Adopting its past practice, CES has a subdivision venue at the Alexis Park Resort dubbed High-Performance Audio, and that’s where many high-end audio manufacturers conjoined to set up their sound rooms. Adjacent the Alexis Park Resort is the St. Tropez Hotel, the site of the independent The Home Entertainment Show (T.H.E. Show).
There is a world of difference in assessing high-end audio from most everything else. Anyone can appreciate the quality of a plasma or LCD TV immediately, likewise for electronic gadgets that are to enhance a gamer’s gaming experience, or chairs that give comprehensive message. But not so for high-end audio.
For me, high-end audio is an emotional experience to be appreciated in one’s own home, an experience that the best and most fortunate of exhibits can only fleetingly suggest at best. So I went to demonstrations and exhibits for intellectual and suggestive information on the uniqueness of the products. Since not all deserving products sounded their best in their respective rooms, DAGOGO’s Event Coverage will include an indicator for exhibits which I find exceptional; but most importantly, I think all products should be auditioned carefully to determine their sonic compatibility to your ears.
I can appreciate the approach adopted by JM Lab, ELAC, PS Audio, Marantz and many high-end audio exhibitors, who forewent a quieter environment of Alexis Park Resort for listening, and exhibited instead at the Las Vegas Convention Center. They positioned themselves to take advantage of the tremendous traffic for high exposure, and their exhibits were pure informational, sometimes with actual product cross-section displays. Having a sound room can be advantageous, but being aware of the highly compromised surroundings, and thus steering away from giving visitors negative demonstration impressions can also be wise. In terms of show participation, these companies’ decision to go a different route could make them stand out inadvertently.
To many, the task of making an abundance of ingenious designs sound good in a room is not only a daunting task and a thankless one, it is oftentimes frustratingly impossible. For one, not all loudspeaker exhibitors get to demonstrate their speakers in rooms with sonic properties conducive for critical listening, and not all exhibitors were able to tune an otherwise unsuitable hotel room to sound good in a few days. It is oftentimes pure luck if an exhibitor can customize the sonic properties of a room to his advantage.
Then, attendees’ have their own, unannounced expectations and preferences when they visit each exhibit. All audiophiles want to find the room that produces the sound he likes, and a horn speaker advocate will certain find the sound of certain types of speaker unacceptable. No one would expect an SET-phile to vouch for a solid-state amplification exhibit, and so much for getting a room to sound good for the largest of speakers, if some members of the audience didn’t like the electronics being used to begin with. Many exhibitors had to utilize someone else’s electronics to showcase how their products could sound, be it CD players, amplifiers, speakers, or cables. The fact that such matching is sometimes suboptimal only adds to the odds of a suboptimal presentation.
In the end, venues such as CES should accord audiophiles and exhibitors alike an opportunity to meet, and perhaps even learn from each other, in the hope of mutual appreciation.
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