Unlike Friday, when I drove to Montreal on the morning Audiofest opened and couldn’t find parking anywhere near the Hotel Bonaventure, where the show is held, on Saturday morning I woke up at the hotel and began making my rounds the moment the show opened.
How can a country with as small a population as Canada incubate so many high-end turntable manufacturers? When I say, “so many,” I actually mean “three.” First off there’s Oracle, the granddaddy of Canadian record players. I recall seeing an Oracle ’table for the first time in the early 1980s—I was absolutely transfixed by its baroque, crystalline construction. Its successor is still in production as the Delphi MkVI. Oracle is at the Audiofest this year, but I’m not here to talk about them.
I’m fairly certain that whenever most people think of MartinLogan speakers, an image of an electrostatic panel comes to mind. Probably one of the company’s classic hybrid speakers with a dynamic woofer at the bottom.
I’ve attended the annual Montreal audio show for over 20 years. Usually, I arrive the day before the show opens and leave late on the final day. But to be a little more efficient with my time this year, I decided to arrive on the morning of the first day. That was a mistake.
On Friday morning, the first day of the 2023 Montreal Audiofest, my daughter, Toni, and I were sitting at breakfast in the Hotel Bonaventure’s Le Bisco restaurant. Audiofest has been held in the Hotel Bonaventure for how long—a decade now?
I’ve known about Kharma for a very long time. I’ve seen their speakers reviewed in magazines and encountered them at shows over the years. And it’s always been the beautiful, raked, “entry-level” Elegance models that sprang to my mind on hearing the Dutch brand’s name. For one reason or another, I’ve never had the opportunity to sit and listen to a pair, but 18 months ago I began a conversation with Vivienne van Oosterum, the daughter of Kharma founder, Charles van Oosterum, that ultimately led to a pair of Kharma’s Elegance dB7-S loudspeakers (US$31,250 per pair) being deposited on my driveway, in mid-December 2022.
Since I’m mostly* unable to spend paycheck money on this hobby, I tend not to hold on to extra gear for very long. Freeing up old and unused gear on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace is a great way to meet like-minded local enthusiasts, but it also allows me to fund other, later purchases. It was with both these thoughts in mind that I listed my Ortofon 2M Bronze ($419, all prices USD) moving-magnet phono cartridge for sale, even though it saved my butt for a few weeks recently.
Some favorite sounds, a new Pink Triangle, and a little Atmos . . .
I can’t count how many times I have attended the Bristol Hi-Fi Show during its 34-year history, but it’s well into double figures. This has long been one of my favorite shows on account of its cozy hotel environment and the camaraderie I find here. Due to its compact layout, I often bump into people without even trying.
Birthdays in Bristol
Three leading audio companies were celebrating significant anniversaries at Bristol. Linn, Naim, and Rega were all founded in 1973 and hit their 50th anniversaries this year. Meanwhile, Wales-based Leema Acoustics celebrates 25 years in 2023. It’s testament to the engineering, marketing, customer focus, and passion of these companies that they have managed to prosper in such a globally competitive market.
Three years after the last Bristol Hi-Fi Show, in 2020, the British audio industry returned in strength to the Delta Hotels by Marriott in Bristol City Centre, from February 24 to 26. There was a palpable sense of excitement in the air as punters, manufacturers, designers, and journos came together to celebrate the universal power of high-quality music and movies.
Rounding out my final day here at the Florida International Audio Expo, I cobbled together a roundup of new loudspeakers that would give you a flavor of the diversity found here at the Embassy Suites Tampa Westshore. All prices are in US dollars.
There are a lot of high-priced loudspeakers here at the Florida International Audio Expo, and each of the various designs can be described as ambitious, from the speaker’s architecture and driver complement to the cabinet material and build quality. But having heard Ammar Jadusingh’s dual-speaker Soundfield Audio Obelisk T710 loudspeaker system, which retails for $15,000 (in USD), I can confidently say that his new loudspeaker system is the most ambitious product at the show. Let me explain.
I’ll be honest: there’s some insanely priced equipment here at the Florida International Audio Expo. A lot of it, actually. And so, on the second day of the show, I went searching for equipment that most audiophiles could realistically aspire to own—gear that doesn’t cost as much as a well-optioned BMW 3-Series. Here’s what I found, with all prices in US dollars.
My first two reports from Tampa featured new products from companies located outside of the United States, which demonstrates why this event is now called the Florida International Audio Expo. My final report has products from companies based in the United States, with all prices in US dollars.
A lot of loudspeakers are derived from the same basic recipe: a dome tweeter, midrange cone, and woofer cone arranged vertically in some kind of box. Obviously, there are differences in materials and the number of drivers involved, but it’s a tried-and-true recipe that’s hard to improve on—right? Maybe so, but here are two speakers that depart radically from that formula.
TAD, short for Technical Audio Devices, brought the newest version of its Compact Evolution One standmounted loudspeaker to the Florida International Audio Expo for its North American debut. At a quick glance, the CE1TX looks an awful lot like the original CE1, which was introduced back in 2015. As always, the devil is in the details.
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.
I’ve covered my fair share of audio shows in the past decade, and while most rooms and setups tend to congeal into a hazy memory, Avantgarde Acoustic’s rooms always stand out from the crowd. The German company’s horn loudspeakers look—and sound—different from anything else offered in the high end. Florida International Audio Expo 2023 marked the global debut of the new Duo GT loudspeaker system, presented by House of Stereo, a high-end dealer located in Jacksonville, Florida.
The annual Florida Audio Expo began in 2019. Florida Audio Expo 2021 was canceled due to COVID-19, so the 2023 event marks the fourth time the show has been presented. It’s still a three-day event (February 17 to 19 this year), but the 2023 iteration showed a bit of a twist—instead of being called Florida Audio Expo, it’s now called Florida International Audio Expo (FIAE) to better reflect the fact that this show now has international appeal, for both attendees and exhibitors. The name change also shows that this event is firmly established and, therefore, a success.
A few months back I wrote about the system in my new living room, which includes an NAD M10 V2 integrated amplifier-DAC, Focal’s 1000 IW6 two-way in-wall loudspeakers, and KEF’s KC62 microsubwoofer. I love the KC62 because it’s perfect for my use case: a tiny 10″-cubed footprint married to extension and control below 30Hz. It looks unobtrusive in my room while still offering proper audiophile performance. If there’s an asterisk to this heroic little subwoofer, it’s the matter of output. Above a certain volume its extension begins to roll off to ensure that the little-sub-that-could doesn’t blow itself to pieces, and no matter how accomplished the hardware or DSP is, there is no replacement for displacement (as they used to say in the car world).
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