Acoustic Sounds
Florida International Audio Expo
By: Ken Redmond

March 7th, 2024


Hi-Fi Shows

Ten Attention Getting Rooms at the 2024 Florida International Audio Expo

... and a couple of other things

Audio shows have personalities. For example, AXPONA has a business-like atmosphere. I typically feel rushed, like I am thirty minutes late for an appointment. When I go into a room to listen, I feel like I am on a timer. Don't get me wrong; it is a fantastic show that exposes many brands not seen at other shows, and I wouldn’t miss it, but "relaxed" is not the term I would use to describe the show's overall vibe.

The Florida Audio Expo offers audiophiles a refreshing, relaxed, laid-back experience. This event strikes a nice balance between size and intimacy. It attracts significant players while providing space for smaller companies trying to break into the audio business. As a result, attendees are exposed to a diverse range of exhibitors, some of whom are showcasing their products for the first time. I like to call it the Goldilocks Show.

 Exhibitors are friendly and supportive of each other, creating a sense of community that is palpable throughout the event. This welcoming environment allows attendees to immerse themselves in the experience, whether they are there as reviewers or enthusiastic consumers.

The listening experience is equally impressive. Rooms feel inviting and comfortable, and attendees are encouraged to take their time and listen without feeling rushed, allowing for a more thorough evaluation of the sound quality. There were crowded halls on Saturday, and the audience was younger and more diverse than I usually see at an Audio Show. I did notice a Pampers box near the registration desk.

Bart Ander, the show's tireless organizer, told me that they had made a specific effort throughout the year to attract a more diverse crowd for this show by advertising at car shows and home shows to bring in "new blood," and I have to say, I think he was successful. There was a pronounced increase in the number of couples at the show and the number of "first-timers." A couple even asked me about listening etiquette and how to act in a room.

Congratulations to Bart, his staff, and Sue Toscano for her PR marketing, who all came together to make the Florida Audio Expo a success. I would also like to thank the elevator service men who freed us from a stuck elevator at one point in the show. As they say, " *hit happens.”

 I appreciate and respect people who can report on or cover an entire audio show. It is a challenging task requiring a particular skill set.

My approach is to report on the rooms that caught my attention during the show, and I'm excited to share with you the ten rooms that made me “sit up and listen.”


These speakers caught my ear at AXPONA last year and again at this show. I spent some quality time with founder and designer Janis Irbe and was impressed with his melding of measurements and critical listening. The smaller Contra 100S ($9,000) throws a large soundstage detached from the speaker, has a well-balanced tonal character, and offers surprising deep bass capability augmented by the rear woofer he employs in his designs (I have a pair for review_ed.).

I returned to the room on Saturday to discover that FedEx had finally delivered the larger Contra 200F ($24,000.) While it was clear that the Contra 200F was yearning for a larger room to spread its wings, it was also evident that it had enormous potential to be an exceptional speaker. With that in mind, I spoke with Janis about getting a review pair this Summer…

This is a company to keep an eye on and make an effort to hear. Stay tuned.


Pure Audio ProjectHaving written two Pure Audio Project reviews, I am familiar with the company and its offerings. My interest was piqued when owner/designer Ze’ev Schlik emailed me before the show to let me know his latest Trio 10 design, which implements the highly respected Heil AMT (Air Motion Transformer) tweeter, would be on display. He also uses new, specially modified Morel 10” midrange /bass drivers to handle everything below 800hz. The speakers had exceptional clarity, and the open baffle design worked well in the room. Priced at $5,990, I think Ze’ev will have another winner in his lineup.

The speaker had a nice synergy with the AGD preamp and monoblock amps connected with Jeffery Smith’s outstanding SilverSmith Cables. I have had his speaker cables in-house for the past month, and I am smitten with their timing and phase coherency.

Jeffery is working on matching interconnects that use the same metallurgy and ribbon design as the speaker cables. I hope to audition them when they become available.

These are reasonably priced cables that punch WAY above their price.


Gershman Acoustics introduced their new 30th Anniversary Black Swan speakers ($90,000.) It is their all-out assault on speaker design that goes from 18Hz to 24KhZ.

I was fortunate to have an after-hours listening session that pushed this speaker to the limits, and it was impressive. We played Trombone Shorty, Cardi B, Brian Bromberg’s Brombo, and others at levels that rocked the room and probably rooms above and below. The speakers took it all in stride, never feeling strained, and the sound was outstanding. I think Gershwin Audio has a real winner on their hands with this new speaker. Using the Convergent Audio Technology preamp and monoblock amps didn’t hurt the cause. A special evening indeed.


I can’t think of another group of products/companies that is as consistent in offering great sound at an audio show as these guys. Gary Dews's excellent tube-based Border Patrol electronics and Greg Roberts's horn-based Volti speakers, connected with Pete Grzybowski’s reasonably priced Triode Wire Lab cabling, repeatedly knock it out of the park.

This year's show was no exception, and between the smiles I saw on attendees' faces and the applause that I witnessed, the “Three Amigos” had it going on in their room. Don’t miss checking out this room if you get to a show.


