What a Great Show!

I've attended a lot of audio shows since I started writing for the high-end press close to two decades ago. Yet rarely have I experienced one with a vibe as upbeat and optimistic as the inaugural Florida Audio Expo's. Despite the fact that the majority of exhibitors know me from previous shows and feel comfortable sharing their bitches and peeves with me, I received nothing but positive feedback from everyone I spoke with.

Certainly no one complained about the attendance. Some were surprised by Friday's considerable turnout, which included far more than retirees, or by Sunday's smaller but still noteworthy showing. I've attended many shows where people are busy packing their gear before the close. Yet, despite the fact that the Florida Audio Expo closed at 5 on Sunday, while some other shows call it quits at 4, every door I passed remained open.

Many rooms, such as Vanatoo's, where I snapped the above photo, had SRO crowds. Nor were those crowds limited to exhibits with low-priced products. MBL/UHA, Wilson/Audio Research, and MartinLogan/Parasound, to name but three higher-priced rooms that carried well-known brands, were mobbed. In addition, almost every attendee was respectful during demos, and refrained from the tendency to carry on private conversations. I only heard two cell phones go off in rooms, and no one blinded me by texting on a bright screen and then giving me attitude when I politely asked if they could turn it down. The respectfulness also applied to the exhibitors I encountered, who are sometimes so fried by Day Three that they ignore half the people who walk into their room.

As for the hotel itself, the gym was decent, the pool-area chaise lounge poor but spacious, and the location near the airport ideal. Non-exhibitors who stayed in the hotel enjoyed two-room suites, complete with kitchens, two TVs, and thick walls for sound isolation. Three cheers for the firmest mattress I can remember in a hotel setting, and for the friendliness of the hotel staff. If you wanted some diversion, you could head to the beach, or to the mall directly across the street. When I found a Fresh Kitchen franchise five blocks away and a PF Chang's across the street, I was in heaven. Exhibitors were forced to cope with tables, furniture, built-in TVs, and the like, none of which could be stored elsewhere, but everyone who was set-up savvy coped quite well.

The "push-pull" PR strategy adopted by the four show sponsors—Bart Andeer, President of the Suncoast Audiophile Society and Resolution Acoustics; Ammar Jadusingh (aka AJ), owner of Soundfield Audio; Mike Bovaird, proprietor of Suncoast Audio; and John Chait, a longtime DIY audiophile who is a member of both the Suncoast and Sarasota clubs—worked well. Not only did the men reach out to the strong audiophile societies of the SE, but they also secured NPR sponsorship, contacted college campuses, and put the focus on music lovers. That they charged no admission fee the first year, which resulted in so many Saturday attendees that they asked some folks who didn't register (without charge) for the show in advance to return on Sunday, certainly helped pull people in.

"We had faith in Florida in February as a magnet, but we also knew our region is loaded with music lovers who would love the show," Andeer wrote via email. He also revealed that while the Florida Audio Expo hopes to remain in the Embassy Suites by Hilton at the Tampa Airport for another year—my guess is that they'll either have to expand to many more floors, or locate more rooms per floor—accommodations are still in the negotiation stage. While the show owners are leaning toward charging a modest admission fee in 2020, that, too, has not been decided.

Perhaps the best way to convey collective feelings about the show, at least from an industry perspective, is via these three quotes:

"I was very pleasantly surprised by the show; I had been concerned that it may be poorly attended by both exhibitors and attendees, and was delighted that my skepticism was unfounded. Tampa in February? I should have expected the number of visitors I met from Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland and other unseasonable climes.

"I thought the rooms sounded better than most shows; I heard that the building used to be a condominium, and that may have been responsible for the better acoustics. Whether true or not, the only things I heard making what I considered "bad sound" were things I've personally never heard sound good. (And I won't elaborate beyond that.)" —Larry Smith, Wireworld

"First, this show was easy to get your gear in and out, that's always great. The show organizers also had the sense to use Rusty Griffin, the best shipper expediter out there. He does all the high end audio shows and is a real pro!

"The hotel had a bunch of elevators! Always great to have more than just two elevators, keeps people moving. Free breakfast and happy hour with coupon—I think all audio show hotels should do that! The hotel also had some nice outdoor spaces close by where you could get outta your dark room. see the sun and get some fresh air. Also, there were no hotel glitches that often seem to occur, like your AC quits or the damn thing won't shut off and you're freezing your buns off, or fire alarms and such.

"I must say I saw more new faces at this show than I've ever seen at an audio show! Many shows seem to draw the same people year after year, nothing new. But the Florida Audio Expo was bringing out young people, families, women, and generally people who liked music. There were less of your typical grey-haired, fat, wheezing audiophiles that know everything. These were new folks who asked questions, wanted to experience everything audio, and were all eyes and ears. Our room was constantly busy, all three days no let up at all. The UHA/MBL After Hours Analog Tape Events were packed both nights, we didn't shut down till well after midnight.

