It's the final day of the 2005 Consumer Electronics Show. I'm walking down the Alexis Park's long corridors, beneath its archways and palm trees, wondering where I'll end up next. The air is cool, but the sun is out and I'm feeling very much alive, energized by all the morning's music.
The Primedia team has been staying at the San Tropez, home of T.H.E. (The High End) Show, which means some of us have been walking down halls filled with exhibitors frantically getting rooms put together before the throngs arrived. The night I arrived, one room in my building was making music that beckoned to me as I passed by—today, I finally entered and took over the sweet spot.
I see her from across the pool. She's tall and beautiful and dressed all in white. She reminds me of someone else. She sees me looking at her. I ignore the temptation; change directions; walk away from her; go to another tall white sign; read another list of names.
As an audiophile manufacturer, the odds are stacked against you getting a great sounding demo up and running under show conditions. The rooms are generally skimpy and oddly shaped, the construction materials and walls unpredictable, and there's the need to set up fast with only what you've thought to pack in.
The Alexis Park
Packing for Vegas, I assured my wife that it might be cold but it would be a dry cold. Unfortunately, this has absolutely no truth when it is raining cats and dogs, so I stumbled into Quartet Marketing's room chilled and soaked. I felt as though things couldn't get any worse—and I was right. Stirling Trayle pulled a long espresso out of his machinetta and settled me down in front of a pair of the $1150/pair Amphion Heliums Robert J. Reina reviewed in the January Stereophile. Go juice and music: life immediately got better.
One of the themes of the 2005 CES, which we touched on in our first day's coverage, regarding Thiel's new version of its best-selling PowerPoint loudspeaker, is the increasing importance of the custom-install market to manufacturers best known for their two-channel products.
After my first full day of weaving my way around the Consumer Electronics Show, I'm happy to be back in my hotel room, ready to open the laptop and type. I've got a tote bag (everyone has a tote bag) gorged fat with press releases, CDs, magazines, directories, scribbled notes, a fortune cookie. . .. What's going on here? Am I really the newest writer for Stereophile? And what's the deal with this fortune cookie?
Every few years the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show turns cold and wet, and it looks like this will be one of those years. Still, audio is largely an indoor activity, and despite chilly, damp weather, ongoing format turmoil, and pressure from home theater, rooms at CES's high end audio venue, the Alexis Park hotel, are hopping as normal.
Watching the Beatles Anthology TV shows last Thanksgiving, I was struck by how good recorded sound quality was in the early to mid-1960s and how bad it had become by the era of Let It Be. Early Beatles recordings may have been primitive in terms of production, but their basic sound quality was excellent, with extended response at the frequency extremes and a natural, clean-sounding midrange. Late Beatles recordings lacked highs and dynamic range, and sounded grainy by comparison. This was partly because, by 1969–70, studios had replaced their simple tubed mixing consoles with the first generation of solid-state desks, and their old tubed two-track Studers and Ampexes with solid-state multitrack recorders. These featured track widths so narrow that only the massive use of Dolby-A noise reduction made it possible to produce recordings that had any dynamic range at all!