2005 CES: Stephen Mejias Day Four

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.

When I woke up this morning, all I knew for sure is that I wanted to spend the day alone, and I wanted to spend it at the Alexis Park. I've become comfortable enough here to now get really lost in it all. I'm worried that I've kept things a little too safe. I should be discovering something new. But how will I go about it? Jon Iverson and Wes Phillips always seem to have some sort of plan of attack. I have none. Perhaps having no plan of attack will be my plan of attack. I'm wandering along the trail, beneath the white canopies, alongside the pool. I stop at each tall white sign standing at the entrances to the different suites of the Alexis Park and read off the names of the exhibitors. I'm making notes of the names that sound interesting. Is this any way to go about reporting on high-end audio? Not at all. What kind of stupid strategy is this?

I turn away from the sign, and look back in her direction. She's still standing there, still sees me. Sigh of resign: I'll walk towards her now.

"You're just in time," she says. She reminds me of someone else. Her hair is just the same color, lets loose just the same curls. She's smiling happily, but I don't smile back. I can't smile at all.

"In time for what?" I ask.

"We're about to start our next demo. We've got the most accurate speaker here in the show."

I give her a look. "Of course," she continues, "we don't expect you to believe that, which is why we ask you to come in and listen." I follow her. What better plan of attack is there, but to follow her?

Inside the room, I'm greeted by Yoav Gonczarowski. He introduces himself as "the founder and technological expert" of YG Acoustics. I take a seat at the back of the room. I hear the woman in white leading another gentleman into the room, saying: "You're just in time. . .." Soon, the room has filled up, and Yoav begins his demo.

He's got a very sales-pitchy sales pitch. I feel as though I'm watching an infomercial. He's got a CD prepared for us, and explains that we'll all receive a complimentary disc on our way out which we can take to other rooms in order to see (or hear) that his speakers are indeed the most accurate. As he skips from track to track, he sets the scene. At one point, he asks me to imagine gazing through a train window, on my way home from a long journey, beginning to see familiar sights. All right. . .. Before another song, he asks that I sit back, relax, and imagine myself in a smoky San Francisco bar on New Year's Eve. Okay. . .. I think it's working.

I hear more than just the music. I hear tinkling, rattling background noises. Whispers and scratches. While I do find this a bit distracting, it's also kind of magical. I don't feel that it's taking away from the listening experience, but instead, it's somehow adding to the illusion that I'm part of a live event.

The speakers are very sleek, but somewhat raw-looking. They seem as though they're made from aluminum. I'm attracted to them. I start to think that I'd like to own a pair of these. Perhaps this is exactly the something new that I was looking for. And, yes, the beautiful woman led me to them. It all makes sense now. . ..

After the demo concludes, Yoav explains that the speaker cabinets are made of Israeli Airforce aluminum. Being from Israel, he's able to get the leftovers. Hmm. . . strange, but interesting.

I stay for a second demo. Yoav goes through his sales pitch all over again, word for word, joke for joke, image for image, syllable for syllable precisely on time. Every "by the way," every "and so on," every comma, colon, and emphasis perfectly in place. It was actually kind of amazing. If his speakers are as right on as he is, I'm willing to bet that they are the most accurate here at the show. Hands down.

In any case, I enjoy the demo very much. I'm starting to wonder if I like these speakers even more than the Tetras I heard on Day 2. As I get up to request a press kit, I hear someone ask the woman dressed in white about the retail price. "Fifty-three thousand dollars," she says, simply. I almost fall back into my seat. "Yikes," I think to myself, simply. And I'm on my way.

Time to come up with a new plan of attack. I start walking. I see the Halcro room and decide to go in. We've given these guys so much praise over the past few years, I want to hear them for myself. Unfortunately, I find that there is no music to listen to. I can only see the amps. My impression: "These things are friggin' huge."

I continue walking. The next room that interests me is Calix's. I know these speakers are odd-looking. I want to see them in person. Matched with the Conrad-Johnson Premier 140, with its two rows of big, fat, exposed tubes, this room gets my vote for coolest-looking stuff. The speakers in use are the Athena Phoenix Grands in Bird's Eye Maple. With their large, round horns and their long, curved arm-like sides, they kind of look like the Jetson's maid. I can't remember her name. In any case, they're sort of ugly, but I really like them. I don't know.

After seeing the Calixes, I can't imagine that anything will surprise or excite me. I'm now just looking for names again. I come across the Omicron Group di Mauri Mauro. This seems strange enough, so I go in. I sit and listen for awhile, but I'm neither impressed by the music nor by the looks of the gear (I find the Pi symbol, which is blatantly centered onto the faceplate of each amp, to be tacky). Just as I'm about to leave the room, Mauro Mauri stops me, and very carefully asks if I'd like to listen to my own music. At first, I don't understand him through his very thick Italian accent, but he finally gets his point across. Hesitant, I give in: "Sure." I hand him my mix CD, and ask him to play track 18, "Ambulance" by TV on the Radio. This song has been stuck in my head since the plane ride from JFK, and I've been dying to listen to it.

I've been singing along:

"Your slim frame
Your eager eyes and your wild mane
They keep me where I belong
All wrapped up in wrong. . ..

I will be your accident if you will be my ambulance
And I will be your screech and crash if you will be my crutch and cast
And I will be your one last time if you will be my one last chance
Oh, fall for me. . ..

Oh, sweet, sweet tree
Fall for me."

I love this damn song.

It starts off, and I think that something must be wrong. There's terrible static over the first few seconds of the track. Soon, the music and voices come in, and I realize that the background noise is part of the recording. The noise becomes the sound of wind and waves. How did I never notice this before? Halfway into the song, I can't control my smile. At the end, there is more newness; the sound of gurgling water. These things that are so obviously there, were just never apparent to me at all. That's what you get for listening to music through a 10-year old, $100 Magnavox boombox. I am seriously low-fi.

Omicron's Dimitri Toniolo explains to me that they are currently looking for a US distributor. He asks me if I'd like to buy a pair of the speakers. "We can give you a good price," he says. "We don't want to take them back home."

Like everything else here in Vegas, it's tempting. Luckily (or unluckily), I have no money. I shake Dimitri's hand, thank him, and make my way out.

It's not music or a woman that lures me into the Eventus Audio-Audia Flight room, but a pair of very snazzy Italian suits. Massimiliano Marzi, owner of Audio Flight, and Antonio Ruggerio, product engineer for Eventus, are looking hot. Antonio, in fact, is not just wearing one tie. This dude is sporting two. That's something new to me, and I want to check it out.

I sit down, and get to listen to "Ambulance" again. Through the Eventus Audio speakers and Audia Flight amplification, there seems to be more of everything that I heard through the Omicron system. There's more bass and raspiness to the lead vocal now, more apparent highs to the background vocals. I'm sorry, but I don't know what's causing this, and I'm not sure which I like better. I'm just saying. I did, however, find myself smiling just a bit earlier in the song than I did when listening through the Omicron gear. And I guess that's a good thing.

Smiling, I mean. It's got to be a good thing, right?