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Newport 2016: A New Hope for High Fidelity

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The Döhmann Helix 1 turntable paired with Kyron Audio at T.H.E. Show

Newport250x2501The young, Rockabilly-esque couple sat down about 20 feet away from Brian Hunter and I as we both sat together writing in the bar seating area of the Hotel Irvine’s lobby Friday morning. She looked like the cutest Rosie the Riveter ever, and he was all-pompadour ’50s James Dean-y. This lovely duo proceeded to pour over T.H.E. Show brochure in their hands, pointing out specifics, and smiling, and laughing. Hunter was craving water, and I was draining my coffee in an attempt to resuscitate brain function after an evening of amazing company, conversation, dinner, and many drinks in the cool California air outside the hotel.

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Keeping it real.

I took this couple as a sign that my previous evenings concern about a declining audiophile population perhaps was overblown. Maybe there was hope that a younger generation was coming up, and discovering how fantastic, social, enjoyable, and emotionally engaging great music playback is. Maybe…

But back to T.H.E. Show.

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Meridian Ultra DAC premiers at Newport

The previous day had seen a lot of the hi-fi press corps roaming the halls of the Irvine. Unfortunately (which is usual on media day) many of the rooms were in a state of disarray, and construction still, so pickings were slim, but it did afford an opportunity to connect with design engineers, and distributors before the deafening roar of thousands of audiophiles descended en masse to jam elevators to capacity, and cheerfully sweat in the glorious heat of glowing valves in $100,000 systems.

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Kyron Audio Kronos loudspeaker.

Luckily I had been able to check out a few systems, but since my flight didn’t get into John Wayne International until mid-afternoon Thursday, I connected with some of my favorite people, and proceeded to drink, and eat my way through the evening. Along the way Rob Darling of Roon Labs joined us, as did Bill Leebens of PS Audio, and David Cope of Audio Note UK who is leaving the audiophile world after Newport Beach to pursue more musical interests.

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Beautiful babies at T.H.E. Show. This one can drum. I’m not sure if she’s Roon ready though.

Much discussion about the state of high-resolution digital audio, digital-audio streaming, high-end software, hardware, analog vs. digital, and the future of a rapidly-changing industry ensued. Which brings me back to the Rockabilly couple, because during all this I couldn’t help but wonder who was going to be using, and enjoying all this new, and intoxicating technology moving forward 20 years. I know my own children seem to be poised for a love of great sound, but when you go to many of these large industry confabs it’s hard not to notice young people, because, well, there’s just not that many of them at North American hi-fi shows in my experience, so when you do see them, they tend to stand out like unicorns.

I hope the Rockabilly couple have a great time, because they gave me some hope this morning. And that’s a wonderful thing.

–Rafe Arnott

 

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6 Comments on Newport 2016: A New Hope for High Fidelity

  1. I wish, so much, to some day soon take my 5yr-old to an audio show…but i’m in miami. no shows here 😦 So, i’m working on it. I’ve had her hold her hand over the subwoofer port (feeling the air rushign out) and even lay a finger on the driver (kinesthetic experience of sound). And, yes, i’ve sat her on TheeSweetSpot for that full hollographic, stereophonic experience. This “field of interest” should have a bit of a bright future (thank you Andrew Jones, et al).

  2. Sorry to spoil the enthusiasm but until we see hi-end companies cross the $1B revenue mark, this will remain a declining niche. The biggest barrier to progress is the industry’s own inability to innovate especially in the acoustic measurement and standardization area where we still depend on subjective ears for comparison. We have seen in wider industry and going back to fundamental physics, what you cannot measure reliably and accurately, you cannot improve.

    Today what we have is a few hundred thousand hifi companies, all going their own way, running their own game some with no scientific basis for their claims and counter-claims. Every once in a way we hear breakthroughs like MQA but progress is limited to those few. Until we face up to and take-on our own challenges first hand, I am afraid this hobby will continue to struggle and eventually die quietly.

    • Excepting “car audio” and “headphone/personal audio”, pretty sure that the rest of the high-end industry is under $1B.

    • i agree. thinking of transducers, what comes to mind is domes, planars, ribbons. that’s it. anything else is fringe. so, what i see is a great, big, giant gaping hole for some prodigy to invent a new, easily manufacturable type of transducer (which I can 3d print at home) which outperforms ALL of the other designs. remember, we still haver over half the world not connected to the WWW, not receiving formal and higher education, not experiencing high standards of living. in that half world population, I see great hope for many things.

  3. Yes, we the Rockabilly couple had a fantastic time!.. How could anyone not with 8 floors of high end audio on display for everyone to enjoy, appreciate and learn.. This was our 3rd year attending the Show and of course we’ll be attending for many years to come.. Meeting audiophiles, discovering new equipment, listening to the great live acts (Lyn Stanley, Mike Garson, Yesterday, Wow!) make for wonderful memories.. Discovering this website is another highlight!.. Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to pour a rum drink and sit down to listen to my newly purchased Music Matters and Intervention Records remastered lp’s.. See ya next year!

  4. The Fall // June 3, 2016 at 2:35 PM //

    I hope to have another 20 years before I stop caring about gear and enhancements.

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