(NEWS) Florida International Audio Expo Coverage

This past weekend we drove down to Georgia for my Sister in Law’s Airforce Retirement Ceremony, and after that, we spent Saturday and Sunday at the Florida Audio Expo. It made for a very nice weekend full of family, friends, and fun. We had a great time with people we have known for some time now as well as meet new folks in the industry. We made the most of our 2 short days in Florida and visited as many rooms as we could, making sure to stop by a handful that had new products to show. As I have mentioned in other show reports, there is only one of me so I cover what I can and tend to go into more detail on a handful of my personal favorites. These rooms were all showing at least one product or a combo of products that I haven’t heard yet, which is a big thing I look for when i do show coverage to maximize my impact and time.

My Top Rooms at FLAX

House of Stereo / Nexus Audio Technologies / Highend By Oz

One of the House of Stereo rooms featured a wonderful lineup of products that led to a wonderful dynamic sound. What you see here top to bottom on the left is (computer for server control) the T+A SD 3100HV DAC (~$36,000), Wolf Audio Red Wolf 2 Server (starts at $9,400), Synergystic Research Galileo SX MKII Ground Block ($7,995). On the Right side starting at the top is the VPI Avenger Direct ($36,000) DS audio Grand Master System ($14,000), Synergystic Research Galileo Powercell SX ($27,995). The Cable loom is all Synergystic Research Galileo Discovery. In the Front is a Viva Audio Solista Integrated Amp ($29,500) and last but not least the speakers are the Stenheim Alumine 5 SE ($72,000).

Between Watler and I, we played a variety of music through the Wolf Server, some modern tracks, and some classic audiophile pieces as well. The sound was detailed and airy, and warmer than you may expect from an aluminum chassis. I will say the bass was not as powerful as I would have thought with the two large woofers, however, it was crisp, with absolutely no muddiness. The mids were impressive with great space and imaging, and the highs were for me, perfect, and not at all fatiguing. The Viva provided the tube warmth though with only 22 WPC, it still drove the Alumine 5 SEs to more than comfortable volume with no audible distortion. Over all I thought the room sounded great and I would love to hear it in an even better environment. It can be tough to get these hotel rooms to sound great due to the size, materials, and layout, but the House of Sound crew did a wonderful job taming the acoustics to sound great.

Highend By OZ

Oz always puts together a great room, it is certainly an easier task when the products you carry are all high-end, sort of like the name implies. Oz is a distributor for a handful of wonderful products Viva is one of them, and as you may be able to tell by now, I am a fan. They make wonderful, robust Tube amplifiers. Their Solista Integrated amp is practically a bargain in this industry, it packs major performance for the price. The gear shown from Top to Bottom is the Esoteric K-03XD ($15,000), The Thrax Maximus DAC (~$35,000), S.I.N. Audio PSD (~$9,000), and to the left is the Viva Solista Integrated amp ($29,500). The speakers shown are the Lansche NO. 5.2 ($49,500)

Oz knows me so well, that when I came to listen he picked one of my favorite recordings, the 1812 Overture Composed by Tchaikovsky. It is a wonderfully dynamic song with slow soft parts and fast loud crescendos. I was blown away by how well this system presented the piece. It sounded absolutely wonderful, the soft builds in the beginning of the piece were as forward as the louder finally. There was no need to turn up the volume to get the same detail throughout the whole piece. the bass that the Lansches provided was powerful and authoritative. The plasma tweeters have such speed and detail, I am not sure there is anything that compares and the symbols, triangles, and tambourines were so sharp it was unbelievable. It is hard for me to put into words just how good this system sounded.

Scott Walker / Synergystic Research

Ted from Synergystic Research also put together a great system with a complement of high-end gear. On the Left top to bottom, we have the Galileo SX MKii Ground Block, ($7,995) then a complement of SR linear power supplies and the SR Ethernet Switch ($3,795 and $2,295 respectively) then the JMF PRS 1.5 Preamplifier ($36,000) and HQS 6002 Stereo Power Amplifier ($42,000). On the right side, we have 2 SR Voodoo servers, one running the OS and the other running the music($14,995 each). Below that are the Ideon Absolute DAC and Absolute Time Signature V Reclocker ($47,000 and $22,000 respectively). At the bottom is the Synergystic Research Galileo Powercell SX ($27,995). Out front is something new from SR, it is a Powercell 8 ($3,495). All cables are SRX and are priced based on how you spec them out. SR also had a variety of tunning products throughout the room. The speakers are the Estelon XB MKII loudspeakers ($49,000).

