A Stellar Show Debut For Florida Audio Expo

Suppose a group of exposition amateurs produced an audio show. What do you think would happen? The crew that created last week's Florida Audio Expo had no show producing experience and did not know what to expect when they went into this dicey venture. They succeeded beyond what must have been their most optimistic projections. From left to right holding the ribbon in the photo are Bart Andeer (President of the Suncoast Audiophile Society and of Resolution Acoustics), Ammar "AJ" Jadusingh (owner of Soundfield Audio), AnalogPlanet editor Michael Fremer, Mike Bovaird (proprietor of Suncoast Audio, a Sarasota high end store) and John Chait (a longtime DIY audiophile and member of both the Suncoast and Sarasota audio clubs).

Perhaps that some of the organizers brought to the enterprise a business background helped. They knew enough to hire experienced publicists Sue Toscano and Angela Speziale, without whom, all acknowledged, the show might not have been as successful as it was. Both used social media to the fullest possible extent and that helped drive both industry and consumer participation. The team smartly chose to not charge an admission fee, though in the future they might have to if they want to hold the event in a larger venue that can accommodate seminars and large audience events.

Meanwhile attendance on Friday seemed well larger than they'd anticipated and Saturday the place was packed. The exhibitors were in hotel rooms from floors 3-8 as well as in the larger event rooms on the second floor but without an auditorium-sized room, seminars were not possible this year. Toscano and Speziale helped produce a well-organized, attractive show guide as well as useful and attractive signage.

Participation by Florida dealers including some from the state's east coast, helped make the show a success as did manufacturer support from both well-established companies and upstarts. Among the participants were Martin Logan, Parasound, Magico, Harman (Mark Levinson/JBL), MBL, the McIntosh Group (McIntosh, Sumiko, Audio Research, Pro-Ject), AVM, Legacy Audio, Cardas, Mobile Fidelity Distribution, Joseph Audio, Doshi Audio, Auralic, VPI Industries, Vanatoo, Nola, Aurender, Dynamic Sound Associates, Luminous Audio, Spendor, Audio Note, Ortofon, Wilson Audio Specialties and many others. The Minnesota contingent (Atma-Sphere, Tri-Planar, Classic Audio Loudspeakers) needed no excuse to escape the cold for Florida! The result was an eclectic mix of products including debuts of new turntables from Dr. Feickert, VPI and Luxman. Even the hotel acoustics cooperated. The sound throughout the show was very good.

AnalogPlanet editor Michael Fremer was asked to cut the ribbon and make a short opening statement, so he did. Journalists from Stereophile, Part Time Audiophile, and Enjoythemusic.com were there to cover the show. In every way, the first Florida Audio Expo was a complete success. Congratulations to all involved!

Michael Fremer offered to do a turntable set-up seminar but because there was no place to do it, he played D.J. in the large Von Schweikert, VAC, Esoteric, Kronos turntable room hosted by Atlanta's The Audio Company. Four, hour and a half sessions attracted "sell-out" crowds of 60 people during which Fremer played records he'd brought as well as files produced at home from vinyl. Everyone had a good time. "Performances" of "Mood Indigo" using a 45rpm Analogue Productions test pressing of Ellington Masterpieces got applause each play as if it was a live performance but what really "brought down the house" was the last file played on Saturday evening: side two of Abbey Road sourced from an original U.K. pressing bought in 1969 and played constantly for almost fifty years.

The transfer was a recent one after a Kirmuss restoration cleaning (more about that in a future review here) using the Ortofon MC Century cartridge, SAT CF1-09 arm and Continuum Caliburn and the CH Precision P1/X1 phono preamplifier. The crowd sat silently, heads bowed (after a few mutters of "I've never heard it like that" as George sang "Here Comes the Sun") until the very end (after "Her Majesty") when the record got a standing ovation! The VAC/Von Schweikert system produced some of the finest sound I've ever heard at a hi-fi show and demonstrated to all the SAT's incredible bottom end performance. A few people wept.

In an attempt to improve video quality I borrowed an Osmo2 gimbal and mounted on it an iPhone X. The picture came out really well and smooth (though there's a learning curve involved in using the gimbal) but using AirPods as a microphone as suggested by some on line, turned out to be a semi-disaster. While the meter on the phone showed sufficient gain, the AirPod's secondary microphone acts as a noise suppressor unless you put the phone in "hearing aid" mode! But no one mentioned that so while the narrator is easy to hear, nothing else is.

Nonetheless, post-production sound processing helped and post production "signage" adds much of the lost information. More videos to follow and be sure to read Jason Serinus's detailed coverage on the Stereophile website.

