FLAX 2020 Recap, plus Magico M6 Speakers, Luxman C-900u Amplifier and M-900u Monoblock Amps, Von Schweikert Ultra 11 Speakers, VAC Statement Electronics, MBL 101e MK II Loudspeakers, Avid Analog Front End, Critical Mass Racks, Børresen 01 Speakers

This marks the end of our Florida Audio Expo 2020 coverage, but before I wrap things up, I'd like to mention a few more standout rooms with super systems.

Attending FLAX 2020 for the first time in this, its second year, I found myself pleasantly surprised by its more mixed demographic compared with most other US shows. In particular I noticed more millennials, more couples, and generally more women, including those who clearly just weren't there "in tow." The guys running one of the headphone demos there told me that an average of at least one or two women per hour were coming in to listen.

A number of rooms presented systems that featured a mix of components across various price categories, with many skewing toward relatively less expensive high-end gear…though a few noteworthy no-holds-barred exceptions are described below. Full-featured integrated amplifiers and versatile all-in-one components made a strong showing, and vinyl's popularity also continues, judging by the large number of rooms with turntables (from VPI in particular). Perhaps the February sunshine and warm temps in Tampa had some influence, but the overall vibe felt pretty optimistic.

MBL hosted its usual after-hours listening sessions for further aural thrills, courtesy of its superb system of handmade-in-Germany audio finery. This system included a pair of 101 E MK II Radialstrahler omnidirectional speakers ($70,500/pair) driven by a stack of MBL Noble Line electronics: N11 preamplifier ($14,600), four N15 mono power amps ($17,800 per channel), plus an N31 DAC/CD player ($15,400) as one digital source. But it was the analog source that stole the show: a United Home Audio Ultima4 OPS-DC open-reel tape deck (with outboard power supply running on DC-only power) playing back mixtapes to the max, from Prince to Rush to Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture and tracks from Pink Floyd's The Wall.

There were two more knock-'em-dead systems, set up in larger rooms on the second floor, that I feel compelled to mention for the sake of the extreme experiences they delivered. First, in Suncoast Audio's demo setup there, a pair of Magico M6s ($172,000/pair) with a pair of Q-Sub 18s ($36,000/each) were driven by a top-of-the-line Luxman C-900u control amplifier and M-900u monoblock amps ($14,995 each), with a D-08u CD/SACD player/DAC ($14,995) digital source. Analog playback was served by an Avid Acutus Classic turntable ($17,999) with SME V tonearm ($5500 in the increasingly rare event they are available separately), with Avid's Pulsare II phono stage ($7499), and Reference Ruby MC cartridge ($8000). A Studer 810 reel-to-reel tape deck, rebuilt by Soren Wittrup, was also on hand, paired with a Doshi Audio V3.0 Tape Stage ($15,995). Cabling was from AudioQuest, who also supplied a Niagara 5000 power conditioner.

In a second ultra-high-end demo setup, an extensive array of VAC Statement amplification ($75,000–$80,000), particularly the 452iQ stereo/mono amps with stunning vertical chassis, powered Von Schweikert Audio's Ultra-11 speaker system ($325,000/pair, seen in the photo at the top of this post) and V-12XS Shockwave subwoofers ($11,500 each). Digital sources included an Esoteric stack: Grandioso P1x CD transport, D1x monoblock DACs, and G1 clock and N-01 streamer/renderer/DAC.

A Kronos Pro turntable with Black Beauty tonearm ($51,000 combo) fitted with an Air Tight Opus 1 cartridge ($16,000) served as the analog front end. Masterbuilt Ultra cables were used throughout.

Along with a couple of other tracks, on both systems I listened to Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" from a hastily borrowed LP. Both full-tilt systems were hard-hitting on the attacks and deep-reaching enough in the low-end to deliver this classic-rock staple's message nearly as loudly and clearly as if Plant, Page, and Co. had been there in the flesh. (I could say more about differences between the two but this isn't a shoot-out.)

