Lone Star Audio Fest 2023

It’s been a long time coming, but after 3 years of cancellations due you-know-what, we have finally arrived.

If I had to describe LSAF compared to other (bigger) shows, it perfectly fills the gap between small meetups and its larger brethren. At the same time, LSAF continues to be the most organized unorganized show I’ve been to. I mean that in a good way, obviously.

So, in the grand scheme of things, I’m pretty new to LSAF, this marking my 3rd attendance. Alrighty, let’s get moving!

The Rooms

First up is is Raven Audio. They had two rooms this year (and the shows previous). Both rooms were using their reference Corvus monitors. These go for a cool $12,500/pair, though you can save a little if you opt for a non-piano finish.

Their first room was showing off the mid-tier offering from their entry Avian series integrated amplifiers. I’ve been a fan of their Avian integrated units for a while and it continued to show here. The sound was smooth, yet detailed. A nice feature of the Avian amps is a built-in crossover for integrating with subwoofers.

I wouldn’t be lying if I said I wish the sub had been disabled for the demo, and I’ll explain why. When demoing a system, I want to hear what just the main attractions are capable of. In this case, it’d be just the speakers and integrated. I’m sure it still would’ve sounded excellent. I’m also sure I could’ve asked to turn off the sub temporarily, but I was so enamored with the music that I simply forgot.

I told Dave I’ve been wanting to get one of their Avians for a while (to review). We’ll see!

Their second room was meant to be sporting their reference Reflection integrated, but Dave noticed an issue with one of the LED’s on the volume dial…. it was too bright!

So, Dave took it out of the system and started surgery. He was kind enough to let me take a picture of the underside. As expected, it all looks like fine point-to-point wiring.

I would have loved to hear it, but maybe next year.

After a few tracks, I took my leave as I was short on time unfortunately. I would have liked to spend more time as the system was really nicely dialed in all things considered. It’s a small room to work with!

Onto the next room was a fine set of speakers by Stereo Clarity. This two man operation have appeared at the show for a few years now and it sounds just as nice as I remember the previous years.

One thing I really appreciated about these speakers was the built in subwoofers. Look, I know that speaker placement isn’t always the best location for subs, but I have a wife and kids and it’s hard to get approval to put an extra box somewhere in the living room or listening space.

Anyways, while the bass was a little bit extra for me, it was very well defined and had natural roll-offs. The speakers themselves were a bit of a surprise for me in the highs. I don’t normally consider myself a ribbon fan… they can be a bit grating on the ears.

That said, their horn loaded ribbon had nice extension and rolled off cleanly as far as I could tell. Additionally, I’m a huge fan of natural wood finishes and this just exuded luxury to my eye. Well done indeed. For reference, I believe the asking price for these was around $8k. A bit much for my blood, but not outrageous.

A bit unrelated, but I had a really good chat with the owners. Turned out that one of them used to work with my father while he was still at IBM. He was planning on joining me when I visited – it would have proven to be an even better conversation.

Alas, I had to leave and move onto the next room.

There were two rooms with Rosso Fiorentino. I’ll be honest that I didn’t spend a whole lot of time in the first room.

Aesthetically the speakers are definitely conversation pieces. You can’t walk into a room and not notice them. They were the most expensive speakers that I saw, coming in around $17,500.

Sound-wise, I just wasn’t feeling the first room. They sort of reminded me of british speakers. Very proper and reserved, but taken to the extreme.

Their second room was more interesting for me. First, I really liked the look of the speakers. Maybe not the skin… I would have preferred a real wood veneer. But I loved how tall and petite they were.

The sound was surprising to say the least. In a good way too. It was smooth, but had a good amount of impact on the bass. I thought for sure I was listening to a 3-way design but was surprised to find they’re a 2.5 way. The mid-range stood out to me as the most sensual and pleasing to the ears.

The best part? They come in almost 50% cheaper than their bigger brothers at $10,000. Still a pretty tough pill to swallow, especially when you consider that just a couple rooms earlier I was listening to solid wood speakers that sell for two grand less.

Still, there was a lot to love. I’m a huge fan of soft dome tweeters, which is probably why I enjoyed these speakers so much from top to bottom.

I haven’t really called out electronics so far, and that’s mainly my fault of not noting everything down. Next year perhaps.

That half-width silver box was the integrated amplifier and I was very much entranced with its sound. It’s not often that you see a half-width chassis that weighs in at a hefty ~26 lb.

Class A/B, 75 watts into 8 ohms doubling down into 4. I’d love to get one in for review sometime.

One of the better systems that I heard was this, by GR Research. While they weren’t here in person, Uilleam Audio was showing them off with upgraded crossovers.

Per my understanding, Mike (the owner) will build you the speakers using any woods you want and even offers upgrades on the crossovers for parts, etc.

It was really a nice sounding room, even with the AMT’esque tweeter. Oh, and I forgot to mention, these are baffle-less speakers! You can’t tell from the photo, but the outer edges of the top enclosure don’t exist.

In case you’re wondering, I forgot to ask the cost. Probably 10k+ if I had to guess… but don’t quote me on anything.

Okay, the last room I really want to talk on is Hollis Audio Labs. They were showing a wide-band planar system mated to six servo subs (three per channel).

The first words that came out of my mouth were “that was surreal”. Truly, this was a special room and probably my favorite of the show.

Bass was deep, but well dialed in so it didn’t overpower. And as the drivers were so far apart, it had a strange effect of sounding like headphones. But, you know, extremely good headphones.

I hope they come back next year. I can’t wait to listen to the system again.

Apparently there were more rooms, but I didn’t get to visit them unfortunately. Next year I’d like to stay for all three days to get the full experience.

Looking Ahead

While the exhibitor turnout wasn’t what it was the last time the show was held in 2019 (thanks covid), I was still pleasantly surprised and can’t wait for the show next year.

I’m actually looking to exhibit next year. I had thought about it for this year, but real life stuff came up and I wasn’t able to commit. We’ll see… I’ve mentioned it to the wifey and she seemed skeptical.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *