THE Show Newport 2015: That's A Wrap

One of the most delightful annual surprises of the now departed Las Vegas installment of THE Show was stumbling upon the NFS (Not For Sale) room. Assembled by the distinguished personage known as Buddha, it allowed visitors to become submerged in a combination of post-psychedelic revelry, good sound, lots of free booze, and a total absence of hawking.

With their laudable spirit undiminished by the passage of time, Michael Alazard (left) and Anton Dotson (Buddha) traveled all the way from Las Vegas to continue holding forth in mind-bending splendor. Was this the true funhouse within the funhouse?

Perhaps at a lesser show, but certainly not at the 2015, relocated-to-Irvine installment of THE Show Newport. With luxury automotive and audiophile candy scattered inside and out, music and dining in the lounge and by the pool and in picnic areas, and some of the best sound encountered at many a show, the 2015 THE Show Newport in Irvine was a smashing success on almost every level.

The move two miles up the road to the Hotel Irvine seems a good one. The sound in its upper-floor standard hotel rooms was certainly no worse than in other hotels. Sonic intrusion from airplanes and freeways is less, and the sound on the ground level amazingly good considering the stumbling blocks. There could always be more large rooms. But besides that, it was major thumbs up.

Another major plus was THE Show president Richard Beers' simple innovation to the show guide. By inserting dividers that made locating Exhibit maps, seminar write-ups, and exhibitor listings a snap, this was a much easier show to navigate than most.

I'm told that Headphonium exhibitors, moved to a tent outside the hotel, experienced major frustration when any number of attendees couldn't find them and gave up. Given that one of the huge indoor spaces on the ground floor was such a bear to tame, moving the Headphonium to that huge ballroom seems a viable solution for next year.

Audiophiles in Southern California, throughout the state and beyond certainly heeded the call of show organizers. Less than 48 hours after show's close, here's the preliminary report from Richard Beers:

Because we use Registration Services from Atlanta, it always takes a little time for precise numbers, but I can share some of the impressions they gave me as they flew away.

We know Thursday's Press Day was better than expected, with over 600 in attendance. Friday, I am told, the Show tripled the amount of those registered last year on Friday. This is, of course, good—and bad. We had a printer and computer breakdown right at the beginning on Friday, resulting in a very long line. We are already meeting and taking steps to make sure that slow-down does not occur again.

Saturday attendance was consistent with Friday. Surprisingly, Sunday was also very well attended, right up until we closed with the Give-A-Way.

CRS estimated total numbers of 8500+ but we have no breakdown [as to unique visitors, how many of those 8500+ were comps or discounted admissions, etc]. There are, of course, many categories of attendees, one of which is easy to calculate. The LA&OC Audio Society added 143 members through our "join and enter free" policy.

Once the dust settles we will get out a full Press Release. All in all, it appears as though the new location was a hit and unanimously popular. We at The Show are pleased.

My own observations are a bit different. As in Munich, the huge Friday turnout actually seemed larger than Saturday's. Sunday saw the usual attendee slowdown, especially toward show's end. Having said that, it's very hard for a peripatetic press person to judge attendance when there were nine active floors and over twice as many hallways, which meant for widely spread about attendees.

On the negative side, there was a bit too much Hollywood hyperbole for comfort. Neither the "gourmet" food trucks nor the hotel restaurant offered dining worth writing home about. And the "Audio University," the presentations, while looking excellent on paper, were about as university level as my mother's lectures on obedience.

Then again, real sound and good music is what it's all about. On both those levels, this show scored. I truly believe that many people who attended hoping to audition equipment that they cannot easily hear in retail outlets returned home sated. Plus, as reported by at least one retailer, some left the show with gear in hand.

To both Richard Beers and LA&OC President Bob Levi, congratulations and thank you for a job well done. You have served audiophiles, consumers, manufacturers and retailers well. You deserve our gratitude.—Jason Victor Serinus

Sasha Matson adds some thoughts: It was getting late in the afternoon of THE Show Newport Day 3, and I was starting to get dizzy. I realized I hadn't eaten a thing, and headed down to the lobby of the Hotel Irvine to grab a sandwich. And in so doing my spirits and ears were renewed, by finding a string trio performing right then and there. I asked them who they were—and they were the string trio with no name. What we cynics in the music biz would call a "pickup group." But the three friendly string players did tell me they were all members of the Dana Point Symphony.

