Depending on whom you ask, there is uncertainty in the audio show business. Some forecast gloom and doom, suggesting that the show model has run its course, and that the COVID-19 pandemic has only heightened its irrelevance. Others (extroverts, I’m sure) have been dying to corner press contacts in person for the first time in two years in the show’s hallways—or over coffee at the restaurant’s breakfast bar or over drinks after hours—exuberant to share in the spectacle of the hotel audio experience.
It’s a trip, man. I’m still personally wary of grouped (especially unmasked) crowds but share the joy and enthusiasm of the latter. I want to experience it all.
Bart Andeer, Florida Audio Expo (FAE) cofounder and show operations manager, was pleased with Friday’s opening turnout. “We would’ve been happy if today’s [numbers] had been Saturday’s,” which is traditionally the busiest day of a show, he said Friday evening. In fact, FAE has already booked two more floors for the 2023 show and also plans for more rooms on each floor.
Still, who cares about next year when this year is happening now?
While Doug Schneider was scouring FAE for what’s new, I was charged with finding a vibe. What seams could I unravel? Which personalities could I discover? What is the it product generating buzz? Or, failing that . . . what am I finding or seeing in the trenches?
I didn’t have to go far to find an experience that literally changed my (however flawed) understanding of a particular type of product, and one that the two-channel crowd still hasn’t completely embraced.
RJS Acoustics, of Saint Petersburg, Florida, is seven and a half steps from my room at the Embassy Suites Hilton. The company builds tower speaker systems that most are wont to simply call subwoofers. RJS Acoustics differentiates its intent by naming its line a Bass Augmentation Speaker System, or B.A.S.S.
The room featured two passive MD2 B.A.S.S. towers ($2750 per pair, all prices in USD), powered by Dayton Audio SA1000 amplifiers ($500 each), augmenting a pair of Magnepan LRS speakers ($799 per pair), with front-end electronics by PS Audio and a variety of cables. The two MD2 towers sat time aligned with—and on the outsides of—the LRSes, crossed over at 70Hz.
I asked owner/designer John Schunk to play “Everything in Its Right Place” from Radiohead’s Kid A, the synthy and eclectic 2000 release that shook up the alternative-rock industry. The song is sparse, but the opening synthesizer is full, like a building wave that arcs and yet refuses to break. In some systems that feature a subwoofer, the opening synth notes are forceful and overpowering. The synth waves crash; it washes over you. This is the idea that people my age or younger have grown up with, that if you don’t feel the subwoofer—or in car audio, that if the trunk hasn’t created a rattling-induced distortion—you’re doing it wrong.
In the sweet spot, the MD2s filled in the lowest octaves without pretension or pronouncement. Bodybuilders and fitness buffs don’t need to flex to impress, and so, too, the MD2 doesn’t. But other unnamed tracks streamed from Qobuz did allow them to flex, and I marveled at the MD2s’ four 6.5″ drivers’ transient speed in the upper-bass frequencies (there are two drivers per MD2). It was a gentle person’s integration, in harmony with each LRS.
“I don’t want to make up added bass,” Schunk told me. “Adding [artificial] bass into the mix is distortion, and it changes the artist’s and engineer’s intent.”
Speaking on the show in general, partner Dave Duff said the turnout has been great.
“We were mobbed!” Duff exclaimed. “This is still one of the ways we can get people to hear our product.”