Florida Audio Expo 2022 - Tampa, USA
- Written by Doug Schneider Doug Schneider
- Parent Category: Shows-Events Shows-Events
- Created: 19 February 2022 19 February 2022
The speed with which my first round of coverage showed up online was because the manufacturers whose products it featured sent out detailed preshow press releases about what they’d be displaying at Florida Audio Expo 2022. Having that information ahead of time let me know that those products would be there and provided details that I didn’t have to waste time getting in the display rooms. Instead, I went straight for the rooms the products were in, photographed them, got out, wrote them all up, and then uploaded the completed coverage online. I am bringing this up as a less-than-subtle hint for those manufacturers still wondering about the best way to get covered in a show report quickly.
This next batch of products I had to look a little harder for, but as I said in that first coverage article, there were more new products at Florida Audio Expo 2022 than I expected, so they weren’t all that tough to find. All prices are in US dollars.
Infigo Audio is a new company from British Columbia, Canada. The word infigo is Latin for impressive. There’s some interesting history here; in fact, this may be the most interesting manufacturer and product story of this show.
Founder Hans Looman told me that the products being shown at Florida Audio Expo—the Method 3 mono amplifier and Method 4 DAC—were ready to be shown about two years ago, but the COVID-19 pandemic hit, so everything got put on hold. Furthermore, the history of the amplifier technology he uses dates back to a company called Resonessence Labs, a spin-off of ESS Technology, maker of the famous Sabre DAC chips. Looman designed the Projecta amplifier, which was supposed to be marketed under the Resonessence Labs name at least a decade ago, but that company folded before the amp came out. I saw that amplifier at the show in Montreal, but I always wondered what happened to it. Now I know, and you do, too. That misfortune is what caused Looman to strike out on his own.
Priced at $50,000 per pair, the Method 3 is said to be a pure-class-A amplifier capable of outputting up to 250W continuously into 4 ohms “without cooking the room.” In other words, it stays cool—proven to me when I laid my palm across one of the heatsinks after it had been on all day. That’s achieved through a unique circuit design that Looman says took three years of experimentation and thought. He told me that the solution—which, as I understand it, keeps the positive and negative transistors on all the time but fluctuates their current draw—came to him one day at 3 o’clock in the morning. He said he got out of bed and ran to his lab—by 6 o’clock that morning it was working.
Another nifty feature that has nothing to do with performance but everything to do with aesthetics is the window on top of the amp, allowing for a clear view of the electronics inside. A metal plate covers this window, but Looman made it so it’s easily removed, which he likened to being able to lift the hood on a high-performance car. The Method 3 on display in Florida had gold-colored metalwork, but it’s also available in silver or black.
The Method 4 DAC is priced at $35,000, and it also has a removable top with a window that allows a look inside. It’s also available in gold, silver, or black. At its heart are, as you’d expect given the history I outlined, Sabre ES9038PRO chips that Infigo says are “governed by modern ARM-based controllers.” Digital inputs include two S/PDIF coaxial (one RCA, the other BNC), one S/PDIF optical (TosLink), one AES/EBU (XLR), and one USB. It’s the USB input that supports the highest resolutions: up to 32-bit/768kHz PCM and DSD512. Since the Method 4 has a digital volume control, you can hook it directly to a pair of Method 3 monoblocks (or any amplifier) through balanced or single-ended outputs—or you can bypass the volume control when connecting to a conventional preamplifier.
Hailing from the Czech Republic, Block Audio and its products aren’t new to the world, but they are new to North America, through Florida’s Suncoast Audio, which is now the distributor. We’ve actually covered the company’s products at other events around the world more than once, but we saw it fitting to include them here because this is the first time we’ve seen Block Audio products displayed on this side of the ocean, and now that they’re here, it likely won’t be the last time.
Driving a pair of Vivid Audio Giya Spirit loudspeakers were a pair of Mono Block SE mono power amplifiers, priced at $60,000 for the pair. The Mono Block SE is a pure-class-A design rated to deliver at least 200W into 8 ohms via a 2500VA custom-made toroidal transformer and 500,000uF of power-supply filtering capacitance.
Driving the Mono Block SEs was the companion Line & Power Block preamplifier, priced at $45,000. It’s a dual-mono, dual-chassis design, with the audio circuitry in one case and the power supply in the other. The product literature describes the design as follows: “Both channels, supply units, and non-audio circuits are physically separate and electrically isolated.” What’s more, the audio-signal circuitry is powered by a battery bank that lasts about 15 hours. But should the battery run out, there’s a “smart automatic function” that engages the charging mode, which also engages when the preamp is turned off. Also included is a class-A headphone amplifier, as well as a moving-magnet/moving-coil phono stage positioned as discrete “blocks” in the center of the audio-circuitry and power-supply cases for better isolation.
Poland’s Lampizator displayed the Horizon DAC, which made its world debut at this show. Priced at $49,000, it’s one of the most expensive single-chassis DACs we’ve ever come across, though for those who can afford the Horizon, it has some unique features. The literature states that it features “zero opamps, zero transistors, pure tube output, pure resistor conversion.” We assume, then, that it contains bespoke digital-to-analog conversion circuitry, not an off-the-shelf chipset.
The Horizon’s tube complement consists of one 5U4G, two 6SN7GTs, and four EL34s. The product specification sheet also lists more than one dozen other tubes that are also compatible and can be swapped in. Digital inputs include one S/PDIF coaxial (RCA), one S/PDIF optical (TosLink), one AES/EBU (XLR), and two I2S (HDMI and RJ45) inputs. The Horizon also has a 64-step volume control for direct connection to a power amp, though it can be bypassed if a separate preamplifier is being used.
I’d love to see hi-fi products featured on The Price Is Right to see if anyone other than the most diligent audiophiles could come remotely close to guessing the correct prices for, say, any of the products I described in the captions above—all in the tens of thousands of dollars, so more than many cars—or this one, AGD Productions’ new Tempo SE amplifier, which measures just 5″H × 11″W × 7″D and weighs only 11 pounds. It’s $6300, in case you’re wondering, though it’s available for $800 less as the plain ol’ Tempo. The only difference is that it has a simple black or silver case instead of the shiny one shown.
Each Tempo version is claimed to output 100Wpc into 8 ohms as a stereo amp or 400W into 4 ohms as a bridged monoblock. The company’s literature describes the Tempo as the brand’s first compact stereo amplifier based on the same GaN (gallium nitride) MOSFETs used in AGD’s larger Vivace mono amplifier, which is claimed to be the world’s first amplifier to use these transistors and is available as a new MKII version for $15,000 per pair. Balanced and single-ended inputs are standard for both Tempo versions. All AGD Productions products are designed and made in Los Angeles, California.