"Every exhibitor I spoke to said they will be back next year, with bells on! A general comment I heard from more than a few exhibitors was, 'These people actually thanked us for bringing all our gear and allowing them to hear it.'" —Greg Beron, United Home Audio

"I loved it! The most diverse crowd I've ever seen at a US show. Families, couples, young people. Enthusiastic, friendly, and curious. Well-organized and attended. I give it a 10/10. We will definitely be back." —Angela Cardas Meredith, Cardas

As the East Coast's only audio show south of D.C., and the only US winter show that's open to the general public, the Florida Audio Expo has every reason to grow and thrive. If the Lord and the powers that be are willing. I hope to see you in Tampa next year.

Ortofan's picture

... evidenced by all of those young college students in the photo.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

I thought that photo was from a retirement home ....... Florida does have a lot of (re)tired old people :-) ........

Anton's picture

I have an idea for how to charge admission:

Under 30, free.

Above age 30, the price of a three day pass is one dollar for every year of age the attendee is.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Great...... Almost all of the Stereophile readers can get in, free :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

BTW ...... It would cost JA $40 or more to get in :-) ..........

jmsent's picture

...must have had a sorority event going on..or some other conflict.

AJ's picture

Jason, thanks for attending and glad you enjoyed our little gathering.
We'll double our efforts to make it better next year...including better informing folks about the wonderful post show live music!!

Soundfield Audio

Bill Leebens's picture

Having lived and worked in nearby Manatee and Sarasota counties for 15 years, I wasn't sure the area could support a show.

I was wrong. I underestimated the determination and abilities of the crew, not to mention the allure of Florida in February---hey, it was -6 in Denver when I flew out, and we had to wait for the fuel to unfreeze!

At any rate, good job, y'all. It was refreshing to see exhibitors upbeat and able to spend time with attendees---one of the reasons Ialso enjoy the California Audio Show.

I understand the need to possibly charge admission---personally, when I was involved with the NY show in 2012, I gave free admission to every woman and every kid that I saw. FWIW.

Good job!

Best, Bill
PS Audio

AJ's picture

Good seeing you Bill. If anything, the naysayers made us redouble our efforts. Great motivator.
Like this year, I'll battle to make next year free admission. I don't always win. As you said, women and young-uns for sure. Hope the old guys don't riot if we do...;-)

Soundfield Audio

Ortofan's picture

... a benefit to those guys whose wives won't let them go to the show alone or who insist that they take the kids along with them.

Free admission for all is good if you're trying to maximize attendance figures. OTOH, a nominal fee isn't likely to deter those whose budgets can accommodate the cost of most of the equipment described in these show reports. It might keep out the "tire kickers", who only go to gawk at that which they'll never be able to afford, and thus make more seats available for genuine potential customers of the gear being demonstrated.

Graham Luke's picture

...that looks like a fun gathering.

ok's picture

..funny thing is how the demise of home audio coincides with the peak of its maturity; Hegel (the philosopher) once wrote that the owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk..

mmole's picture

...At the approach of this kind of syllogism we are at once seized with a feeling of boredom.

Anton's picture

Everything is inherently contradictory.

The Science of Logic (1813)

spacehound's picture

And one appears to have fallen asleep.

No wonder the 'specialist' hifi market is dying.

And it isn't due to the internet and online purchase either. I live in a
fairly 'well-off' southern UK town of 350,000 people. It used to have five 'specialist' hifi dealers. Now it hasn't got any.

Yet despite the internet the long-established dealer selling 'high street' brands such as Sony, Denon, Yamaha, and Cambridge Audio (the shop chain is under the same ownership as CA) has the highest sales value per unit area of the entire town whereas the nearby Naim (and other 'specialist' stuff) dealer has just closed.

I just laugh. Prices, particularly in the USA, have gone crazy. It takes a specially rare type of idiot (usually old - see the picture, and likely with hearing way past its best) to buy a 30,000 - 100,000 dollar amp made in tiny quantities by a couple of self-styled 'experts' in what amounts to little more than a garden shed.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

You missed the woman sitting in the second row.

Please do not respond with comments that disparage women. If you need to disparage anyone's appearance, please stick to the male sex.

Anton's picture

I didn't make it past the sleeping audiophile on the couch who seems to have some sort of repetitive stress injury to his marriage hand.


I kid...because I resemble that remark.

This is a fun hobby.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

I am sure that trashing people is loads of fun. It's been elevated to Presidential levels, along with the refusal to cut anyone some slack.