Wimbo's picture

Something wrong with the audio Michael.

Wimbo's picture

Should of read the whole explanation.

TommyTunes's picture

“Not your kind of music”, I can’t believe someone was actually playing The Green Manalishi, maybe it’s time Jason expands his musical repertoire. Only a handful of folks can relate to his reviews. Well played Mike

2channel's picture

Great to have a show like this in Tampa.
Having relocated from the NYC area 8 years ago, this was one of the few things I missed.

Even though there were a lot of logistical things to complain about, all of them can be excused for a first time show.

As for the exhibitors, here are some observations (if any one cares):
1) The breadth of products to audition and on display was very impressive.
2) The majority of the auditions were in repurposed hotel rooms and the environment did not do justice to the capabilities of the products
3) The show was more driven by local dealers than manufacturers which is atypical of other shows I have attended and I hope this can be attributed to a wait and see how this one turns out kind of thing.

Best thing I heard - the R2R tape deck in the MBL room - I am an analog guy exclusively and I want one
Worst thing I heard - One room had Metallica blasting at full volume in a closed hotel room not suitable for enjoyment - don't get me wrong I like Metallica - but dude - what the hell were you thinking?

For the industry:
1. What the heck is going on with the Mark Levinson product line? The build quality is mediocre at best, the sound was EH (could be the room I guess) - this is a classic example of pricing products beyond their value and resting on a name - that boat sailed a long time ago.
2. MBL had a great setup and it sounded nice if you sat at the right spot in the room - the back of the room was way to boomy - I guess if money is no object (to a degree) and you like the bling - sound wise not the best I've ever heard which is what I would expect
3. Other people make turntables besides VPI - IMHO, Clearaudio is way better built. Even the ML table they build really doesn't compare to the McIntosh tables built by CA
4. Very sad to see how the industry is continuing to die a slow death. Unless the millennials get their act together.....its gonna be iPhones and earphones

The organizers deserve a huge thank you as they knocked it out of the park. I sure hope we can build and improve on this and do it again next year and the year after that. There's a lot of money in the west coast of Florida and we should be able to do this. As an audiophile, it was 3 hours of nirvana and a day well spent - I was thrilled.

My system: McIntosh C52, McIntosh MC601, Ayre P-5XE, Clearaudio Master Innovation, Lyra Etna and B&W 800 D3

2channel's picture

1 - No I did not get my gear at Best Buy - great place in town called AV South - alas it closed - Damn you GL!!!

2 - Shout out to Mofi - 1 step analog - you have to hear it to believe it

Michael Fremer's picture
I cannot understand why you believe that nonsense! This show was proof that the industry is not dying either slowly or quickly. The show in Warsaw was huge---more than 15,000 attended and the demographic skewed young. There were kids there, families etc. Munich will be the biggest ever and all of the brands you think are dying a "slow death" will be there again with their newest products. I'm not sure what you are talking about...
2channel's picture

Michael, I have nothing but respect for you. When I put my system together a couple years ago, I sought your opinion - recall you saying you’re not a fan of 12” tone arms.

The audiophile audio market has been in decline since the advent of our digital lifestyle and economy based on these indisputable facts (I can provide overwhelming research behind each):

1. Streaming is the prevalent method of consuming music and therefore digital music is the platform of choice.
2. Majority of consumers value convenience over quality. Lossless streaming services’ (Tidal, Qobuz and Spotify Digital) combined market share requires a magnifying glass to discern on any graph.
3. As we have migrated to shopping online, those few local outlets where you can actually hear any audiophile equipment, have to focus on video and services to keep their doors open because that’s where the consumer demand is. Audiophile audio is no longer the primary focus of their business. This problem circles back to the manufacturer who has to find different outlets, Case in point is McIntosh, which you can now buy at Best Buy and Music Direct.
4. Those of you who are journalists in the industry and advisors to consumers have always advocated that one MUST listen to the gear. I spent almost a lifetime saving up for my dream sound system (in excess of $100K) on a 2 channel system just 2-3 years ago and was compelled to purchase equipment based upon recommendations and reviews because there was nowhere I could go to hear a pair of 800 D3s or a Master Innovation AND the one place locally
that carried this gear (albeit not for audioning or on display) and had the experience with installing this kind of gear, the place I purchased, closed up shop a year ago as the business just wasn’t there.

So you can talk all you want of attendees at trade shows, at the end of the day, your consumer base is shrinking and the access to the products is declining. There will always be those to whom money is no object who will buy the Mark Levinson or the MBL gear because of brand name, however, for the rest of use who truly have a passion for the sound of music, these are the sad facts.....