The Pacific Audio Fest's Inaugural Outing

How does anyone adequately and fairly evaluate a first-time audio show in a new location? Especially when it's handicapped by unusually hot, mid-90º weather and yet another COVID surge that was accompanied by admonishments to mask up indoors?

First, I rejoice that the show brought together so many old friends in such a convivial manner. A case in point: Marjorie Baumert, head of the former Rocky Mountain International Audio Fest (left above), headed west from Denver to support show organizers Gary Gill (right above) and Lou Hinkley (hard at work elsewhere) as volunteer coordinator. With such heart helping to guide the operation, the feeling in rooms and hallways was as positive as it gets.

Attendance may have been lighter than usual on some days, but the quality of interest and attention was high. In addition to the customary audiophile stalwarts, I saw many new faces of all ages. Any number of my audiophile buddies appeared, if lamentably for only one day, and made new discoveries. Some of my best exchanges were with young people. Talking over the music was kept to a minimum, with attendees far more respectful than at some shows. It felt good.

With active exhibit rooms numbering 51 or 52—there was no way to cover all of them—and some very interesting seminars and live entertainment, this was a thoroughly rewarding show that deserves more industry support. Although I can well understand their reasons why, it's a shame that several of the major greater Seattle area retailers didn't participate.

With the qualification that I missed several reportedly excellent rooms, it is safe to say that, of those I did cover, the Joseph Audio (Joseph/Doshi/Cardas) and Bending Wave (Göbel, CH, Wadax) exhibits tied for first place. Their sound was first-rate, no apologies needed. Below them came Audio-Ultra (Magico/Constellation/MSB/Taiko/Stromtank), the very different-sounding High End by Oz (Børresen/Thrax 300B/UHA), and right-in-the-middle between them sonically, Olson's HiFi (Estelon/Krell/MSB/Innuos).

It was a joy to cover this show. Thank you so much, Lou and Gary. And Marjorie. Of course, Marjorie. Additional thanks go to John Atkinson, who worked himself to the bone preparing and posting these stories, and Jim Austin, who put his trust in me and in the importance of the show.

On with the show. I may not see you at the Capital Audio Fest, but it would be wonderful to fist-bump at the Poland show. There's plenty more music ahead. May we all remain healthy and thrive.

mark_o's picture

Ended my camping trip on Saturday to use my pre-purchased ticket on Sunday (summertime choices). This was the first show I've attended. Thanks to the organizers for making it happen, looking forward to next year. Looking forward to reading more of the reviews as I didn't take many pics.

Catcher10's picture

I am really hoping the show comes back next year. I thought the event was very impressive, I attended on Saturday. The large ballrooms were most impressive, next year I will have to do two days to soak it all in assuming the same amount of rooms will be showing.
Would like to have seen some kind of a record fair, like some locals selling records. That may generate a lot more attendees if they know there will be records from retailers like Silver Platters, HiVoltage Records, Easy Street Records and others.....

Jancuso's picture

Agree, always good to have a marketplace for music, accessories and smaller companies. Looking forward to 2023!

romath's picture

My first show (and probably last). Idea was to finally hear some really good systems, to have a better reference for mine, granted limits of hotel rooms. Card miles piled up before pandemic made it an inexpensive trip. Very glad I attended, especially arriving Friday morning before the "crowd." Was able to meeting Lukasz of Lampizator to not only listen but to arrange repair/update of my dac, as well as Alex of WW, whose Diamond cables I use primarily. I had booked a two-day visit, but felt at the end of the first that I could have left, but was I wrong. Not only was the sound in most rooms improved overnight, but also some of the workshops were invaluable.

About the sound, I thought the big rooms were all too large, so that focus was sacrificed. Those were much improved Saturday, but in my opinion still suffered. I also found a lot of the systems, mainly in the smaller rooms, had trouble up top. Not that pleasant. One room that definitely did not have that problem was the Margules room with the Raidho's as I recall. Hadn't heard of the Mexican company.

The sytem that stood out most of all to me was in the Parasound room. Specifically, in playing the Duke Ellington/Louis Armstrong LP, it was the first time I'd ever heard -- and one of only two rooms at the show -- where the piano playback actually resembled the tonal/timbral quality of the real instrument. The other room with a true piano sound, which had small speakers, I don't recall now, except that the high end was not pleasant.

Finally, I didn't find the heat oppressive. Rather, the problem most spoken about was that the layout of the hotel was not the best for a show of this kind. I don't know what the alternatives are. The good news was that it was a very short ride from the airport.