room. Another $10k show special room. I guess the bean counters figured that $10,000 was a magic price point for an impulse system buy.

Swiss-made Piega Premium Wireless 701

  The speakers were the Piega Premium Wireless 701 from Switzerland. This was the USA debut. A nice looking aluminum cabinet floor stander. These were active and wireless. Just an AC mains cable. Controlling these beauties was the new Primare I15 integrated amp being used as a preamp. A very clean looking and sounding system. Click Here for more company info.

***More Florida Audio Show coverage to follow with Part Three!***

  Paul Elliott is a long-time audiophile, based in Baltimore. He is a freelance writer and chief photographer of the DC Hi-Fi Group. 
  EAN is an audio review web site/blog. EAN Founder John Gatski has been evaluating consumer, audiophile, home cinema and professional audio gear since 1988. In 1995, he created Pro Audio Review, and he has written for SoundOnSound, Audio, Laserviews, Enjoy The Music, The Audiophile Voice, High Performance Review, Radio World and TV Technology. Everything Audio Network is based in Kensington, Md. Articles on this site are the copyright of the ©Everything Audio Network. Any unauthorized use, via print or Internet, without written permission is prohibited. John Gatski can be reached via email: everything.audio@verizon.net

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