Florida Audio Expo 2022 Show Report
The Canadian-sourced Muraudio SP1 ($19.5k per pair) remains among the great sub-$20k values in high end audio.
With the SP1 Muraudio reimagines the electrostatic dipole driver formula in novel ways. The SP1 incorporates the firm's Mylar Diaphragm Technology, a driver technology said to deliver enhanced dynamics through the improved distribution of acoustic energy across the continuously curved ESL panel. Utilizing a Mylar membrane a mere 3.8 microns thick (0.0038 mm), the SP1's panel has the same effective mass as a 5 mm cushion of air. This approach yields a driver boasting an effective mass nearly 250 times less than one finds in a typical moving coil cone midrange/dome tweeter arrangement. The result is driver of near matchless transient speed, transparency, and coherence.
Unusually for Muraudio, the SP1 this year was paired with a rugged looking German tube integrated amplifier, Westend Audio Systems' Monaco - $26k), this instead of the solid-state integrated amps that the firm usually favors. The German valve amplifier caressed this listener's ears with superb touch and delicacy, but also a smidgeon of softness up top. Very transparent and remarkably coherent, the German amp traded the expansive soundstage width and breadth that I recall hearing when this speaker is paired with solid-state electronics with a more focused intimacy.
Still, the SP1 remains amongst the most neutral and natural sounding speakers around and still a great bargain at the new price. Ahmad Jamal's latest rendition of his classic Poinciana (Ahman Jamal/Ballades/Jazz Village) resonated with "in the room" power, but with the tube amp delivering considerably more richness than I'm used to hearing at home from this cut using solid-state gear.
Also on the Fourth floor, TAD's new Evolution Two (E2) two-and-a-half-way compact floor standers ($19,995 the pair – beryllium tweeter and new composite 6" LF drivers) delivered attention-grabbing speed and coherence along with fine overall transparency. The bass region sounded a tad light (pun intended) but otherwise well defined. Add to this fine air and shimmer up top, natural tone and timbre, plus the ability to render male voices with full weight, and you have the makings a fine new addition to the under $25k speaker arena.
The cabinet sounded quite low in self noise, this aiding in the speaker's ability to render natural sounding transients. D1000TX SACD/Transport ($25K); M1000s amp ($18k); Wolf Alpha 3SX server ($9,250 to 12,750 depending upon configuration and fine-sounding); Synergistic cable loom.
Up on the 12th floor the CAT room with familiar Magico S5 floor standers sang softly but carried a big sick, dynamically speaking. The system exhibited great focus, offered copious amounts of air and bloom, and stunning presence. Analogue Production's fine reissue of Albanez's Iberia sang with sweet textures and richly saturated tone colors, but this listening also confirmed that my copy had scratches on side 1. Stunning macro dynamic-expressiveness, with exceptional focus and a sheer sonic purity that I found stunning. A strong BOS contender. CAT JL7 SE amps ($49,995 apiece), CAT SL1 Legend EXTREME ($49,995). I did not catch the price of the speakers.
Just down the hall, the main show-sponsor Suncoast Audio paired a Pass Labs pre-amp (the excellent XP-22 at $9,500), MSB mono amps (M200 mono amps at $60K the pair), and an impressive Aurender/MSB digital stack (Aurender ACS10 server at $6,500/MSB Discreet DAC at $9,950/Secondary power supply at $1,450/Pro ISL module at $990/Pro USB Interface at $990) with Kharma's lovely Elegance Double Seven Signature speakers (the dB7s at $34.5K the pair).
Unfortunately, I found the bass in the room to sound a bit muddy with a one note quality. Additionally, some upper midrange/lower treble glass made for a very "dark", bass-heavy presentation. I suspect major room problems here. "Punchy dynamics but short on tone, transparency, and natural warmth" read my show notes. Sadly, I did not get a chance to return to this room later in the show.
Perhaps others can shed some light on what I heard on day 1, particularly since the BIG Suncoast room on the second floor featuring Vivid GIYA speakers and Block Audio electronics sounded superb (see below).
On the 11th floor, the MoFi team featured BAT electronics, Swiss-made Piega speakers, Solid Steel racks, and a HiFi Rose server. My notes revealed "good impact, very good in-room presence, fairly deep from the small aluminum enclosure. Male voices possessed their full frequency range and power. Excellent sound staging and imaging coupled to good focus and layering, but perhaps a touch soft up top." This was a very nice sounding room. The BAT integrated was utterly beautiful to behold. Sorry, but I forgot to snag the price list.
The Orlando, Florida-based Alex Sound Technology distributor/retailer re-introduced American audiences to the superb German designed and built Blumenhofer Acoustics speakers. The pairing of the Blumenhofer Genuin FS-2 Mk.2 floor-standers with the new (certainly to me) Takatsuki 300B integrated amplifier (8 Watts per channel at $29K), a beautifully built and even more beautiful sounding unit, produced extraordinarily lively, vivid, immediate sound, with perhaps just a sprinkle of room induced glare.
The high sensitivity German speakers (a two-way model featuring a sophisticated 10" paper bass driver mated to a horn loaded tweeter) gifted superbly natural almost full range sound of stunning immediacy.
I never heard such gorgeous sound from a scant 8 watts per channel of tube glory. Diana Krall's How Deep is the Ocean jolted with its deep sense of pathos and sheer emotional wallop!
Also new to me was the room's digital front end, here Sfortzato Network players, that, while not quite analog-like, still sounded utterly natural, relaxed, and detailed. A very strong BOS contender.
More FLAX 2022 show coverage to come!