The Sumiko Audio room (member of the McIntosh Group) was running at full steam when I arrived early on Friday. The Florida Audio Expo was in its second year of operation after a successful start in 2019. On the far side were the Sonus Faber Olympica Nova 2s, backed by an all Pro-ject front end. Opposite the playback was a static display with several analog products, including a few launches and first glimpses for the US. Read: new Pro-Ject Turntables.
Making headlines in a limited release, a new Phono Box Ultra 500 ($399) is made with all discrete componentry and a copper chassis covered in a shiny chrome case. Included with the package is a multitude of adjustment switches and both moving coil and moving magnet compatibility.
Production for the PBU will be limited to a run of 500 pieces according to sources at the show. Also on static display is the new Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB turntable ($399). The entry-level piece comes fully set up and mounted with a Ortofon OM5e cart factory installed. A tempered glass platter sets the analog source apart from the rest of the pack visually and was quite eye-catching in person. First timers might rejoice in a built in phono stage, but those looking to expand will be able to add a separate box as the option is fully defeatable.
In the $1k+ category Pro-Ject Turntables are dropping revisions to the X2 ($1,299) in the form of a new tonearm equipped with a Sumiko Moonstone cartridge preinstalled. The Classic EVO ($1,799) is now factory loaded with a Sumiko Amethyst and sees updates to the tonearm, bearings, and a new machined aluminum sub platter.
As a fun tease and a way to break up the monotony of audiophile classic test tracks, I found myself asking for the recent pop explosion (and 2020 Grammy sweeper) Billie Eilish for demo fulfillment when asked. Surprisingly, (or perhaps not to some) many rooms over the weekend had never heard of the artist. However, in the Pro-Ject room they not only had Ms. Eilish ready and available, they had the break out album When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? on vinyl. The resulting playback from the Signature 10 Turntable ($6.5k) to the Olympica Nova II ($10k) provided plenty of slam and dynamics to the “in-box” recording produced by her brother Finneas in their home bedroom. The closely mic’d recording allows for plenty of information transfer and details were carefully unpacked at the driver level with solid transparency and an ever-so-slight romantic touch.
More info: Pro-Ject