Ted was playing various electronic music that I was not familiar with but was extremely exciting and heavy-hitting. While playing the music he switched on and off the Powercell 8’s proprietary circuitry as well as the Voodoos. I do not know exactly what it is but Ted described it as an electromagnetic system. The very obvious thing was how much the bass tightened up when it was on. There was a fairly audible difference with it off and on as the bass when off was a touch punchy, but when on it was cleaner and more detailed. The highs didn’t seem in my limited experience to be as affected. We are looking into reviewing the Powercell 8 as well as some other SR products so with more time spent I think other differences may be more apparent. Over all the room was top-notch and sounded wonderful. I was quite impressed with how well these speakers sounded in a relatively small space, though with proper tuning this is achievable.

Geshelli Labs

The Geshelli family are well known for their headphone amps and DACs, though they have started to take their know-how to the 2-channel world. They have released the Zoofa, a fantastic 2-channel integrated amp. As well they have the new Dayzee Dac. Both of them continue their design language using wood as a primary case material as well as aluminum for the face. They had the Zoofa powering a pair of Andrew Jones Point Source 10s which are not my favorite speakers, but I have to say I was a fan of how they sounded with the Geshelli electronics. It was honestly the best I have heard the Point Source speakers to date. The Zoofa and Dayzee are priced based on how you order them, as in you get to spec them out quite a bit to your liking.

We listened to a few different tracks but one that stuck out was All American Rejects – “Gives You Hell”. You could hear Tyson Ritter’s breaths in between lyrics. The detail was impeccable and the bass was strong. The Zoofa had more than enough power to push the woofer of the Point Source 10 with the control to keep it tight. The midrange was rich and warm, with vocals sounding natural. The Dayzee is on my radar to buy as my reference DAC, it has a fantastic set of inputs and outputs meaning you can plug all sorts of sources at the same time. On the back you will find:
– 2 TOSLINK Inputs (192khz/24bit)
– 2 Coax Inputs (192khz/24bit)
– Geshelli Amanero USB Module (384khz/32bit – DSD512 Native)
– 2 Sets of Balanced (XLR) Outputs
– 4 Sets of Unbalanced (RCA) Outputs
– Toslink Output
– Coax Output

Playback Distribution / Teac / Advance Paris / PMC

This room is another one that is more attainable for many hi-fi enthusiasts. Rob at Playback carries some very high-end brands but also offers affordable options as well. This room has PMC’s 26i, the 3-way floor standing speaker ($12,999/pair) at the top of the Twenty5i series paired with Advance Paris’s EVO series XP700 ($1999) Preamp and Stereo Amp (US show debut) 160EVO ($1999). Don’t miss the photo opportunity of the 9 active 160EVOs with their beautiful VU meters. TEAC’s TN5BB ($1799.99) balanced turntable and PE505 ($2099.99) balanced phono preamp will supply analog goodness. TEAC’s NT505X ($2249.99) Network player will be the streaming source. This room will be wired with Esprit Beta cabling throughout

I played a few familiar songs, such as The Nationals – “Alien”. The room room had a wonderful sound, the PMC 26i had a full midrange with an airy top end and their signature bass that always suprises me for the size. We reviewed the Prodigy 5 and these build on those, with more refinement and a maturity like aging a whisky. The addition of another driver means you get more clarity due to having a dedicated woofer and midrange. The small but great Teac Digital front end made for a wonderful source of high-rez audio. Advance Paris provided ample power without coloring the sound at all. We will be checking out some of the Advance Paris gear and Teac gear here soon.

Additional Rooms

There was not a single bad room that I visited at FLAX, and I wish I was able to cover every single one to the same degree as these are. However, I as mentioned am one person, and while my wonderful wife helps with shows she is there as a support and administrative role to keep me on time and task. However below are some honorable mentions that had great rooms that I can give a little info on and after that are a few innovations we saw at the show.

