Behind the Scenes at Florida International Audio Expo: Talking With Founder Bart Andeer

Behind the Scenes at Florida International Audio Expo: Talking With Founder Bart Andeer

Written by Frank Doris

How do you cover a show that you weren’t able to go to? There are a few options: contact the manufacturers who were there and find out what they were showing; crib from everyone else’s online coverage (nahh, not going to do that) – or talk to the guy who founded the show. I had the pleasure of doing that with Florida International Audio Expo (FAE) managing partner Bart Andeer. And thanks to his able team member, PR person extraordinaire Sue Toscano, I was able to get a look at some of the exhibits. Here goes:

Frank Doris: Let’s start with the obvious question. What gave you the idea to start the Florida International Audio Expo?

Bart Andeer: My three partners and I have been showgoers for a long time and members of the local audiophile society. And then in 2014 I started a high-end acoustics business, Resolution Acoustics, which was a financial disaster, to be perfectly blunt, but it got me into exhibiting. At my first show, AXPONA in 2015, I had a two-room thing with some very nice products in both rooms set up identically, the only difference being the acoustic treatments. And I had manufacturers coming into my room and listening, and I got a lot of lovely write-ups, and they knew I was the real deal. You could stand at the adjoining rooms in the threshold of the adjoining door and put your head in on one side and then on the other side and absolutely hear the difference. I had the same material playing at the same time, split at the preamp, identical amps, cabling, and speakers. So that gave me some credibility within the industry.

The business was a failure in the economic short-term sense, but without that, Florida International Audio Expo never would've happened. I licked my wounds for a few years. I'm a former ship captain, and then was a marine consultant at the oil industry. So, I'm used to planning things. Sometimes I am spontaneous and crazy. The left right hemispheres compete for attention with me sometimes, but I am also disciplined. The details matter.

FD: You can't run a ship by being lackadaisical, and you have to deal with all kinds of situations and headaches and unexpected turns of events and decision making.

BA: There are no Home Depots and 7-Elevens in the middle of the ocean! You’re planning before you take off. Running a ship is a team effort, or running an offshore oil project. You want good people; you want really good communications internally. And hence, I have PR person Sue Toscano and Denise Herninko, our graphic artist. Of course, I talk with my partners too. But the day-to-day management of the show, the planning, all of that stuff, dealing with the contracts, that all falls in my lap. It’s a team, but on a ship, there’s one captain.



Key members of the FAE team: Sue Toscano and Denise Herninko.


My partners and I started to discuss doing a show back in 2015. It was the summer of 2017 when we finally formed a corporation, with the agreement that the first priority was that we were not going to jeopardize our friendships.

We all recognize the benefits of music. I studied under a Buddhist monk for two and a half years. One of my partners is a physician, and it was interesting to find out that there have been studies done of just being engaged in music, versus the deep meditation of a skilled meditator. The neurotransmitters [involved] are remarkably similar. [But] it takes a lot of time to learn how to meditate and get into deep meditation. It doesn't take much to listen to music and get lost in it. All you need is a reasonably decent system, and you're getting similar benefits.

We're music lovers first, and that's always been the focus of the show. Not that audiophiles aren't welcome; of course they are. But we wanted to bring the joy of music to more people, and it wasn't about making the most money we could possibly make. Yes, it's a business. We can't afford to lose money every year. We did the first year.

FD: Why did you decide to hold the show in Tampa and not somewhere else in Florida?

BA: Well, two reasons. One, we all live in the area. So there's the convenience factor, but also the demographics. The Tampa-St. Petersburg area has much better demographics for disposable income than say Orlando or Jacksonville. And we're centrally located in this state. We're both [an] international and regional show. We’re blessed to have exhibitors from around the world. But also, we love to have dealers in the region come. Everybody's welcome and we just want to have a fun, family-friendly show.

FD: Which people have told me it is. What do you do to attract a more diverse group of attendees other than the usual – guilty as charged – gray-haired audiophile?

BA: Well, we don't depend just on throwing money at the thing. I get personally involved. I've been to record fairs, boat shows, home shows, and luxury lifestyle [events] where we have a display set up. We hired a marketing consultant for this past show. And also, Rachel Keene from Geshelli Labs is studying marketing in college. And Geshelli Labs is one of our great exhibitors. [The Florida International Audio Expo] was the first show they ever did. So I've gotten to know the family a little bit over the years. When Rachel said she was studying marketing, I said, “well, do you want to get some real-world experience?” And [she’s been] a great help, and helping to bring in younger people.

