Florida Audio Expo 2022 - Tampa, USA
- Written by Jason Davis Jason Davis
- Parent Category: Shows-Events Shows-Events
- Created: 18 February 2022 18 February 2022
The third annual Florida Audio Expo (FAE) kicked off on Friday, February 18, around the time that the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 pandemic began to decline nationally. After an underwhelming CES, the question on everyone’s mind was whether manufacturers, dealers, and showgoers would actually show up.
Turns out, Florida gonna Florida.
Among dozens of listed exhibitors (majority unmasked), only a handful had backed out. I spent the first morning trailing Doug Schneider, hitting each room of the show’s 12 floors to get a “lay of the land,” to get an idea or expectation of what was happening, and to meet industry contacts before potential weekend crowds bum-rushed the exhibitors.
Most North American audio shows have these things in common: big shiny things, big noisy things, big expensive things. It’s true, too, that small, portable things have gained attention. From my perspective, though, it’s easy to find two more commonalities: a retired (and increasingly unmasked) audience, and the retired audience’s shit-slow jazz on every system in every room.
I’m not convinced these people actually like this music—as enjoyment, or pastime—so much as it’s inoffensive when showing off to friends how great it plays on their home hi-fi. And since they have the money, their interests get the attention. That’s a little harsh, right? Still. Who’s catering to me?
Believe it or not, there is a small subset within audiophilia who, like me, just want to rock. And by rock, I mean straight metal. We want the dirtiest, fattest, nastiest, heaviest riffs, and from bands whose names we can’t pronounce and with logos you can’t decipher. Straight filth. Running through our veins (metaphorically).
I found my people on the ninth floor, in the room shown by Geshelli Labs. The name is portmanteau-ish for Geno and Sherri (Bisceglia), the founders and designers of a small, handsome, and fun line of DACs and headphone amps. The close-knit, family-run company manufactures in-house nearby, in Rockledge, Florida, and was founded in 2017.
Where more traditional exhibitors can appear stuffy or disinterested, the Bisceglias were rocking out to Def Leppard, under blue light, with a pair of Yamaha standmount speakers, entertaining a constant flow of intrigued visitors. A quick run through the hotel showed that no one was having as much fun as the Bisceglias from Geshelli.
So, what is it?
The Geshelli product lineup consists of a single DAC and two headphone amps—one balanced and one single-ended. The $249.99 J2 DAC (all prices in USD) features an ESS Sabre-series chip (ES9026PRO), with coaxial (RCA) and optical (TosLink) connections. An optional USB connection runs an extra $50. The three headphone amps—which I didn’t sample—run $189.99 to $229.99. All are available in multicolored plexi with custom faceplates. Intriguingly, Geno’s father, Joe, a retired master woodworker, crafts all the brand’s optional wood cases ($49.99–$99.99), each featuring gorgeous dovetail joints.
I asked Geno to stream “Funeralopolis,” the doom metal anthem from Electric Wizard’s seminal Dopethrone album, through the J2 DAC. “Metal?” one pensioner asked. “I’ll come back in a bit,” he joked.
Despite the noisy room, and amidst the song’s slow, noodly, strummy intro, I heard a man coughing hysterically at the front of the room. You know the feeling, now more reaction than judgment (better be wearing a mask, coughing like that!), a sign of these times, an action of concern and also self-preserving. But there was no one there. There was no one behind the speakers at the front of the room. The coughing fit existed inside the song I’ve heard thousands of times and had never heard articulated in space.
It’s only Friday, and more’s to come, but Sherri summed up the early goings-on in the Geshelli room: “We’re shocked,” she said. “We really thought we’d be ignored, but visitors with product interest haven’t stopped!”
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