SVS New Flagship Speakers

These are replacing the current lineup of Ultra Speakers. These use a new cabinet design and driver layout, which are all time aligned which is why they are the shape that they are. These offer a bigger room-filling sound while also having a better sonic balance due to the driver’s arrangement. We will be checking these out more in the future

Wells Audio

Jeff has become a good friend over the years of doing this and I always make sure to stop by and have a listen. This time he had Tad speakers in his room and he had his Majestic II and Cypher Dac Level II. All wired by Cardas. He played a song for me that I must now find, Prince “Undertaker”. It is from an unreleased, well not officially released album by the same name. It was basically a jam session recorded in one take at the studio that the label didn’t want to put but got put out anyway in a limited capacity. It was a funky song and sounded great on the system. I love what Jeff does and we have an interview with him HERE, if you want to learn more.

Metaxas and Sins

Metaxas is a much an industrial design house as they are an audio designer. All of their gear is a work of art. I didn’t listen much to the 2 channel system though what I did hear I liked. However, I spent some time with their absolutely wild headphone amp shown below. it is the upper portion of a person, the nipples are the volume knobs and that is on purpose. This is a fully balanced design even as mentioned the volume is two separate knobs. It sounds absolutely sublime and I need one in my house pronto.

Industry Innovations

There were also individual Products that caught my attention but were not quite a “whole room” of gear. Such as headphones, or individual speakers. It is always awesome to see people trying new things in the industry and even better when they are successful designs.

Swan Song Audio

Tony and I have followed each other for some time on Instagram and I have watched his journey as he develops his headphones and amplifiers. Tony uses primarily 3D printing to create his custom parts for his headphones and amps. Though he has implemented wood in his headphones as well. This year I was able to finally hear what he has been working on FLAX. His headphones do not have a conventional shape, and that is what allows them to sound as good as they do. Tony uses a conical shape to move the driver away from your ear as well as amplify the sound like a horn. Then behind the driver is a resonance tube with interchangeable end caps that both can be tuned to your liking. This all culminates into a headphone that sounds incredible. There is more bass than you would ever expect from an open back, as well due to the driver placement you don’t get nearly as much “in your head” sound that headphones tend to have. It sounds closer to a speaker system where the music is coming from outside of the ear. They also don’t clamp on your head, they sit gently on your head and are incredibly comfortable. Now I will say if you listen laying down this may be an issue for you, though there are different size headbands so you may be able to get just enough clamp to keep them in place. I love what Tony is doing and you need to go follow him on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/swansongaudio/

Endow Audio

The main innovation may be obvious, the tweeter and mid-section on the top. The tweeter is a horn-loaded setup in a custom designed and 3D printed horn. Around the perimeter of the backside are nine 1.5” midrange drivers arranged in a unique ring array design. I was not familiar with the music being played when I visited this room, but I could tell it sounded nice to my ears. The tweeter was not overly bright like some horns can be and the midrange filled the room. The array on the back creates a sort of omnidirectional speaker as they face outward in all directions perpendicular to the tweeter. The bass on this model is handled by two 12-inch woofers. The result is a smooth detailed full-range speaker that breaks convention.

Orchard Audio

Orchard Audio is a pioneer in the GaN amplification technology and is still one of only a couple doing it. Orchard Audio has created a powerful and clean class D amp using the tech, as well as multiple amps as shown below. They offer both stereo and monoblock amplifiers so depending on how you want to configure your room they have you covered. they also have as shown here a fantastic streamer/preamp. This setup was bi-amping a pair of Southfield Audio 1212 Overture. Leo had me pick a song and I went with Massive Attacks “Mezzanine” and man did it sound great. The powerful and efficient class D amps had the subs going strong. We will be checking out some of their products for a full review soon so stay tuned.


Grandinote makes speakers and amplifiers as well as DACS and Phono preamps. Though, for me, the innovation is their Mach Speakers, the Mach 8 XL shown. This is set up as a line array with no crossover. That is correct there is no crossover in this speaker. I wouldn’t have thought this would be as effective as it is, you would think you would have either a lack of bass or muddy bass hiding the mid range, but no, you get good full coverage of the frequency range with clear highs and rich midrange. The bass is clear as well. I am not sure how exactly they achieve this but I was impressed.

The rest of the Shows Photos

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