Ken Micallef

Ken Micallef  |  Feb 18, 2024  |  3 comments

Jacksonville, Florida, dealership House of Stereo occupied eight (!) rooms at FLAX. Room 709 debuted Steinheim's 2.5 Alumine Two.Five loudspeakers ($23,500/pair), accompanied by a bevy of refined products that kept the room packed to overflowing. Several were from Germany's T+A ("Engineering emotion"), including the SD 3100 HV Reference Streaming DAC ($32,387).

Ken Micallef  |  Feb 18, 2024  |  0 comments

Japan's TAD had two rooms at FLAX, including the large Bayshore ballroom, which itself contained two systems, each with two pairs of speakers. Both systems wowed me.

Ken Micallef  |  Feb 18, 2024  |  1 comments

Dealer Scott Walker Audio, which has showrooms in Anaheim, California, and Keller, Texas, and Synergistic Research presented several new products at FLAX including the Synergistic Voodoo streamer erver ($14,995); the PowerCell 8 SX conditioner ($3495); and SRX USB ($5995), Ethernet ($5995), and XL Power cables ($13,000).

Ken Micallef  |  Feb 17, 2024  |  0 comments

In the photo above, worker bees Megan Bovaird and Matt Bochicchio welcome you to the sixth annual Florida International Audio Expo (FLAX), held this year and all non-COVID years at the Embassy Suites by Hilton, in Tampa, Florida.

Ken Micallef  |  Feb 08, 2024  |  4 comments
When I reviewed Luxman's L-509X flagship integrated amplifier, in May 2018, that sleek machine shook me to my vitals. I wrote, "Record after record, the L-509X illuminated every important aspect and area of the recording. It lived and breathed in the air around the notes, consistently creating big, solid, spatially natural images that presented me with a) the roundness and complexity of each instrument, b) a holistic sense of the musicians' intent, c) excellent touch and texture and impact, and d) a unified whole, regardless of musical style or dynamic level." I concluded, "the Luxman L-509X integrated amplifier takes a different path to musical involvement. The L-509X is one of the most intimate-sounding, dynamic, texturally nuanced, truthful purveyors of music of my experience."

Luxman's new flagship integrated, the L-509Z, has the same thick aluminum top plate and steel casework as its forebear and weighs a similarly knee-crushing 64lb. The older L-509X cost $9495; its newer, younger sibling rachets that up to $12,495. The front-panel controls are nearly identical, including those big, eye-catching dual VU meters; except for a new 4.4mm Pentaconn five-conductor mini headphone jack and a mute button, the Z matches the cosmetics of the X to a T. But as in all things, appearances can be deceiving.

Ken Micallef  |  Jan 03, 2024  |  5 comments
In the 1970s, Steely Dan produced hit records for a listening public that could care less about the band's cryptic lyrics. Those early Dan fans responded to their songs' epic choruses and glistening hooks, awarding chart-topping success and a global audience.

From 1972's Can't Buy a Thrill to 1980's closing act Gaucho, Bard sages Walter Becker (1950–2017) and Donald Fagen occupied a place in pop music as unique as their songs' references to "wild gamblers," "midnight cruisers," "bodacious cowboys," and a female protagonist who "prays like a Roman with her eyes on fire." Much later, Becker and Fagen returned to the studio, issuing Two Against Nature to an audience still hungry for their singular R&B-and jazz-based music.

Ken Micallef  |  Nov 29, 2023  |  76 comments
In the mid-2000s, I worked at a "white-shoe" law firm on Wall Street, ran with renegades, and fancied myself a writer. Fast-forward some 18 years. The firm, like many cash-flush NYC firms, has moved to midtown and I've moved on. Those renegades are now respected members and players in the hi-fi community. I still fancy myself a writer.

Back then, I made friends with a big-eared clique that would influence my future in hi-fi: audio writer Michael Lavorgna (currently editor at; NYU law professor Jules Coleman; former Stereophile deputy editor and current AudioQuest director of communications Stephen Mejias; record-industry veteran Andrew Klein; composer Dan Cooper; illustrator Jeff Wong; vacuum-coffee–machine collector and audiophile Margery Budoff, who regrettably passed in 2015; Tone Imports' Jonathan Halpern; and DeVore Fidelity proprietor-designer John DeVore.

Ken Micallef  |  Nov 20, 2023  |  1 comments

Voxativ's Ines Adler and Christopher Cunningham brought the full Voxativ experience from Berlin to Rockville, including the new and revised Voxativ Ampeggio back-loaded horn with AC-1.9 full-range driver loudspeaker ($12,900/pair).

Ken Micallef  |  Nov 20, 2023  |  0 comments

It was hard to find focus in Victor Kong's room. Between the nearly invisible AER BD3B/650mm full-range open-baffle speakers ($9800/pair) and the various amps on static display—Sun Valley SV-1616D 300B integrated amp ($2450), or the Elekit TU-8900 ($3050) or Elekit TU-8850 ($1850) power amps—my palms felt sweaty, my head, dizzy. Is this SET-amp lover’s heaven?

Ken Micallef  |  Nov 20, 2023  |  0 comments

Japan’s Technical Audio Devices Laboratories, Inc. (TAD) brought several products to CAF, including the US debut of the TAD Grand Evolution One (GE1) floor-standing speakers ($65,000/pair) and new TAD C1000 preamplifier ($24,950).