The show is also full of live music. The University of South Florida School of Music Jazz Ensemble plays for us in the evenings. We are community-minded, and without people learning to play music for us, we're kind of screwed down the road. So we try to support the USF school of music, and we've been doing that since day one.

We're all in this mess called life together, and the more we work together, the better it is.


Colorful sound: the Geshelli Labs exhibit.


FD: Who were some of the first manufacturers when you were trying to get Florida International Audio Expo show off the ground from nothing?

BA: There's a handful that have been with us from the absolute beginning. Qobuz jumped in right away with their support. Angela Cardas [of Cardas Audio] took three rooms the first year. Then we had MBL, VAC, High End by Oz, Acora Acoustics, Gershman Acoustics, and the Jacksonville dealer House of Stereo. Joseph Audio, MSB, LampizatOr, VPI, Volti Audio, Triode Wire Labs/Border Patrol Audio, Maximum Audio Video, and Anthem/Paradigm. We had 34 rooms, I think, the first year.  I am forgetting some and all who have supported us are sincerely appreciated.

FD: So it was serious right from the beginning.

This is a ridiculous question on paper, but, when do you start planning the show? I think the answer is probably that it's never-ending!

BA: Particularly this year with moving to a larger, nicer, more modern venue [the Sheraton Tampa Brandon]. Lots of work there. [Next year’s show will take place on February 21 – 23, 2025.]



Always a show favorite, Acora Acoustics had a big room with an impressive display.


FD: What are some of the planning and logistics involved in actually putting the thing together?

BA: Let me give you a little bit of a breakdown. In three weeks, I have probably my eighth meeting at the new venue, and I'll be with the general manager, the hotel engineer, the chef, and the salesperson. One of the points we will be going over will be the Wi-Fi [service]. Right now, the hotel has wired [internet]. [But] they're doing a renovation, and [they said], they’re going to go modern and make it wireless.” No, please don't. We will be requesting that they keep [the wired internet] operational and we'll also be requesting the possibility that we can purchase additional bandwidth for the whole hotel. If it's for the week or for the month, we don't care.

Qobuz has been awesome, and Dave [Solomon of Qobuz] has brought thumb drives for [exhibitors] who have issues with Wi-Fi, streaming, and whatever products they're using. Some products work better at [streaming audio connectivity] than others. That's the way it is.

Also, what power is available in the larger rooms? If it’s not adequate, can we get an additional drop put in there? And then we have to worry about meal service, particularly breakfast and lunch, because [the show] brings in a lot of people. So the food and beverage thing is a big deal.

We want to make sure there are spare parts for engineering, like the air conditioning or if something happens. We've always had a couple of spare rooms where, if we have to, we can move an exhibitor to a different room. That is the last resort because they've advertised [their room number]. for their room. Ideally, nothing breaks, but…

FD: Right. Ideally.

BA: Last year one of the exhibitors plugged some stuff in and sparks started flying out of the wall. They got an electrician in, and it had been a wiring fault from a long time ago. It got fixed, but these things happen, so we have to be prepared for all kinds of eventualities. There are just a lot of moving parts, and communication and planning are really the key.

The hotels [are also reluctant] to hire enough people because they have to go to temps, because of the size of our show. They hate to spend the money, but then they lose money [if there aren’t enough people to work the show]. {You have to] have enough bartenders so that people aren't waiting for 10 minutes trying to order a drink. You're losing money [then] and you're annoying the people that we work hard to bring in. 

One of the really cool things about our new venue is that it has three elevators, but there are only four floors. So we're going to have a lot less elevator waiting time.

For moving the equipment in and out we use Rusty Griffin and RG Logistic Group, and a lot of the dealers bring their own trucks.

If [you’re an exhibitor and] you feel the show was a waste of time, it's bad. And I have to say, while everyone was packing up they had a smile on their face. They were thanking me for the great attendance, and were happy.



Anka Patt of VIABLUE is happy to show off their cables and accessories.


FD: How do you handle the signage? Most people literally don’t think about it, but as a person who has done events, I know how important it is.

BA: It's critically important. I do the roughs. Then we have Denise Herninko from d-Vision Creative who puts it all together. She also puts our show guide together. She's amazing. Without her and Sue (Toscano), I'd be lost. You're no better than your support team. Believe in and get the best.

