Visiting SoCal for me is always makes me a bit maudlin. Back in ’07, I had a job offer in hand that would have landed me in Orange County. We were getting ready to put our house on the market, find a mover, and had just started sorting through neighborhoods in the greater LA area. And then … well, let’s say that I had a John Lennon Moment — “Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.” We found out my wife was pregnant (with twins!), and that was pretty much that. Almost escaped the East Coast gravity … but just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.
My West Coast escapes have grown less frequent the older I get, which is also a bit of a letdown. I had a job (okay, several) back in the nineties that forced monthly jaunts to Silicon Valley, and I became completely smitten with the stunning weather. To this day, I’d be perfectly happy to not have any. Weather, that is. Make it sunny and put it at the low 70’s, and I’m done.
Which is why Newport, straddling May and June, is pretty much perfect. Thank you, Richard Beers.
My favorite “thing” about T.H.E. Show at Newport this year? The food trucks. Hands down. Not only were they a lifesaver (I mean, you gotta eat, am I right?), but they provided food so handily better than that found at every other audio show I’ve been to (and that’s a pretty reasonable number these days). Best in Show? Food Trucks. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Kirsten’s already mentioned it (and Mal mentions it pretty much whenever he’s given the opportunity to), but the poolside bar scene at the Atrium is also just the cat’s pajamas. I love those cabanas, and hanging out into the wee hours with attendees, media, and manufacturers is not only a required stop, it’s one of those social elements that this hobby so thoroughly lacks — and desperately needs more of. Audiophiles, and I include myself here, are far too often gazing at their own navel in their pursuit of audio nirvana. The alternative, of course, seems to be tilting at windmills on some audio forum or other. Tilting in person, however, is an entirely different affair and far more likely to land would-be online combatants in a mortal contest over beer and fine food rather than word-choice, the use of ABX in audio, or whether or not there is a “right way” to review audio gear.
That last bit has been something of a growing yarn, weaving more and more threads together as it wends its way throughout the industry. I’ve said quite a bit on “how things ought to be” in the Reviewer’s Circle in audio’s high-end, fretted about more, and lost far too much sleep over what I’m told are rather pointless philosophical exercises. Here at Newport, I had my ear chewed off about the psychology of influence, the ethics of reviewership, the specific impact that “industry accommodation pricing” has, the collapse of Church (media) and State (manufacturing), and whether or not it’s even possible to be a reviewer if you aren’t either old or rich. My head is still spinning. The point — these conversations are just that: conversations. Held by people. Face to face. With respect, dignity, tolerance and understanding — not to put too fine a point on it, these are things that the
U.S. world needs quite a bit more of, even if it comes at the expense of all that luscious navel gazing. All I can say is, tasty adult beverages and a common interest go a long way to tying together otherwise disparate characters. And these conversations, these late-night snap-shots, are the best parts of any audio show. Speaking of which, I’ve heard that next year, T.H.E. Show will be moving, and I’m a little disappointed, but I’ll try and remain hopeful that the new location has a suitable “recreation area” for those after-hours collisions.
Turning to things Audio, there were a few surprises at Newport this year. My recent interest in “personal audio” has coincided with a flood of very nifty gear from headphones and portable audio players to all the high-end gear that sits between them. You want to move into the ultra-high-end without taking out a mortgage? This “space” is the place to get on board a fast train to awesome.
I’m really glad to have taken the time to sit and listen to Noble Audio’s lineup. To visit with and really unravel what Nordost is trying to do. To revisit “my” BorderPatrol electronics in other venues. To see the newcomers, like Endeavor Audio and Sonist, hitting stride, kicking a** and taking names. All that was big fun. To that list, I’d add the following, and in this order:
- Magnepan .7 loudspeakers: I think this was the best-sounding demo at Newport. The little dot-7 loudspeakers really filled the room with wonderful sound, never sounding bloated or congested. And that price is breathtaking. But that timed demo? That has got to stop.
- Peachtree Audio with Martin Logan and Amarra: Great gear helps, but taking that extra step — in this case, with room-correction software — is the difference between “good” and “life-changing”.
- LKV Research and Joseph Audio: I think the little Pulsars are one of the best deals in audio’s ultra-high end, minus the ultra-high-end price tag. Paired here with wonderful electronics from LKV, the sound was extremely inviting and utterly convincing. Not cheap, no, but spending more won’t necessarily get you more.
- Cake Audio with Rockport, BAT, Brinkmann: My pick for “Summit-Fi” came from Cake, and yes, I’d like to wrap up this entire room. Great sound, yes, but perhaps because of great synergy. Cake Audio is really on to something here. Hopefully next time through, the AC will be cycled periodically!
And that’s all she wrote for Newport. Can’t wait to get back there next year.
Next up is The Capital Audiofest. And after that, well, I think we’re gonna shake some stuff up over here at Part-Time Audiophile. Stay tuned.