What A Show!
How can one possibly do justice to the full expanse of T.H.E. Show Newport Beach’s second annual installment? There was no way for a single individual to take it all in.
Final attendance figures were not available by press time, but T.H.E. Show President Richard Beers and Los Angeles & Orange County Audio Society President Bob Levi feel safe in saying, by examining pre-registration, name badges printed, and on-site sales, that over 7500 unique visitorsperhaps as high as 8000attended over the three-day period (June 13). Those visitors were spread over two hotels, which between them had multiple hospitality suites, active and static exhibits, entertainment and seminar areas, vendors, food services, etc. etc. Wine show, car show, cigars . . . there was something for everyone. And there were also lines at the Hilton’s elevators, and a lot of people getting their exercise by walking the stairs (easy, btw).
Imagine this. Because paid up members of the LAOCAS got in for “free,” the society gained 240 new members in a single month, a 20% increase. The society now has over 1200 members. A lot of those folks attended, because high-end is one of their passions. And that passion was something you could feel as you encountered people deeply engaged in either listening or talking about what they had heard.
In terms of static exhibits, which were remarkably active, the Record Collector alone bought no less that 10 booths at the Atrium Hotel. In the Bougainvillea Ballroom were seven booths, shared by maybe 40 companies. Outside, on the Bougainvillea Patio, were five more booths. Vinyl lovers had a field day. I guarantee that any number of newly minted vinyl converts waxed acrylic over the course of three days.
Over at the Irvine Hilton, which was literally one narrow parking lot away, the Catalina Room had 7 booths with multiple sharing partners. Close by, the Crystal Foyer had 6 different exhibitors, a couple with sharing partners.
Note that there has been no mention of the number of exhibitors, because the list is so long. The two show brochures list at least 69 active exhibit rooms at the Hilton, and at least 39 at the Atrium. If you total the number of blog entries that John Atkinson, Stephen Mejias, and I have posted on the following 10 pages, you will begin to get an idea of how rich this show was.
As usual, there were highs and lows. In this case, far more highs than lows. Good food, music, and entertainment were plentiful, and the vibe was far warmer and more welcoming than a Bay Area resident might expect to encounter in Orange County. The airport, which was directly across the street from both hotels, was also delightfully low key. Signage was fabulous, but the absence of a central information booth was felt by those rushing to get somewhere. And, of course, room acoustics were chancy.
At a number of shows I’ve blogged in the last few years, Chris Klein of ASC Tube Traps has shown up with the biggest vehicle he could commandeer, filled with multiple devices designed to tame room-induced problems. He then spent set-up day and day one dashing from room-to-room, rescuing exhibit after exhibit from seemingly untameable room-induced distortion.
I’m afraid exhibitors have come to take the man for granted. Hence the particular design of the untreated sleeping rooms that housed the majority of displays in the Hilton made mush of many a system’s bass. Eight exhibitors pulled their sound together thanks to the controversial Synergistic Research Acoustic ART system, while others brought their own sound panels. (Luke Manley of VTL and Bryan Berdan of Brooks Berdan are experts in this regard). But far too many exhibitors pretended that out-of-control bass doesn’t skew the entire sonic presentation, and paid the consequences. I’ll betcha, when all is said and done, that if someone were to poll each exhibitor to see how many sales came about as a result of exposure at T.H.E. Show Newport Beach, they’d discover that the exhibitors who devoted sufficient time and effort to taming their rooms and properly positioning their loudspeakers reaped the benefits.
My turf included most of floors 2, 3, 4, and 5 at the Hilton. JA somehow managed to squeeze coverage of the big rooms on the Hilton’s ground floor, floor 10, and a number of other exhibits at both hotels into a schedule that also included stints on three major panels, one of which, “What Speaker Measurements Mean,” he ran solo. Stephen Mejias had a field day at the Atrium, writing blog after blog after blog. Did any of us have time to hear the fabulous jazz duo of Tierney Sutton and Mike Garson? I doubt it. [I caught the soundcheck, JasonJA]
But here is what is certain. Those who mourn the death of the High End missed something special. Music was alive at T.H.E. Show Newport Beach, and people were hungry for it. In the middle of ultra-conservative Orange County, people of all colors, nationalities, sexes, and sexual identities were celebrating the ability to enjoy, bask in, and learn from all genres of music.
Did I have a favorite room at the show? Yes, the Brooks Berdan room that I visited after hours, and that paired the VTL Siegfried IIs with Wilson W/P Sashas, state-of-the-art dCS gear, and Cardas Clear cabling. (I did not hear the vinyl component in this room). It wasn’t the most neutral sounding room at the show, but it was a revelation. Not only was the soundstage awesomeokay, an overused word, frighteningly Valley Girl, yet entirely apt in this instancewith mesmerizing, all-enveloping images extending way up the ceiling, but the system also had the ability to reveal the inner emotion of music. What more can you ask for than a revealing, honest system than enables you to feel the heart and soul of the music, and share in the very act of creation?
This was a very special show. It was a joy to be there. If we didn’t cross paths or rub shoulders in the elevatorI was the short, hunched over one with the glasses, camera, salt & pepper goatee, big nose, and look of desperation as he counted how many rooms were left to coverI hope we can do so at a future show. The CA Audio Show (Burlingame), Capital Audiofest (DC), and fabulous Rocky Mountain Audio Fest (Denver) beckon over the next few months. I hope you can make it to one of them.