SoundStage! isn’t my only side hustle. Through the spring, summer, and fall here in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, I also moonlight as senior editor of Inside Motorcycles, a Canadian print magazine. My duties at IM mirror those here at SoundStage!—I test stuff and write about it. I test motorcycles, helmets, clothing, and parts, and I write touring travel articles. But mostly I test motorcycles.
Alex Sound Technology
The room hosted by Alex Sound Technology—a newcomer on the Florida distributor scene—was packed all weekend. From the hallway, on multiple visit attempts, I glimpsed a handsome pair of Blumenhofer Acoustics Genuin FS MK 2 loudspeakers (starting at $21,050 per pair, all prices USD) wrapped in a striking Makassar ebony veneer. I’m a sucker for big-cone two-ways, and the Genuin FS MK 2 filled the bill: high-efficiency, 12″ paper woofer, floor-ported bass-reflex design, and a horn-loaded compression driver mounted atop the cabinet.
In my previous product-coverage articles, I tried to include a broad range of product categories. For this third and final installment, I’m keeping it mostly to loudspeakers, since I came across several interesting ones. But I also added one amplifier into the mix because I felt that it was important to include in the coverage. All prices are in US dollars.
It’s easy to fall in love at an audio show.
It’s easy to fall out of love at an audio show.
Depending on whom you ask, there is uncertainty in the audio show business. Some forecast gloom and doom, suggesting that the show model has run its course, and that the COVID-19 pandemic has only heightened its irrelevance. Others (extroverts, I’m sure) have been dying to corner press contacts in person for the first time in two years in the show’s hallways—or over coffee at the restaurant’s breakfast bar or over drinks after hours—exuberant to share in the spectacle of the hotel audio experience.
The speed with which my first round of coverage showed up online was because the manufacturers whose products it featured sent out detailed preshow press releases about what they’d be displaying at Florida Audio Expo 2022. Having that information ahead of time let me know that those products would be there and provided details that I didn’t have to waste time getting in the display rooms. Instead, I went straight for the rooms the products were in, photographed them, got out, wrote them all up, and then uploaded the completed coverage online. I am bringing this up as a less-than-subtle hint for those manufacturers still wondering about the best way to get covered in a show report quickly.
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.
It’s fitting that Florida Audio Expo 2022 is the first hi-fi show I’ve attended since the COVID-19 pandemic began. That’s because the last show I attended prior to the pandemic shutting everything down was Florida Audio Expo 2020. It was held then at the same site of its inaugural year, 2019: the Embassy Suites by Hilton Tampa Airport Westshore, located in Tampa, Florida. And it’s back there again this year. It’s a great place to hold a hi-fi show—if only to get so many of us out of the snow for a few days.
My book, The Perfect Sound: A Memoir in Stereo, tells the story of three journeys—my own audio quest for the past 15 years, my love of all kinds of music since I was a kid in Hawaiʻi back in the 1950s, and the story of amplification itself from early acoustic instruments and classical amphitheaters to modern electronics and speakers. It’s part memoir, part personal audio chronicle, and part essayistic history of audio itself told through selected highlights. It took me a long time to write.
The term format agnostic has been showing up lately in certain hi-fi circles. I’m no linguist, but I am a fan of words and the creative ways we use them. These two words, in combination, caught my attention.
Most high-end speaker manufacturers practice some form of quality control (QC) measures to ensure that their products leave the factory performing and looking exactly as they intend them to. These QC methods typically involve visual inspections—sometimes with special lighting or other tools that make obvious the smallest cosmetic flaws—and listening tests. The best manufacturers add acoustical testing to these QC steps.
Here’s my second batch of new audio products I saw as one of the handful of press attendees at the 2022 CES in Las Vegas this week. Why so few? Because I found only three major audio companies at CES. In fact, although I expected to see lots of headphone and Bluetooth speaker brands, they bailed, too—the biggest one I saw was Raycon, best known for heavily advertised and relatively cheap true wireless earbuds.
Against all odds, the 2022 CES took place this week in Las Vegas, even though many major tech manufacturers had pulled out and most press outlets canceled their plans to attend. So why did I go? Partly out of sheer inertia—I haven’t missed a CES since I first visited the show in 1990. Partly out of convenience—I was driving back to Los Angeles after visiting my family in Texas, and Las Vegas wasn’t far out of the way. And partly out of curiosity—I can remember when CES didn’t take over all of Las Vegas, when you could get a good lunch buffet at the Sahara for $6, and when the press events actually focused on new products rather than creating spectacle for the TV cameras. I hoped that the 2022 show would recall those simpler times of my youth. Rosebud . . .
There was a time when I was an audiophile but not an audio-equipment reviewer. Although I have been with SoundStage! since 1997, I recall a time before that when I had the gleam in my eyes that comes from pursuing the audio truth with limited means but an unquenchable curiosity. I dare say it was a more enjoyable experience in many ways than being “in” the industry. Sometimes, though, I feel brief moments of wonder like I did in my youth.
On the morning I submitted my previous (first) column, I stepped outside to my backyard workshop shed and unfastened the wood clamps from a fun little project I had no intention of keeping.
I’ve long felt that a kid who doesn’t know what he wants to do will soon find out exactly what he doesn’t want to do. That is, there is no greater motivation for suddenly embracing (any) plan B than first being confronted with a disagreeable plan A.
Something struck me when I interviewed Michael Levy, president of New York’s Alta Audio, for a recent SoundStage! Talks video on the SoundStage! YouTube channel. First, Michael is a wealth of information, and his speaker-design knowledge goes back—way back. If you haven’t checked out that video, and you only know Alta from a few ads and maybe a quick experience at an audio show, you’ll gain a whole new perspective on the company and its products from watching that Talks episode.
When I visited Magico at its Hayward, California, factory back in July of this year, my main focus was exploring the new Magico flagship, the mighty M9 ($750,000 per pair). I saw M9s being built and tested, and I got to hear a pair of these in Magico’s custom listening room. It was quite a treat.
On September 27, an unexpected email appeared in my inbox. “Hey, Toronto, your Audiofest is back!” the message proclaimed. “After a two-year absence, the Toronto Audiofest is happy to return October 22–24, 2021, as the ‘SafeMode’ Toronto Audiofest.” I registered immediately.
With the process of setting up the SVS SB16-Ultra complete, it was time to put this monster of a subwoofer through its paces to see how it performs. The first question I wanted to answer was whether the SVS app is preferable to the included small, plastic remote control. In a word, yes. The remote does provide basic controls such as volume and turning the display on or off, but the app gives the user far more control with direct access to functions such as the Parametric EQ and adjustable crossover. For users who don’t want their smartphone by their side in the listening room, the remote is handy in a pinch. The app, however, is made for you control freaks who want everything the sub is capable of right at your fingertips. I’ll use the app.
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