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LA Audio Show 2017: Inaugural event targets newcomers as well as hard-core hobbyists

If organizers of the Los Angeles Audio Show battled any jitters while planning their brand-new event in a very crowded year, those fears likely have eased in recent weeks.

The LA show, scheduled for June 2-4 at the Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles Hotel, has sold out its 115 listening rooms and ticket sales are running ahead of expectations.

Right now, the numbers look pretty good: 348 brands and manufacturers, and 58 dealers and distributors.

Officials declined to project attendance, but they have booked a hotel that can accommodate more than 10,000.

The LA event is the first of three major high-end shows scheduled to be held in California in the next four months, and follows Chicago’s very successful Audio Expo North America by just six weeks. There also are at least six more sizable shows to come before the end of the year.

Planners with the LA show know that, and they have been crafting their gathering to have its own personality.

“Many shows focus almost exclusively on the high-end,” William Kanner, public relations manager for the LA show, told me in a telephone interview. “We believe that for the audio industry and these events to thrive, we need to reach out beyond audiophiles.

“That’s what we’re doing with the LA Audio Show. We’ll have a lot of the upper-end gear, of course, but we’ll also have equipment with lower price tags — audio for the rest of us.”

The LA Audio Show’s marketing reflects this goal. The event has partnered with a local radio station and is giving free tickets to music students at local colleges.

Although many high-end components will be on site, organizers will feature some budget rooms (with systems starting at $350) and also seek to lure the home-theater crowd with surround-intensive displays from Sony and Starke Sound.

“In addition, we’ll have 40 headphone exhibitors in the lobby and a ‘Headgear Extreme’ section with five companies bringing their ultimate models,” said show director Marine Presson.

To cover a few more bases, the LA show will have live music, 17 seminars, craft beer sellers and a “magic bus” displaying auto sound systems.

Followers and attendees of U.S. shows may remember that last year there was just one major California event — T.H.E. Show in Newport. That exhibition also was held in early June.

So, how did we go from one show to three in the Sunshine State? According to Kanner, last year’s T.H.E. Show effectively turned into two independent events in 2017 following the death of T.H.E. founder Richard Beers.

“That created a void, and more than one set of show personnel saw the same opportunity and began exploring possibilities,” Kanner said.

Presson, who ran T.H.E. Show last year, joined with the Orion Group to help create the Los Angeles Audio Show. T.H.E. president Maurice Jung, meanwhile, has announced the 2017 edition of T.H.E. Show will be held Sept. 21-24 in Anaheim.

Adding to the mix is Constantine Soo, who ran the San Francisco Bay-area California Audio Show from 2010-2015 before taking a breather last year. He’s rebooting his event on July 28-30.

And, let’s not forget that also yet to come are the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, Oct. 6-8 in Denver; Capital Audiofest, Nov. 3-5 in Rockville, Maryland; and the New York Audio Show, Nov. 10-12 in Central Park South.

Still, even with the packed calendar, show organizers I spoke with generally seemed optimistic, rather than overly concerned.

Kanner said the real benefit could be introducing more individuals to the hobby.

“We want people to learn that music — and better reproduction — can make their lives better,” he said.

WHERE CAN YOU FIND ‘AUDIO FOR THE REST OF US’?

SUITE 533 AT THE LOS ANGELES AUDIO SHOW!

LOS ANGELES  — In 1984, Steve Jobs introduced the Mac I with the bold claim of “computers for the rest of us.”  Contained in that statement was the recognition that not all PC buyers were “computer nerds” or aspiring programmers.  AND that many people could benefit from and enjoy what computers did.

With a tip of our “thinking cap” to Steve Jobs, the LA Audio Show recognizes that not all music lovers are audiophiles and that “the rest of us” may not need or cannot currently afford the kind of gear that highlights audio shows, and, in fact, all enthusiast shows, whether they are for cars or antiques.  And we believe that audio equipment with less stratospheric performance — and price tags — can improve the lives of everyone who loves and listens to music.

In collaboration with Positive-Feedback, a Show co-sponsor, the Los Angeles Audio Show will devote exhibit suite 533 to “Getting Started.”  Steve Lefkowicz, Positive-Feedback’s Senior Associate Editor and the room’s host describes “Getting Started” this way,  “It’s an exhibit of lower cost, high-value audio systems. This exhibit is dedicated to the newcomers to better quality audio, and music lovers who want better sound at home, but are not ready or willing to splurge on the extravagantly priced systems that will be exhibited in other suites. We will be showcasing how to put together systems ranging from as little as $350 to a just under $5,000, with several options in between.”

Mr. Lefkowicz also notes that unlike many exhibit rooms at the Show, “Getting Started” encourages guests to bring their own music, so they can experience the equipment in the room with music with which they are familiar.  ” Whether you bring your favorite records, digital files (USB sticks will be easiest) or even your own Personal Audio Player or phone, we’ll probably be able to accommodate you. We want to show that regardless of the style or genre of music you like, or whatever your preferred listening source is, records, digital files or streaming, it will still always sound better and be more enjoyable over a better sounding system. If you don’t like what we are playing, please ask us to play what you bring! ”

The exhibit will be showcasing equipment from the following companies: Audioengine, Audioquest, Auralic, Belkin, Cardas, Elac, Emotiva, Heed Audio, iFi Audio, Magnepan, Music Hall, Pangea Audio, Pro-Ject, Schiit Audio, Tekton Design, and U-Turn Audio.

This brand-new show promises to be one of the biggest of the year. More than 10,000 audiophiles are expected, and that number could swell much higher, event planners say.

The Sheraton, which completed a $40 million renovation in 2016, is said to be able to accommodate such crowds. Its restaurant alone can hold 500.

LAAS anticipates having 115 exhibit rooms. There will be three large ballrooms holding massive displays from Sony and Harman International, as well as several home-theater installations.

About John Stancavage (155 Articles)
Writer and reviewer for Part-Time Audiophile