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Newport 2016: Coolin’ in Cali, a T.H.E. Show preview

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Newport250x2501As the 2016 edition of T.H.E. Show draws near in Newport Beach, Calif., there are a few questions waiting to be answered, including:

  • Will the June 3-5 event, which has shown strong growth since its inception in 2011, attract enough music fans to claim the title of the biggest gathering on the annual high-end audio exhibition circuit?
  • Will the Hotel Irvine’s structural integrity and electrical system hold up to the onslaught of 170 rooms worth of seriously capable gear?
  • Will Part-Time Audiophile publisher/editor Scot Hull manage to evade capture for outstanding warrants related to the 2014 show?

T.H.E. Show is the prime example of the way the high-end market is changing these days. With fewer brick-and-mortar retailers to visit in order to demo gear, more and more enthusiasts seem to be scheduling a little vacation time around an organized event. Stereophile helped pioneer the trend with its shows several decades ago, and then Denver’s Rocky Mountain Audio Fest became the place to be every October.

RMAF’s success, though, has become challenged in recent years by events like AXPONA in Chicago and T.H.E. Show in California. AXPONA, for instance, attracted about 6,000 attendees this April, which would put it ahead of RMAF. And, T.H.E. Show is anticipating a whopping turnout of 8,500, which would set the bar even higher.

With an increasing number of smaller, regional shows popping up as well, each exhibition is trying to carve out its own niche. For T.H.E. Show, the emphasis is on a relaxed vibe that matches the warm, mild California weather. The Hotel Irvine, for example, sports a sit-down restaurant, a huge 24-hour snack bar with hot pizza available day or night, and a sizeable bar. If that’s not enough to please hungry show-goers, a line of food trucks outside will pick up the slack.

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The big attraction, though, is the gear. With more than 400 exhibitors, hobbyists will be able to hear much of what’s currently available in the high end. In addition, T.H.E. Show admirably has remembered the core of this hobby is the love of music. To that end, organizers have scheduled the deepest lineup of live performers of any audio event, including sultry jazz vocalist Lyn Stanley and former Windham Hill guitar legend Alex de Grassi.

Along with that, T.H.E. Show aims to appeal to those fascinated by other luxury-market items by adding a display of exotic automobiles, and cigar and wine tasting.

Don’t be overwhelmed, though, by those items and T.H.E. Show website’s mention of $500,000 systems. While there will be plenty of big-ticket toys, there also is a growing cadre of companies in the high-end that are producing a lot of great equipment that brings fine music reproduction down to a price level that can fit almost any hobbyist’s budget.

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Part-Time Audiophile’s staff will bring you our usual insane amount of detailed room-by-room coverage. We’ll have three writers — myself, photojournalism guru Rafe Arnott and “FNG” Mohammed Samji — all on site, along with the Esteemed Editor, if he can continue to evade the authorities.

We’ll be offering our thoughts on all the new product introductions, ranging from the established names to the new guys in the business. If you can come to T.H.E. Show, look for the harried guys in the Part-Time Audiophile shirts and say hello. If you can’t make it, visit the site often to follow our misadventures … I mean, our in-depth coverage. It’ll be fun.

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About John Stancavage (183 Articles)

Contributing Editor for Part-Time Audiophile