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Alex Sound Technology at Florida Audio Expo 2022

02-27-2022 | By Tom Gibbs | Issue 120

On Day 3 (Sunday) of FAE, I got a text from Sue Toscano with a special request: could I possibly get to the Alex Sound Tech room before the show was over? "Alex Sound Tech" didn't really ring a bell for me, but Sue said they'd been specifically asking for someone from Positive Feedback to please come by their room. "No problem." I responded, and headed directly to their room on the 11th floor, where, upon arrival, I realized I'd been by this room several times over the weekend, but hadn't been able to get inside the room. A rather lanky chap stood outside the closed door and smiled at me as I approached and reached for the door handle—which was, as per my previous experience, locked. I offered a puzzled expression, and he again smiled at me, then leaned down and looked at my show badge and exclaimed in a heavy Eastern European accent "You are from Positive Feedback! We have been waiting for you!" I introduced myself, and he then reached down and grabbed the door handle—which was, of course, locked—then shouted something in a language that employed the same dialect. Someone on the opposite side of the door shouted a response in the same language, then the door opened, and the lanky chap said in English "This is Tom Gibbs of Positive Feedback!" The gentleman on the other side of the door then looks down at my badge, smiles broadly, and proclaimed "Tom Gibbs of Positive Feedback! We have been waiting for you!"

I was ushered into the room (which was filled with very exotic-looking equipment) and was quietly asked to take a seat; a demonstration was currently going on for a couple of show-goers. I immediately got the impression that more intimate, personalized presentations were part of the Alex Sound Technology methodology for showing off their equipment offerings. When the two gentlemen departed, Alex Sound Tech's principal representative, Leonid Benfeld introduced himself, and gave me some background about the company. Alex Sound Technology is based in Windermere, Florida, which is a western suburb of the greater Orlando area. The company is the distributor for select lines of very high-end audio equipment, and their product offerings include horn loudspeakers from German manufacturer Blumenhofer; digital streaming network players, DACs, and master clocks from Japanese firm Sforzato; and tube amplifiers and high-end vacuum tubes from Japanese company Takatsuki. Alex Sound Tech also reps cables of its own production, True Power Lab, and high-end connectors manufactured by two Taiwanese brands—IeGo Power (pronounced "ai-yi-go") and ATL Power. These connectors are also used in the construction of True Power Lab power cables.

Alex Tkachov stands to the left of the room and controls the digital equipment with an app.

Alex Sound Tech's roots are in the Ukraine, where Aleksandr Tkachov (Alex) was a sound engineer and audiophile, and adapted his knowledge of engineering into his love for high-end audio. Alex has spent over 35  years involved in deep research, testing, tweaking, and DIY in developing a technical insight into high-end audio that goes far beyond conventional understanding. And Alex is in constant contact with product manufacturers and designers, providing assistance in beta testing and product development. Alex's eldest son had been living and working in the US for many years, and two years ago, Alex and his partner decided to relocate to Florida and established Alex Sound Technology to distribute new and interesting audiophile brands and help bring them to the attention of American audiophiles. To quote Alex: "The main idea of ​​our company is that we offer the American market new brands that are very interesting in terms of sound quality, concept, new technology (for example Sforzato), and most importantly at friendly prices, lower than those of competitors." Florida Audio Expo 2022 was Alex Sound Tech's first public event, and they're actively in the process of establishing a dealer network for the noteworthy high-end brands that they distribute.

Leonid was very vocal about the current sad state of affairs in the Ukraine, and how very worried they were for friends and families back in the old country. Of course, the situation has seriously escalated in the last few days, and this is obviously a very difficult time for everyone at Alex Sound Tech and all the people of Ukraine. Leonid also reiterated to me that they were very keen to meet with a representative from Positive Feedback, as they read a lot of high-end audio coverage, but feel a certain sympatico with the quality of audio journalism offered by Positive Feedback. I thanked him for his confidence, and assured him we're just trying to keep it real! Leonid also told me that he'd be translating Alex's responses to my questions, since Alex doesn't speak much English. 

The Blumenhofer Genuin FS2's top-mounted compression driver assembly can be fine-tuned for perfect imaging.

The loudspeakers in the room were from German manufacturer Blumenhofer, the Genuin FS2 Mk 2 ($22k/pair and up, depending on finish), and appear to me to fall into the middle of Blumenhofer's product line. The Genuin FS2 is a floorstanding, two-way horn design that features a 12-inch paper cone woofer with an Alnico magnet and a .25-inch titanium compression driver. The compression driver is mounted on a very rigid but adjustable metallic sliding assembly that's used for fine tuning and time-aligning of the high frequency driver to the listening position. The loudspeaker cabinets are made from heavily braced birch plywood, weighing just shy of 100 lbs. each, and the display pair were finished in a strikingly beautiful Macassar Ebony veneer. A number of custom wood finishes are available by special order from the manufacturer. Frequency response for the Genuin FS2 was specified as 36Hz-20kHz, ± 2 dB (8 ohms), and the loudspeaker boasted an efficiency rating of 94 dBw. Speaker terminals are made from gold-plated tellurium copper, and are configured to allow for easy bi-amping. Just looking at these beautifully made loudspeakers, I could tell that they were simply begging for some serious tube amplification! You can find additional information about Blumenhofer's excellent range of loudspeakers HERE.

The Takatsuki TA-S01 is unique in my experience with tube audio equipment.

