The Audio Cynic

Last Call

I’ve written about CES several times in Copper, starting in our inaugural issue (“I Am So Over CES“, the very first Audio Cynic column). At the end of that column, I wrote: “For me, CES is now like a girlfriend who once broke my heart: nice to see, with lots of wistful, nostalgic overtones…but no longer a big part of my life.”

As the recent deaths of Arnie Nudell and Charley Hansen have made abundantly clear, ain’t none of us getting any younger. So, in spite of my frequent protestations that CES is no longer worthwhile for those of us in audio, I’m going this year—for what I expect to be the very last time. I’m going largely to see folks who don’t show up at regional shows, and also to spend some time in the main convention center, The Zoo, to see what’s getting all the media attention…’cause it sure won’t be audio. At least not any of the kinds of audio products we care about (he said sniffily).

If you want to call my actions hypocritical, I can’t blame you, or disagree with you. But part of me is reluctant to let go of CES, where I first met a number of industry folk I now consider colleagues and friends—and through the years, it’s been  where we celebrated life’s blessings, and mourned our losses.

The problem is, CES has changed—and so have I. Audio was a major focus of the show, back in the day, and there was plenty to see and hear. Through the years, audio has increasingly been relegated to the metaphorical kiddie table…assuming your kiddie table was in the attic, and not even in the dining room. I’ve seen the disdain with which high-performance audio has been treated, as well as how the focus of the whole show has shifted to glitzy gadgets that make for compelling vid-bites on Good Morning America, and then disappear, never to be heard of again.

It’s clear the focus of the show will continues to be on drones, self-driving cars, bras with heart monitors, floor-scrubbing robots, voice-controlled trash cans, and headphones with kitty ears, rather than anything I care about. Few audio folks are going this year, much less exhibiting.

Having said that: I expect a “last gasp” attitude to prevail amongst the diehard high-end audio exhibitors perched atop the Venetian on floor 29. Some of the best speakers I know of will be within a few doors of one another: DeVore, Vandersteen, Eggleston, all carrying the names of heir company’s founders (and 2 of the 3 still run the companies and are chief designers). Extend the radius by a few more doors, and there are Raidho, GoldenEar, and Genesis. Amps? VTL, Nagra,  and Constellation are right there, with more-mainstream offerings from Emotiva, Technics, and Copper‘s own curmudgeon, Roy Hall, at Music Hall. The usual cable offerings, from Kimber, Transparent, AudioQuest and others, will be there.

—As we approach press-time (or whatever the electronic equivalent is), I’m back from the show. I’m going to need a little time to mull over what I saw and heard there, and possibly to recover from the inevitable CES Crud, as well. Expect a full report with pics in our next issue of Copper.