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.

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