And that premium tube amplification was provided by Japanese manufacturer Takatsuki, in the form of their 8 wpc TA-S01 single-ended triode amplifier ($29k). I referred to it as an integrated amplifier, and Leonid corrected me, in that the amp only actually has one input and onboard attenuation, so technically, it's not really an integrated amplifier. The TA-S01 employs a three-stage driver circuit that utilizes a quad of 12AU7 pre-driver tubes, a pair of 300-B output tubes, and a single 274-B rectifier tube. Takatsuki actually builds their own output and rectifier tubes, and were already an important supplier of 300-B tubes to the high-end market before taking the plunge and building the TA-S01 amp in 2018. I questioned Leonid as to whether Takatsuki also manufactured the pre-driver tubes, and a fairly lively exchange then took place in Ukrainian between Alex and Leonid. There was seemingly no definitive answer, when suddenly Alex turned to me and very clearly said, "No, the 12AU7 tubes are made by Tung-Sol in Russia." 

Takatsuki manufactures their own 300B output tubes.

The TA-S01 is a substantial piece of kit, weighing in at 62 lbs., and offers a level of user-customization that's unique in my experience among tube amplifiers. It features rear-panel, user-selectable switches for direct or AC-coupled input, and also allows the user to manually select whether or not to employ Negative Feedback to adjust the amplifier's damping factor. There are also front-panel adjustments for the TA-S01's Harmonic Content (a five-position switch adjusts the depth of the tone quality), Coupling and Bypass Capacitance (four capacitor combinations are available), and an eight-position switch selects your preference of Bypass Capacitor (which affects the amplifier's bass output). The TA-S01 also has output taps for 4/8/16 ohm loudspeakers, and is about as bulletproof looking as any tube amplifier I've ever come across. You can find more detailed information about the Takatsuki TA-S01 amplifier HERE.

Alex Sound Tech also manufactures the large racks that displayed the Sforzato equipment and Takatsuki TA-S01.

Alex Sound Tech gets their digital source equipment from another Japanese manufacturer, Sforzato. The word "Sforzato" comes from classical music, and in musical notation the shorthand "sfz" indicates a note that is meant to be played much stronger than the other ones, played with one's full heart and soul. Sforzato followed Linn in 2009 by becoming only the second worldwide manufacturer to offer a digital transport, their DST-01, which actually included native DSD playback. Sforzato offers state-of-the-art streaming network players that incorporate LAN and USB DACs (available in a variety of configurations, including multi-chassis arrays), along with several iterations of master clock generators. All equipment uses custom-built, state-of-the art micro-computers and proprietary software, but will also play nicely with off-the-shelf equipment as well. The digital controllers of Sforzato equipment employ FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) semiconductors that allow for continual remote updates of firmware and software, allowing their devices to remain fully relevant for years to come. The FAE system featured the DSP-030 EX Network Player ($10k),  the PCM-015 EX Master Clock Generator ($5k), and the Fidata SX20U NAS Server ($8k). More information about the Sforzato range of digital source equipment can be found HERE.

Static displays showed some of the cable and connector offerings. For a better idea, see the link to their website.

Last, but not least, the Alex Sound Tech room contained static displays of their cable and connector offerings, and all equipment within the room employed True Power Lab cables and high-end power connectors from IeGO and ATL. All of their cables and connectors use premium metals that span a range of fittings made from premium red copper, tellurium copper, ETP pure copper, and the IeGO brand is the only cable manufacturer in the world that makes fittings from solid silver. Pure copper, silver, gold, and rhodium plating is used throughout the three cable lines. The cables I observed in place in the system setup and in the static displays were among the most overbuilt examples of audio cable artistry I've encountered, and were almost jewel-like in their appearance. All cables in use in the system displayed at FAE were from True Power Lab, which is Alex Sound Tech's own in-house brand; they also manufacture the very substantial equipment racks that showcased the equipment offerings. You can find additional information about True Power Lab cables and construction HERE.

The author enjoying some of the seductive sounds of the Blumenhofer/Takatsuki/Sforzato system in the Alex Sound Tech room.

So how did the Blumenhofer/Takatsuki/Sforzato system sound? Color me impressed! Alex offered me a tablet that was used to control the Sforzato digital equipment, and having made several musical selections, the sound produced by the combination of old-school analog and high-tech digital was beyond reproach. A couple of the tracks were from Melody Gardot's third album, The Absence, and offered a perfect showcase of the synergy between the Blumenhofer/Takatsuki/Sforzato equipment. Melody Gardot has a very lovely and distinctive voice, and you could easily close your eyes and visualize Ms. Gardot and the individual players and their instruments before you. The Blumenhofer Genuin FS2 loudspeakers responded perfectly to the handful of single-ended triode watts supplied by the Takatsuki TA-S01 amplifier; the sound was, quite simply, sublime, and at no volume level did the system ever seem underpowered. I love the sound of tubes (I have an EL-34 setup in my home), and the 300-B single-ended triodes did not disappoint—the sound was perfectly liquid, and the Blumenhofer loudspeakers painted a perfect impression of reality across the soundstage. 

My congratulations to Alex, Leonid, and everyone at Alex Sound Technology; their well-appointed room was definitely among the most impressive at the Florida Audio Expo.

All prices listed are in USD.

Alex Sound Technology: alexsoundtech.com

All photographs courtesy of the author and Alex Sound Technology.