Has the thought not occurred to anyone - I don't mean to single you out in particular, Anton/Buddha - that a demo was in progress, and that the expressions on some people's faces reflect the fact they were listening intently to music? I was careful not to block the speakers, so people with eyes closed remained blissfully unaware of my presence until the light of my flash temporarily disrupted their listening.

I suppose I should be castigated for using a flash. If so, I need look no further than this self-appointed group of equal opportunity castigators. Valentine's Day has passed, boys. Go to it. I'd rather you trash me than a group of audiophiles who, for all I know, look just like the people trashing them.

Is everyone retired? Does no one have anything better to do than dump on their fellow audiophiles?

Anton's picture

Jason, I was making a joke about myself. Hence, I said, “I resemble that remark.” (I am sure the source of that quote is from a source below your minutely fine tuned level of taste and experience, so my bad. It’s like saying, “Hey, that could be me!”)

Do you really think anybody thinks that person was napping!

I realize we live in the age of instant umbrage and phony indignation, but really.

Charles E Flynn's picture

It is regrettable that you were unable to include the man's falcon in the photo.

spacehound's picture

Not in the least. I'm married to one. I'm her 'husband', she is my 'wife'.

Have you not heard of this? The essential point is this: One party is male, the other is female.
It's how the human race reproduces itself, and it relies utterly on an inbuilt mutual attraction between the two different sexes.
Though the 'marriage' is not strictly necessary of course, but the 'different' is. Were it not for that the human race would never have got started.

So I assume your "disparage" comment was merely to avoid answering my main points

ok's picture

is favorably staring at the only photo-friendly (also accidentally the boss) man in the room; so next time you’ve been at an audio show would you all vintage boys kindly say cheese..

jporter's picture

I hope Larry has a fast recovery from his carpal tunnel surgery...

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Were they playing Diana Krall music? :-) ...........

spacehound's picture

...together with Miles Davis they never seem to play anything else.

None of my friends have ever heard of either of them.

I've heard OF them, but only because of hifi magazines. I have never knowingly HEARD them :)

Anton's picture

He was kind of a thing here in the States.

I mean, he's no Cliff Richard, so I can see where you are coming from.

Who else have you heard of only because of Hi Fi magazines?

mmole's picture


How about we all take a deep breath before we post and make this a better place to hang out?

ok's picture


Bogolu Haranath's picture

Not to mention 'anti-carpal-tunnel surgery-ism' :-) .........

Venere's picture

Ah, the internet. Through Jason (and other writers) I can learn about new and interesting music and great recordings that I may have never been aware of without their efforts. I can learn about new equipment that may (or may not) enhance by listening experience. I can enjoy the camaraderie of other like-minded audiophiles and music lovers, and attend shows where I might just be the "tire kicker" in the MBL room. Isn't everyone? But, sadly...I can also be embarrassed to be part of a group that apparently lives to find flaw in others, and to share their negativity to all who will read it or listen to it in an anonymous setting. I often wonder when reading these forums (and other so-called "enthusiast" forums, ha, there's some irony for you) why folks who clearly share so little in common with the other members even bother to read their reviews and comments. You already hate us, so why bother? And I feel sorry for the writers such a Jason, who with nothing but good intentions share their experience, opinions, and yes even their feelings and emotions about music and this hobby with us, only to be attacked and belittled. Many of the comments above are intended to be humorous and in jest. That's fine. One can also disagree with the opinions expressed by the writer. That's fine too. There are dignified and intelligent ways of doing that. But when the discourse turns ugly, as it so often does on this site and many others, it makes me sad to be part of this group, and sad to be part of our modern society in general. I'm 61 years old, so yes, I'm one of the "fat, old guys" somebody mentioned above who will die soon, along with our hobby no doubt. No biggie for me. I don't think I'll be missing much in the future if this is the direction we're headed.

rschryer's picture

"...that apparently lives to find flaw in others, and to share their negativity to all who will read it or listen to it in an anonymous setting." This doesn't describe any group I belong to, online or in real life.

"...why folks who clearly share so little in common with the other members..." I don't see that. I see common ground. We are all brothers and sisters on the audio family tree.

Venere's picture

...that you didn't read the posts that preceded mine, or you misunderstood the point of my comments. It appears that this is your first post on this thread, so my comments certainly weren't directed at you.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

PEBKAC (problem exists between keyboard and chair)? :-) ..........

..... or NPEBKAC (no problem exists between keyboard and chair)? :-) ........

ok's picture

..this is some beautiful piece of prose alright.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Ten years from now JVS will be traveling by high speed train to Florida for the audio expo from Washington state, since there won't be any airplanes :-) .......