FD: I’ve heard that attendance is going up.

BA: Oh, yeah. And our demographics keep getting better. I would put our median age for our attendees in the mid-50s. A lot of families, an awful lot of families, an awful lot of spouses. Spouses and students of all ages [get in] free. Students of all ages are free. We've always wanted family, family, family.



Pets were also welcome at the show!


We don't compete with Capital Audiofest, or AXPONA or [other shows]. We're in our own lane, our own time of year in Florida. It's better for all of the shows to do well. As a matter of fact, when we decided to start Florida Audio Expo, the first thing I did before it went public was I e-mailed Marjorie (Baumert), Gary (Gill) and Mark (Freed), [the organizers of Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, Capital Audiofest and AXPONA] and said, “we're starting a show in Florida. We aren't trying to compete. We're going to be in February, and it's going to be a regional show. And I just want to let you guys know it from me before you hear it from somebody else.”

FD: It’s not a question of everyone competing for the same piece of the pie, it's a matter of expanding the pie so that we all have more. There’s a real feeling of camaraderie in the audio industry. I feel like we're all in it because we all love music, and it was a hobby or a vocation or a love that just kind of grew into what we do now.

There are so many people who don't know what good audio gear sounds like and what their favorite music could sound like. The first time I heard a high-end audio system I flipped out. I've spent my whole life pursuing it and trying to tell other people about it. Good music is something that I think people need to have. It's a basic need. People need music.

BA: That's what drives me. I was talking to my partners. I mentioned that this is my legacy.

To get more people to turn off the blasted propaganda box and turn on the music; they're going to be so much happier. And that's one of the beauties of a show: you can go listen to all kinds of systems with zero sales pressure. If you go into a store, you're going to have a little bit of a feeling of some kind of obligation [after they do] their demo and all this stuff for you. There are limitations in [listening to systems in] a hotel. But you can get a real flavor for what moves you. And you're buying the system for you, not for me.

We actually passed out a flyer where we tried to point out, in simple English, the audiophile terms that are disparaged sometimes, but are also very, very descriptive. What is attack? What is sustain? What is a soundstage? We tried to give a brief definition of some of the things to actually listen for, in trying to educate the consumer. It made for some intelligent conversations.

FD: Last question: is it a coincidence that the show's in February when the weather is really lousy up North?

BA: We looked at a lot of things. What other events happen, and [in] what month? With the holiday [season] and the other [audio] shows, we absolutely did not want to have any conflict. We wanted to be well away from AXPONA and Capital Audiofest and [other shows], so that there was no appearance of trying to compete and take other exhibitors.

It’s all about the passion, right? Making the world a better place in what may seem to be an insignificant way, but to us, it's important.


The 2025 Florida International Audio Expo will take place at the Sheraton Tampa Brandon, 10221 Princess Palm Ave., Tampa, Florida, on February 21 – 23, 2025. For more information, visit

Here are some more photos:



AGD Production offers a range of electronics including amplifiers with their exclusive GaNTube Gallium Nitride power MOSFET technology.



Latvian manufacturer Aretai displayed their Contra series loudspeakers, featuring a proprietary high-frequency waveguide.



Black Ice Audio, formerly Jolida, exhibited a range of vacuum-tube amplifiers and electronics.



Josh Meredith and Angela Cardas of Cardas Audio are among the many exhibitors who made the trip to Florida Audio Expo.



The crew from Middle River, Maryland dealer Just Audio: Michael Smith, Lenny Florentine, Tom Bryant and Spencer Mills.



Michael and Megan Bovaird from Sarasota, Florida dealer Suncoast Audio. Michael is one of the co-founders of Florida Audio Expo.



Suncoast Audio had four rooms at the show; this one featured Clarisys Audio ribbon loudspeakers.



Pure Audio Project designs open-baffle speakers that are modular – customers can choose from a variety of drivers, baffles and internal components.



Yes, Subdrum offers speakers that are housed in actual drums. Don't scoff: we heard a model at another show that sounded really good.



The Charney Audio Companion Excalibur speakers were matched with a ToolShed amp and preamp and other electronics. What a gorgeous-looking system!



mbl showed their 101 E MKII omnidirectional speakers, unmistakable in their distinctive appearance, accompanied by the company's electronics.


Header image: Florida International Audio Expo co-founder Bart Andeer. Photo courtesy of Lee Shelly. All other images courtesy of FAE.

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