Why I’m Excited to Attend T.H.E. Show 2013

Getting ready for a weekend of audio nirvana

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I’ve been warned that audio shows — such as T.H.E. Show that I’ll be attending this weekend — can be like Star Trek conventions, only imagine replacing Klingon with turntable talk and subbing Captain Kirk and Spock with Wilson Audio and Magico, maybe. I get that there’s a stereotype of the audiophile crowd that attends such gatherings, and having been labeled an audio “geek” by my own wife after a couple of hours musing about music last night, I say “qem ‘oH Daq!” (That’s Klingon for “bring it on!”)

I’ve attended numerous International Consumer Electronics Shows (CES) and CEDIA Expos that focus on a wide range of ultra-cool home technology (you know, like what we cover every day here on Electronic House), and even a couple of commercial A/V-focused InfoComm Shows. But until now the “audio show” has somehow eluded me (not that we don’t talk audio — we’ve got that category well covered here too since it’s a such a major element, and most of my time at CES is spent in the high-performance audio suites at the Venetian … which I suppose is very similar to the environment of an audio-only focused show).

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Aside from getting to spend a few days in California, I’m looking forward to T.H.E. Show for a number of audio-related reasons. Foremost being the chance to spend a lot of time listening to some incredible music on incredible audio systems.

Related: Read our coverage from the New York Audio Show 2013 here

I’ve noted this before, but it’s an exciting time to be an audiophile. There are so many ways to set up a killer system, and various formats to appreciate music. You can go from a setup with barely any parts to serve you well, to one that has every type of tweak so you can extract every microdetail imaginable from a recording (do you use sound vibration isolators?).

This struck me recently when I was reviewing (forthcoming) a set of PSB Speakers’ Alpha PS1 powered speakers fed only by my now nearly 10-year-old Sony Vaio PC — loaded with thousands of digital files from MP3 to high-res 24-bit/192 kHz — and Meridian’s Explorer USB DAC (you can read that review here) with a Y-adapter and RCA analog cables. Those little powerhouses from PSB and Meridian run $299 apiece, so basically the whole system would only set someone back about $600 before adding in their “legacy” computer source component, and you know what? The results were absolutely outstanding. Of course, at the other end of the spectrum I’ve listened to setups at CES and elsewhere that run six-figures and are simply mind-blowing.

But the great thing about loving audio is that you can have either, plus a whole slew of combinations — continuing to swap out pieces is the fun part of the audiophile quest — in between and you’ll find happiness. So I’m excited to chat with some of the hundreds of exhibiting manufacturers, along with the audio installers who’ll be on hand, about what they perceive to be the most important pieces of the puzzle.

I’m also looking forward to their take on the continuing digital vs. analog debate, and what they consider to be the key cogs in setting up those respective systems. On the digital side, hearing more about the importance of digital-to-analog converters and their take on high-resolution music. On the analog side, listening to fellow vinyl junkies on why that format continues to endure, and why many audiophiles prefer it as their listening format of choice.

I want to continue our ongoing conversations with manufacturers and dealers about why the room itself is so important to audio playback, since many readers might think it’s all about the gear. And about that gear, what are more of there takes on logical upgrade paths? We want to help you plan your own audio projects.

And, of course, getting back to the music — we all have our favorite songs, but what are some primo recordings that make for great demo material to really evaluate a system’s capabilities? I’m always intrigued by the choices I hear at the Venetian and during CEDIA Expo … but I’ll likely be meeting many manufacturers I haven’t heard before so it will be fascinating and educational to hear their picks too.

My ears might be ringing a bit next week, but such are the dangers sometimes of covering the electronics industry.

See Also:
Sound Setups: Three Great Audiophile Listening Rooms
DACs: The Missing Link in Today’s Music Systems
10 Features for Your Next A/V Receiver

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