STEREOMOJO SPECIAL DUAL REPORT
T.H.E SHOW 2011
James Darby - Publisher
We would love to tell you that CES 2011 was the biggest, best, most exciting and well attended ever. But that would be a lie, and we don't lie. Preliminary estimates are a little over 100,000 attendees from all over the planet; a drop from the peak from just a couple of years ago, but up from last year, but that is overall attendance, not attendance at the "High Performance Audio" section. Don't forget that the rest of the world is worse off than the US in terms of economic turmoil, and it showed. According to almost every exhibitor, traffic was slow and so were sales. “Friday was a disaster”, one amp maker told us, “but we're hoping Saturday is much better”. It wasn't. “It's actually worse than last year”, others opined.
The economy was also reflected in the products displayed this year. Few were showing their most expensive models and most of the new products were more entry-level and thus lower priced. Good for buyers, but not that good for sellers. It seems the whole industry has followed our lead with our new “Stereo for Cheap Bastards” feature column or “S4CB” as our readers have dubbed it.
WHAT THE HECK IS THIS?
Remember that CES, the largest trade show in the world, is not just about audio, it's about everything electronic from kitchen aids to military applications. By far, the big thing was tablet computers, hundreds of them all vying for the market created by the iPad. That's what we hear at least; we never have time to get anywhere near anything else but what the show calls “High Performance Audio”. There were several companies who presumably couldn't afford the exorbitant prices charged by the Venetian Hotel and Casino for display rooms and declined to participate this year while other brave souls were completely new. Speaking of new, there wasn't a lot of it; most everything we saw we already reported on in our exhaustive Rocky Mountain Audio Fest show report in November.
The trend in what new gear there was continues to be in computer based music with dozens of new DACs, music servers and Internet streamers everywhere you looked. Funny though, there were very few new CD players to be found. The sun is setting fast on the CD era.
Here's a quick quiz: which audio media was up in sales in 2010? Well, it's sure not CDs. Not DVDs either. Believe it or not, even after increasing sales in the last several years, sales of the old vinyl LP were up a strong 14% with over 2 million sold, not counting secondhand records of course, those would surely be more than 2 million. You only have to visit your local Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mart or any other place that sells CDs to notice that the little silver buggers are losing floorspace quickly while more and more Internet sites are springing up to bring music into your home or iPhone directly. High resolution digital is slowly inching forward with David Chesky telling me that HD tracks is now offering 192/24 downloads, but it turns out that the handful of recordings are only Chesky's own, at least for now.
Over at the Flamingo, another, and in our opinion better, high-end show was in full swing called The Home Entertainment or THE SHOW for short. We covered that, too. In fact, we ended up spending more time there than at the CES version. The spirit there is more like the Denver show since anyone, unlike CES, can attend. CES is for industry people only. RMAF is still the king, but THE SHOW is pretty cool.
As always, 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 is 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 is one not likely to be covered by those other print and web mags.
Enjoy. If you have questions, please write us.
GO TO PART 2