Rounding out my final day here at the Florida International Audio Expo, I cobbled together a roundup of new loudspeakers that would give you a flavor of the diversity found here at the Embassy Suites Tampa Westshore. All prices are in US dollars.
Frits Dalmose Sørensen is the sales director of Audio Group Denmark, and despite it being late on the final day of the show, he was only too happy to walk me through the Danish holding company’s latest products. As a refresher, Audio Group Denmark owns four brands. Aavik Acoustics is the group’s electronics arm, developing super-high-end amps, DAC-streamers, and phono stages. Ansuz is the cable arm, producing an entire line of analog, digital, and power cables. Newly debuted at FIAE is the group’s new entry-level brand, Axxess, which was demoing a $5500 all-in-one electronics solution called Forte (shown above). And finally, Børresen Acoustics is the group’s loudspeaker brand, which features the designs of Michael Børresen, formerly of Raidho Acoustics.
At FIAE, Børresen (the brand) debuted in North America the first loudspeaker in its new X-series, the X3, which retails for $11,000 per pair. If you’re familiar with Børresen’s other lines, you’ll be aware that they’re on the pricy side, costing tens of thousands of dollars and cresting well into six figures for a pair of Børresen 05 flagship towers. Imagine my surprise at how affordable the new X3 is. Look at it! It’s a pretty design: narrow but quite deep, with a beautifully curved cabinet. There’s a healthy amount of carbon-fiber laminate on the cabinet, lending it a high-tech look that I really appreciate. The 2.5-way floorstander starts with a bespoke planar ribbon tweeter, a 4.5″ midrange-woofer, and two 4.5″ woofers. The ribbon, Sørensen explained, weighs just 1/100th of a gram—talk about low moving mass—while the cones are fashioned from two layers of spread-tow carbon fiber sandwiching 4mm of honeycomb. The X3s were hooked up to the aforementioned Forte, which includes an amplifier, DAC, and streamer.
The performance was really compelling, throwing out a huge sound into the room, while also being quick and dynamic and, crucially, not fatiguing. Compared to many other planar speakers I heard at the show, the Børresen’s ribbon had an uncanny smoothness. And despite the modestly sized bass drivers, the X3s pushed out a surprising amount of bass energy on “Bungee Jump” by Captain Hook, a high-contrast EDM cut—it was enough to overload the room. All in all, a very cool product that I’d love to hear in a more optimal room.
Moving up in price is MC Audiotech’s new TL-12 loudspeaker ($24,900 per pair), designed—quite literally—up the road from me in North Wales, Pennsylvania. The two-way TL-12 is based on the wideband, dipole, line-source tweeters used in the company’s first commercial product, the mid-century-modern Forty-10 loudspeaker. The line-source array is crossed over to a 12″ woofer harnessing a transmission line at 300Hz using first-order (6dB/octave) slopes. The speaker is big, measuring 48″H × 15.3″W, and weighing 117 pounds. It has a listed impedance of 8 ohms with a sensitivity of 92dB, so the TL-12 looks like an easy load to drive.
The TL-12 was backed up by a VPI turntable and a raft of ModWright Instruments electronics and Audience AV cables. Company founder Mark Conti spun “Nine Pound Hammer” by Townes Van Zandt on the turntable, and I thoroughly enjoyed the country singer-songwriter’s slight southern accent and noted the Texan’s three-dimensional presentation in the room. I also heard the TL-12s’ lack of positional fussiness: imaging remained strong on either side of the sweet spot. Van Zandt’s vocal was both effortless and spatially well defined, a testament to MC Audiotech’s line-source drivers. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to hear much of that massive 12″ transmission-line woofer, but I left impressed by Conti’s sophomore effort.
Finally, the big one: Acora Acoustics’ VRC. This loudspeaker costs $218,000 per pair and weighs over 400 pounds. It’s made of solid blue-pearl granite. The VRCs occupied the biggest room at the entire show, measuring roughly 40′W × 65′L × 20′H. This monster of a speaker features a 1″ Scan-Speak beryllium-dome tweeter, a pair of 4″ Scan-Speak midranges, and a pair of 12″ woofers. I was told that the Scan-Speak drivers are modified by the Danish driver manufacturer to Acora’s specs. Nominal impedance is 4 ohms, dipping to an entirely reasonable 3.2-ohm minimum, which, when partnered with a stated sensitivity of 95dB and benign phase angles, promises to make the VRC a very easy speaker to drive. Specified frequency response is 18Hz–40kHz, though I never caught what the plus and minus deviations are. The crossover has silver-foil capacitors, and there’s not a resistor to be found. When I inquired about the slopes used in the crossover, I was told in no uncertain terms by founder Valerio R. Cora (you now see where the loudspeaker’s name came from) that he could share no details other than “fourth order.”
The Acora VRCs were hooked up to a raft of high-end VAC gear, including the Statement 452 iQ monoblock amplifiers, Statement Line Stage, and Statement Phono Stage, with an Oracle Delphi Reference turntable, Reed tonearm, and Lyra Atlas Lambda cartridge spinning tunes. Truth be told, the system sounded good. On a female rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine”—apologies, I didn’t note the artist—I was enchanted by how clear and full-bodied the singer’s voice was, and how well the VRCs filled the massive demo room. The follow-up rendition of “Darlin’ Cora” was similarly compelling, with the applause at the end of the track arrayed across the soundstage with delicious specificity, and seemingly infinite depth, though the VRCs clearly benefited from being farther out in the room than just about any other speaker at the show. Drum thwacks were well controlled even at high volume levels. It was an impressive performance for a system that retails for several hundred thousand dollars. But I can’t help but think that there were loudspeakers at this show that offer 95 percent of the Acora Acoustics’ VRC performance for far fewer dollars. It was a hell of an experience, though!
This was one of the most interesting shows I’ve attended in a long time, with a huge variety of manufacturers and equipment designs to which I would not have otherwise been exposed. Until next year . . .
Senior Contributor, SoundStage!