Both systems were supported by Critical Mass Systems equipment racks; the Olympus V-12 flagships and some stands from Maxxum line were also used in The Audio Company's room.

Finally, in a time when so much streaming is taking place, a shout-out goes to Denmark's Ansuz Acoustics for the ambitious, if spendy, D-TC Supreme Power Switch ($14,400) made for LAN cables to be well-grounded, shielded, and "cleaned up" by Ansuz's proprietary Noise-Suppressing Coil Technology, which uses Tesla coil principles to reduce noise. (It debuted on passive display in Munich last year.) In the Next Level Audio room, it was explained in detail and demo'd to an interested audience, as Florida is said to be plagued by electrical surges among various other current and grounding issues (according to some in the room, at least).

Driven by Aavik Acoustics' U-380 integrated amplifier ($39,000) with dual DACs and phonostage inside, a pair of Børresen Acoustics 01 two-way monitors ($32,500/pair) filled the room with surprising bass extension; I heard a few people ask if they had subs in the room. A Naim CD5XS CD player ($3995) and Naim NDX2 streamer ($7500) provided digital music goodness.

Whew! That's a wrap for this show.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Excellent FAE 2020 show report by JM ........ Hope JM will also report from FAE 2021 :-) ........

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

This component made it onto my rack yesterday, and will be connected soon. Look for a review in the June 2020 issue (I think - it's hard for me to keep track).

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Beginning of 'Summer Solstice' :-) ......

Ali's picture

Hi, Which one? Magico I bet!

HeadphoneDreams's picture

Looking forward to read it.

Do you know if someone will review any Borresen speaker?
I heard the 05 at another show and was impressed.

Ortofan's picture

... Mobile Fidelity room that had a system with the Wharfedale Linton Heritage speakers, a QUAD Vena II integrated amp and a Mo-Fi StudioDeck+ turntable?

Did a complete system for only about $5K fly under the reviewer's radar?


Bogolu Haranath's picture

Due to space constraints, that report was not included :-) .........

johnnythunder's picture

in your ears. Why don't you start your own budget audiophile blog and leave us alone with your inane retorts.

Ortofan's picture

... by reading the reviews before hurling your insults?

The Wharfedale Linton Heritage speakers, according to the reviewer, "merge a refined, elegantly detailed, full-range sound with a magnetic personality that made me want to play records—made me want to listen longer, and to understand more of what I was listening to. These conspicuous talents, plus the fact that the Lintons look Jaguar-like expensive and cost less than they should, make the newest Wharfedales highly recommendable."

The QUAD Vena II received a Hi-Fi Choice Editor's Choice award and, according to the reviewer, will "bring any type of music to life so thrillingly."

The Mo-Fi Studiodeck is, according to the reviewer, "a high-quality design, high calibre performing table."

johnnythunder's picture

reviewed instead of IMMEDIATELY throwing out your bargain alternatives that troll and discredit the purpose of the article? It's disrespectful to the writers. Not sure why it gets under my skin but it does. Wharfedale and Quad make good components but that's not the point. I read the same reviews you do. You obviously want to be some crusader against higher priced components. Your argument is tired and boring. Go away.

Ortofan's picture

... begins with the statement "this marks the end of our Florida Audio Expo 2020 coverage."

So, I'm asking why the Mo-Fi room wasn't covered.
Nothing discrediting or disrespectful to anyone about it.

Perhaps you've forgotten, but not long ago Stereophile ran a column called "The Entry Level."
Did you find it to be "tired and boring?"

Bogolu Haranath's picture

It is a good thing that, they are demo-ing some of these 'entry level' (budget) components at some of these hi-fi shows ........ If we want to attract younger generations to hi-end audio, we should promote these 'entry level' (budget) components ........ Stereophile also has 'budget components' listed on their website :-) ..........

AJ's picture

Thanks Julie, we're trying our best to make the show as appealing as possible, to as wide an audience as possible.
See you next year.

Soundfield Audio