Florida Audio Expo was renamed Florida International Audio Expo for this year—but it was purely coincidental that the first new products I saw originated outside of the United States. My first report focused on products from Focal and Naim Audio, based respectively in France and the United Kingdom. This report covers products from companies located in Austria, Japan, and Germany, as well as the United Kingdom; all prices are in US dollars.
Fine Sounds Americas is the US distributor for Pro-Ject Audio Systems, which is headquartered in Austria, and Rotel, which is based in Japan. In the photo above, Jeffrey Coates, director of marketing for Fine Sounds Americas, is holding a Pro-Ject Connect it S balanced phono cable, which creates a balanced connection between a turntable with a moving-coil cartridge and a phono stage with balanced inputs, such as Pro-Ject’s Phono Box S3 B ($499), which Coates is holding above the cable. Pro-Ject is bullish on balanced phono connections because of their ability to eliminate noise and hum that could be picked up by the cable run between the turntable and phono preamp.
Coates told me that the Connect it S cable is priced from $100 to $150 for a 4′ (1.23m) length depending on the type of connections. Right now, Pro-Ject uses mini-XLR connectors on its balanced phono stages, so it offers Connect it S cables with mini-XLR-to-dual-RCA (for typical turntables with left- and right-channel RCA outputs), mini-XLR-to-dual-XLR, and mini-XLR-to-mini-XLR terminations.
Coates also showed me two nifty upgrade products for Pro-Ject turntables and electronic components: the Power Box DS3 Sources and Power Box S3 Phono external power supplies, priced respectively at $799 and $249.
According to Pro-Ject’s website, the DS3 Sources “significantly enhances the sound quality of up to six Box Design components, like streamers, CD players, pre-amplifiers and also offers the possibility to connect a DC-driven turntable.” The site further explains that the “linear power supply consists of a massive toroidal transformer with shielding between primary and secondary winding, which acts as an isolating transformer and avoids penetration of interferences from mains into the audio component. The built-in transformer has a much higher power reserve compared to the standard power adapter.”
As the name suggests, the Power Box S3 Phono is designed for phono-related products. Coates told me that, insofar as turntables go, it works with models “up to the X1.” As I happen to own that very ’table, maybe I’ll try one someday. According to the Pro-Ject site, the “two outputs are specifically engineered to power Pro-Ject turntables and phono preamps. The sophisticated DC filtration can have a dramatic impact on the sound quality.”
Then there’s the Rotel S14, priced at $2499. It’s the company’s first streaming integrated amplifier, which is why it has a front-panel color display that can “display album artwork, track, and title information and simplifies the setup and configuration process using the included remote control.” The S14 uses a traditional class-AB amplifier topology to deliver up to 80Wpc into 8 ohms or 140Wpc into 4 ohms. Digital-to-analog conversion is handled by an ESS chipset. The S14 can access a network through an ethernet connection or wirelessly via Wi-Fi. Additional digital connectivity options include coaxial RCA, optical TosLink, and USB through back-panel connectors, as well as Bluetooth (aptX HD and AAC). Analog isn’t eschewed—the front panel has a 1/8″ headphone jack, while on the back panel are a set of RCA inputs, a set of RCA preamp outputs, and a single RCA subwoofer output (full-range with left and right channels summed). Dennis Burger has already received a sample for review on SoundStage! Simplifi.
Attending shows provides an opportunity for conversations with manufacturers you might not otherwise meet face-to-face. We’ve recently written extensively about the RME ADI-2 DAC FS on SoundStage! Hi-Fi and SoundStage! Xperience, and I recently created a video about it on our YouTube channel. I’ve been confused about the relationship between Synthax, the company that sent us the ADI-2, and RME. Derek Badala, Synthax’s director of sales for the Americas (i.e., North and South America), explained it to me.
I thought Synthax was simply RME’s US distributor. I learned from Badala that Synthax owns RME, that both companies are based in Germany, and that Synthax has distribution subsidiaries around the world. In effect, Synthax and RME are one and the same.
With that out of the way, I can describe the stack on display, which, from top to bottom, has the ADI-2 DAC FS, ADI-2 Pro FS R, and ADI-2/4 Pro SE, priced respectively at $1299, $1999, and $2499. They look similar, but if you look closely, you’ll see differences with the headphone connectors and also the case sizes—the ADI-2/4 Pro SE’s case is deeper than the cases of the other two. If you read Matt Bonaccio’s review on SoundStage! Hi-Fi, you’ll know that the ADI-2 DAC FS has a shit ton of features—too many to hash out here—so instead I’ll cut to the chase about what you get when you pay more.
When you move from the ADI-2 DAC FS to the ADI-2 Pro FS R, you trade in the 1/8″ IEM jack that the ADI-2 DAC FS has for an extra 1/4″ headphone jack, which allows for the hookup of two sets of headphones or a single set of balanced headphones. With the ADI-2 Pro FS R, you also get analog inputs and a high-grade analog-to-digital converter. When you move up to the ADI-2/4 Pro SE, you retain the Pro FS R’s analog inputs and A-to-D converter, you retain the dual 1/4″-jack functionality and get the 1/8″ jack back, and you also get an internal phono preamp, so you can hook up a turntable and have RME’s analog-processing magic do its thing. It’s that phono option that intrigues me, so if we review another RME product, it will likely be the ADI-2/4 Pro SE.
By the way, RME fans are probably aware the company offers a DAC priced lower than the three outlined above, the ADI-2 FS, at $949. That’s not shown because Badala told me that parts-supply issues have caused the ADI-2 FS to be backordered for a long time. He’s unsure when it will be shipping.
Based in Oxfordshire, England, Falcon Acoustics was founded by Jerry Bloomfield (left in photo above); its chief designer is Graeme Bridge (on right), formerly of ProAc. The company became famous for its authentic recreation of the legendary BBC LS3/5A monitor, which it still sells, but it has other speakers too. The newest is the M10, but it isn’t super new—we covered it last November at Warsaw’s Audio Video Show 2022. But because FIAE marked the M10’s North American debut, and because the M10s sounded so good when we heard them in Poland, I wanted to revisit this UK-manufactured speaker in this report.
Priced at $2295 per pair, the M10 is a two-way standmount featuring a B100 5″ midrange-woofer designed and manufactured by Falcon Acoustics; it’s crossed over at 3kHz to a 1″ soft-dome tweeter. Frequency response is said to be ±3dB from 40Hz to 30kHz and ±2dB from 70kHz to 20kHz, while sensitivity is said to be 86dB (2.83V/m). The standard finish is a walnut-type real-wood veneer; rosewood veneer is available for an additional cost.
Unfortunately, when I visited the room at the end of the first day, Bloomfield and Bridge had the M10s pulled to the side and were playing their LS3/5As. But they told me that the M10s would be set back up in the morning, so I agreed to return then—and will likely bring Hans Wetzel with me—to listen in depth. So there’s a good chance you’ll hear more about this speaker from me and/or Hans in a future report.