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Florida International Audio Expo 2023 Show Report

FLAX 2023: My First Show In Decades!
My wife and I enjoy our fun Florida International Audio Expo 2023 adventure.
Show Report By Rufus Smith


MBL, United Home Audio, And Wireworld At FLAX 2023


MBL, United Home Audio, And Wireworld
MBL has exhibited at every show I have attended, usually with one of their flagship systems, and FLAX 23 was no exception. The system comprised the Model 1621A CD transport, 1611F DAC, 6010D pre-amp, and 9011 monoblocks, all driving their 101 X-Treme MK2 speakers. Also featured was a reel-to-reel deck provided by United Home Audio, an ultra-high-end dealer in the Washington, DC, area that also carries the full line of MBL products. The cabling throughout the system was Wireworld 8.




The ability of the MBL loudspeakers to throw a large soundstage with exceptional imaging has always impressed me because of their 360-degree radiating pattern. This was true again this year, as the house had no bad seats. Over the years, I have always felt that the MBL's most significant fault was that they were bright. Not so this year; the 101 X-Treme MK2 displayed a liquid top-end that was warm and relaxed compared to the past. This was indeed a pleasant surprise. Kudos to Jeremy Bryan, MBL's head of American operations.




Eminent Technology
The Eminent Technology room was on my list of absolute must-visit. I have known Bruce Thigpen, the head honcho and designer behind the ET products, since my earliest days in audio, having grown up 90 miles from his factory in Tallahassee. Bruce is a true gentleman; visiting with him is always a pleasure. It was a pleasant surprise that he recognized me, considering we hadn't seen each other in over 25 years. Bruce's room featured a prototype of a new model named the 18 LS. The speaker priced at a very reasonable $15,000 is a hybrid design, with six 8" woofers and two 6.5" rear-firing woofers handling the low end. These drivers are in a separate tower.



The second tower contains the neodymium planar-magnetic midrange, and tweeter drivers dealt with the mids and highs. Based on the response of the crowds streaming through the room while I was there, Bruce has another winner on his hands. I often heard wow, unique, fantastic, and musical comments. All I can say is I concur, and congratulations Bruce.



On A Higher Note, Graham, Bergmann, Moonriver, and Cardas Audio
Visiting On a Higher Notes' room at any show is a treat. No one in the industry can compare to On a Higher Notes' fearless leader Philipp O'Hanlon in putting on a demonstration. Not only is his commentary highly entertaining, but his knowledge of music is also second to none. I cannot tell you how much new music Philip has exposed me to over the years. You owe it to yourself to visit with Philip if you ever have the opportunity.

Phillip's room showcased the Graham Audio LS8/1 loudspeaker driven by the intriguing Moonriver 404 Reference Integrated, the Moonriver 505 Phono Stage, a Bergmann Modi Turntable fitted with the Bergman Thor Tonearm, and a Hana ML, all sitting on an Artesania Prestige Rack. Cardas supplied the cable, tying everything together.

The Graham / Bergmann / Moonriver combination does what an audio system should do. It does not call attention to itself. It gets out of the way and lets the music flow naturally, imparting as little of itself on the performance. The system exhibited airy highs, a beautiful midrange, and deep, punchy bass. For those who love the traditional BBC sound, the LS8/1s deserve a listen.




Gershman Acoustics, Valve Amplification Company (VAC), And Cardas Audio
Ofra and Eli Gershman of Gershman Acoustics are well known for always having a great-sounding room at any event they exhibit. FLAX 2023 was no different, as the room was simply outstanding. The room showcased their 30th Anniversary Grande Avant Garde loudspeaker driven by a VAC Master Preamplifier and the VAC Master 300 IQ amplifier. The digital-only front end consists of the EMM Labs' DA2 DAC and the Wolf Audio Streamer. Cardas Audio provided the cables used to tie everything together.



The sound produced in this room was beyond excellent. The soundstage was huge, extending well beyond the walls of the room. It placed correct images within the stage and was not exaggerated. The presentation was perfectly balanced, with no one part of the frequency spectrum having an emphasis over another. As I told Ofra Gershman, this one room was one that I could spend all day in.




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