On the night before a show, I usually make a list of rooms I plan to visit. I tend to prioritize rooms managed by manufacturers over those managed by dealers. However, I made an exception when I visited the Deep Dive Audio room, as they were showcasing the diminutive Audience ClairAudient 1+1 V5 speakers that I am currently reviewing. I have been impressed with their ability to fill my over 450 sq ft listening room with a large sound, and I wanted to hear them in a different setting. With the Margules amplifier, the Audience speakers effortlessly filled the room with a seamless and coherent sound that was exceptionally inviting to listen to. I will be sharing more about these very interesting speakers in my upcoming review.


Designer Julian Margules has something going on with his electronics. A number of rooms used his electronics at this show, and I noticed excellent musical flow and engagement in all of them. I spoke at length with Julian about his design philosophy, which he calls ANA (Aligned Neuro-Acoustics.) He studies how humans perceive sound. Here is a link to an interesting paper about this work.

On display was his 30th Anniversary U280 amplifier ($12,000) and his SF220 Special edition Preamplifier ($8,000) powering their Margules Overture Century loudspeaker ( $19,900)

I had been in the room for a few minutes when he played Montserrat Caballe singing Hijo de La Luna. People who were previously talking in the room went quiet for the entire five-minute song, except for one person who walked in from the hall saying, “I hear real music in here.” Simply beautiful.

Margules Overture Century Loudspeaker


In 2014, I had the pleasure of meeting Jeff Wells when he visited the audio store I managed. He came to showcase his first audio product, which I was able to test, and I was thoroughly impressed by the sound quality. Although I recommended carrying his product line to the store owner, he unfortunately decided not to. Looking back, it was a missed opportunity as Jeff has since become well-known for offering excellent products at very reasonable prices that could easily sell for multiples of what he has them priced at.

At this show, Jeff was showing his Majestic II integrated amp ($6,000) along with his new Cipher II Level II DAC ($15,000) played through some TAD E1-TX loudspeakers ( $30,500)

This simple-looking setup had the TAD speakers singing, and I spent a good bit of time talking with him about his new DAC design, which he is very proud of. I hope to get a sample to audition and report on this summer.


I entered room 418 and found this unconventional setup, The Davina Loudspeaker.

It is the result of years of work by one of the founding members of the Florida Audio Expo, John Chait, who named the speaker after his daughter. The idea was to expose the D.I.Y side of the hobby to show-goers, and I applaud that.

It is an all-active system, with every driver having its own amp. Each speaker employs four woofers, three tweeters ( including the rear), and the “hanging” Lii Song F15 driver. In addition, there are six subwoofers designed to even out room modes.

Once I got past the unconventional look, the dynamic expression of the system struck me, and I have to say that when John played the Temptations and Earth Wind and Fire, I was transported back to my college days and had a big smile on my face.

I threw off my “reviewer hat” and sat through the entire twelve minutes and four seconds of Papa was a Rolling Stone enjoying every second of it. I walked out of the room, reminded about why I got into this hobby.

It was FUN!


Now I know what the Pampers were for….


Audio Group Denmark's Aavik 880-Series, Borresen M3 floor-standing loudspeakers, plus Ansuz Reference cables and accessories provided a sound that was reference level in areas of speed, exceptionally low distortion, and tight, controlled sound.


The Acora Acoustics flagship VRC-1 loudspeaker in stunning Sunset Fire granite offered reference-level tone, impact, and dynamic expression. 

Listening in each room was not only an aural treat but a visceral experience. Both rooms were beyond impressive and represent some of the best our Audio Industry has to offer. Each had its own personality, and it would be wrong to declare a “winner.” I just reveled in the time I spent in both rooms.  Wow!


PASS LABS INT-60 … in Black

Room 306 showed a system using the Pass Labs INT-60 powering some Focal Speakers. It sounded quite nice, but what caught my attention was the black finish on the Pass Labs INT-60. I thought it was stunning. You have to dig down deep on the Pass Labs website to find that it is even offered in black. But no picture will convey how pretty this piece looks in real life.


A great take on the classic Maxell ad.

It made me smile.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this report, the atmosphere at the Florida Audio Expo allowed me to split my time between analyzing like a reviewer and simply being an enthusiast. I enjoyed the show, the new friends I made, and the listening experiences I had.

 News Flash ….

I just learned that next year's Florida Audio Expo will be at a new venue, the Sheraton Tampa Brandon Hotel, which should offer more upscale surroundings.

Movin’ on up!!!

The Southwest Audio Festival in Dallas is right around the corner, and all the manufacturers I talked with are hopeful it will be a big success.

I will be there, and I look forward to seeing what its personality is.


  • 2024-03-07 03:22:18 PM

    Jim Shue wrote:

    Ken - excellent overview! Wells Audio is for real! Jeff is a good Dude and I believe Scott Frankland is involved as well. btw that power strip is INSANLEY awesome - make sure you get it in for review along with his DAC.

  • 2024-03-08 08:14:27 PM

    Mr. Audio wrote:

    It's actually a Maxell ad, not Memorex. I was a dealer, back in the day and still have a framed original from Maxell.

    • 2024-03-10 12:21:20 PM

      Michael Fremer wrote:

      I should have caught that in the edit! I missed. I'll ficks.