STEREOMOJO SPECIAL DUAL REPORT
T.H.E SHOW 2010
James Darby - Publisher
Linda G. Darby - Editor
High end audio was again a large presence in Las Vegas in January of 2010 at the largest electronics show on the planet. Thought the show is dubbed The Consumer Audio Show, consumers are not allowed in. you must have industry credentials approved in advance before you are let in. Stereomojo is a recognized High Performance Audio press registrant.
Though displays and exhibits were spread among several venues all over town, the two main spots were the opulent Venetian Hotel which was part of CES and the Flamingo Hotel (moved from the Alexis Park thankfully) where the alternate site is called T.H.E SHOW or The Home Entertainment Show. We covered both. In both cases, regular hotel rooms had most of the beds and furniture removed, replaced by stereo systems of every conceivable size and price. Many rooms were shared among several companies to lower expenses and to facilitate complete systems. For example, companies that make only speakers, turntables or cables teamed up with those that make only amplifiers or racks or disk players. Our job entails going to room after room, seeking those products that were new or noteworthy, listening to designers, distributors and manufacturers tell us why their product was the best and then taking a quick listen in environments that are very unfriendly to making music. We were in a huge rush 12 hours each day, taking notes, lugging cameras and accumulating what seemed like tons of brochures along the way. It's not glamorous or, with a few exceptions, not even fun. It's also very expensive just to be there.
There is one section of the vast Venetian Hotel that is dedicated to what CES calls "High Performance Audio", set apart from all the other boom boxes and Low-Fi stuff that proliferates throughout the rest of the show. Covering just that small 300 room section (compared to the rest of the multi-million square feet that is the rest of CES) takes a good four days. Then there's "The Show" down the street where there's another 100 rooms or so. Then there's the Convention Center where others went and more at the Sands. Plus this year to save money, several companies moved to several other hotels where they rented cheaper rooms that were invitation only, mostly for dealers or distributors or select press. We were invited to several of them, but there was no time to venture to other venues. Such is life.
Since the vast majority of the stereo products on display were reruns from the the Rocky Mountain Show in November (read our huge pictorial from there), we concentrated on rooting out the products that were being shown for the first time. Also, in response to our readers, we particularly sought out those companies that make less expensive products like Paradigm, PSB and even Onkyo. We do listen to our readers!
While the overall spirit was not as gloomy as last year due to the economy, attendance was down as were the number of exhibitors. There were about 275 companies this year at the Venetian as opposed to over 350 last year which was down from 2008. Several major companies have bitten the dust and one major distributor went bankrupt during the show - they just closed their doors. Others apparently reserved rooms, but just didn't show up. Many others are just barely hanging on. Speaking of "barely'", we hear even the porn convention next door was "down", despite the volumes of Viagra that abound there.
Like it or not, digital is taking over. The good news is that digital is sounding better and better all the time - it's not your grandfather's digital by a long shot. The tech is exploding as engineers explore and overcome all the artifacts of early digititus. Our 2009 CD player of the year (Ayon CD 2) sounds better than a lot of analog, and it's not even Ayon's top model. You will be assimilated...
Please note that, despite what other publications may say, it is nigh impossible to do critical and accurate sound evaluations at shows like this, though it is somewhat possible in some situations to ascertain an overall impression, and that's what we will try to do for you. Some rooms are heavily sound treated, other use no treatments at all. As we will reveal, some systems have technical issues that vendors try to conceal that are not their fault, but things happen beyond their control. For all these reasons and more, the roll of publications like Stereomojo are vital in informing you of a component's real performance and value through the review process. When we found an unusual product that met our stringent requirements, we asked for review samples - especially if it one not likely to be covered by those other print and web mags.
Enjoy. If you have questions, please write us.
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