Again I salute THE Show organizers for having a lively ongoing bill of living musicians performing on the main floor throughout the weekend. Quality deal. The Hotel Irvine, though not without its faults, like the slow elevators, was a fine venue for THE Show Newport 2015. I did not hear a lot of complaining from exhibitors about the quality of the rooms in terms of sound.

For the future, I do hope THE Show can streamline the admission process for members of the public; it is nice to see lines, but not if people are irritated by the time they get in the door. And for all you critics out there, take it for fact from me—the many exhibitors and designers who spent a lot of time, effort, and money to get THE Show up and running, were really working hard and doing a great job under challenging circumstances. And that goes as well for the writing crew. Au revoir Newport/Irvine—Bonjour Denver!—Sasha Matson

Thomas J. Norton adds some thoughts: Elevators. They're perhaps the single biggest frustration of hi-fi show goers (but not of exhibitors—that would be the devilish hotel room acoustics). It seems like they're always going either up or down when you want to go down or up. Sometimes they even appear to disappear completely, presumably delivering their occupants to their final reward, hopefully one with a dynamite high-end audio system together with an endless playlist of "songs." (Thank you iTunes for turning Beethoven symphonies into "songs").

But at least elevators sometimes offer a view of something other than a blank wall to accompany the usual innocuous elevator music. The Hotel Irvine's elevators, or at least some of them, provided a nice view looking away from the hotel's front entrance toward the nether regions of the OC. Drought-plagued California residents might be wondering how the hotel manages to keep its lawns so green!

We ink-stained wretches often spend almost as much time in a room like the one shown here as in the show rooms, bringing you the latest skinny on the fat world of high-end audio. Nevertheless, THE Show 2015 was a fun event, with perhaps more good-to-excellent sound than was typical of shows I've attended in the recent past.

I certainly didn't get into all of the rooms, but of those I did hear I have to give my best of show nod to a tie between the Sony SS-AR1s heard in a large ballroom and the Von Schweikert VR-55 Aktive in a far smaller hotel sleeping room. In the former the large volume of the demo room may have prevented the formation of the standing waves—the bane of small rooms. And the larger space may have tamed a modest (for me) excess of warmth I've heard from these speakers in the past (the larger the space, the less the low-frequency "room gain"). As for the VR-55s, they at least had adjustable bass level. Although this in itself can't tame coloration from standing waves, I heard no obvious bloat with the source material I auditioned there.

But in a world more accessible to those of us with a limited bank balance, the Sonus Famer Chameleons, Chapman T-5s, and Magnepan .7s (in no particular order) stood out for me. And last but far from least were the new budget speakers from ELAC, which have "high-end for the rest of us" written all over them.—Thomas J. Norton

Fidelis’s Walter Swanbon (center) and retailer Gene Rubin (right) bid the Hotel Irvine adieu. Photo: Herb Reichert

MerrillAudio's picture

This was the best room. We hung out till 12am, when we were asked to leave by Anton, rightly so, as we all had to get our beauty sleep. Thank you Anton and Michael for a great setting

bornie's picture

as Best of Show (a tie). the speakers are without flaw! Dynamics, soundstage and transparency in spades!

mjalazard's picture

Thanks Jason for your nice review.
Our goal is to provide a nice respite for attendees and industry alike.
This years system is as follows:
Magnepan 3.6R's lovingly reborn by Peter Gunn of Magnestand. His workmanship of the Zebrawood frames and crossovers is world class. (
Harman Kardon Citation I pre-amp re-built by Sam Kim of Sam's Audio Labs (
Harman Kardon Citation II amp rebuilt by Phil Farano of AmpMedic ( Las Vegas
The brand new McIntosh MC275 version VI (
Oppo BPD105 with full ModWright Tube mods (
Nakamichi mb1000 CD drive
Sony linear tracking PSX 800 Biotracer turntable recently tuned-up by Professor Bizzt (
Ortofon Kontrapunkt B with re-built stylus by SoundSmith (
Various interconnects, power cables, & speaker cables by Signal Cable (
Streaming audio through Tidal (
Multiple Bliss lights (
And, of course, our selection of fine wine, limoncello, absinthe, and other potent potables.
Thanks to all who stopped by and enjoyed our frivolity!