"We had more traffic on Friday than we had all of HE2006," said Dynaudio's Mike Manoussellis.
"Really?" Ayre's Steve Silberman yelped when I told him Mike had said that, "I probably should have been there!"
Yes, Steve, you probably should have. I was stopped time and time again by audiophiles wanting to hear the MX-Rs I wrote about. They'd come to HE2007 to hear the gear they'd read about in Stereophile and almost nothing I've written in the last few years generated more buzz than that review.
Besides, almost everybody who asked that followed up with, "And how's Charlie Hansen? If you talk to him, tell him he's in our thoughts and prayers." The HE Shows and the magazine are about creating a community—and that's what I love about them.
I'm not picking on Steve or Ayre—I realize that every manufacturer has to carefully consider every marketing expense and the shows aren't inexpensive. But audiophiles do see themselves as part of the family and they want to meet the guys they read about and hear the equipment they aspire toward.
I was standing in the Hyatt corridor Sunday afternoon talking to Richard Vandersteen, when a reader named Bob walked up and said, "I don't mean to interrupt, but I've owned 2Cs, 3As, and I'm saving for a pair of Quatros. I have a question, but I know you're talking to Wes . . . ."
"To heck with him," Vandersteen growled. "He never bought anything of mine." And they were off.
And that's the other thing I love about the HE shows—we writers are out there talking to the people we write about and the people we write for. I was waiting to get in to Robert Silverman's Mozart recital on Friday, when reader David Delbaum introduced himself to me. "I bought a preamplifier based on a review you wrote," he said.
I cringed. "I love it." Whew—close one. At shows I get to see folks face-to-face, even if I've criticized their electronic babies or if they think I'm deaf and blind. That's keeping it real.
So do the musical events. I didn't get to hear everything I wanted to hear this year. I missed Attention Screen's gig—Dan Knight, too—but I heard Bob Silverman play some lovely Mozart and some profound Chopin, while the John Atkinson Trio's gig on Sunday was a musical high that I'm still riding.
My gosh, what an amazing group of people Stereophile readers are! I leave every HE show humbled that such smart, accomplished, fascinating folks read us each month and join us each year. People like Thomas Carlson, an English professor at The University of the South, who has begun establishing The William Ralston Listening Library and Archive, which not only will house Mr. Ralston's 25,000 sound and video musical recordings, but world-class listening rooms as well.
"I keep encountering students who have never experienced real high-fidelity listening—in some cases, they've never heard anything other than PAs or headphones" Mr. Carlson said. "I have small groups into my home to listen to my system, and they get it—but we need a place where young people can discover the experience of listening to great music in a great setting."
How can you walk away from meeting a guy like that without feeling better about the human condition?
And how about the gear? Isn't that what it's all about? Obviously, it's the huge draw—and this year left me high about the state of two-channel. UAV's Tom Norton, Shane Buettner, and Fred Manteghian were looking sort of lost, there was so little HT stuff, but for us audiophiles, there was a bumper crop. New speakers from Escalante, Krell, Sjöfn, , Scaena, Hyperion, and Proclaim Audio prove that even that venerable warhorse, the loudspeaker, is still inspiring designers to think different. The world (and it has become a world) of quality amplification has become immense. Cayin, Concert Fidelity and Silicon Arts Design, Chord, Pathos, Bel Canto, Hyperion, and Omaha—to name just a few—all had electronics I coveted deeply. Some of it I could even afford, which is a welcome trend. It was hard to walk down a Hyatt hall without spotting one, two, or even 10 must-haves.
As recently as last year, I would have said that two-channel audio wasn't looking too good—and that I wasn't feeling all that well myself. HE2007 recharged me with its energy, upbeat vibe, and the plethora of products aimed smack dab at my sweet spot—and judging from the crowds at the Hyatt, I wasn't alone.
Yeah, that was the best part—I'm not alone—and at HE2007, I was surrounded by thousands just like me.
You really should have been there.
The smiling faces of the Stereophile scribes captured in Jonathan Scull's final photo from the Show sum it up nicely (l–r): Kal Rubinson, Bob Deutsch, Art Dudley, Larry Greenhill, yours truly, Sam Tellig, and John Atkinson.