Monday, January 13, 2014

CES 2014: Tec(h)tonic Shifts in High-end Audio

January 12th, 2014 by Audio Federation
First, fun show as always.

Everyone was mildly upbeat. No WTF’s about Audiogon this year. No unending complaints about the economy - more of a “it sucks, we just have to deal with it” attitude.

Exhibitors are now using CD players like they used to use turntables - as a way to provide a better sound for those that care about the sound. It has now moved to the ‘audio treat’ category.

A very surprising development, certainly to me and seems like it would be to others, [and this is just what I observed, I haven’t counted the rooms yet] is that there were only about half as many rooms at the Venetian this year as last year, with about the same reduction in rooms over at THE Show. There was a commensurate reduction in traffic as well, though the people who attended actually sat and listened to things instead of just wandering in and out of rooms [i.e. a higher quality of attendee].

For example, it only took me 5 hours to photograph the rooms at the Venetian and it used to take me about 20 hours [the vast majority of 3 of 4 days]. With fewer people [faster walking from room to room], and fewer rooms this show was way easier to report on than previous years.

Are the newer shows like Newport L.A., Axpona Chicago and Dagogo San Francisco eating into the numbers? No doubt. And certainly Munich is seriously eating into the international numbers as well.

Did the cold snap and storms on the east coast delay and cancel some people’s plans. Probably.

Did the economy and continuing shift away from traditional component-based high-end audio kill off a few more of our brethren? Or perhaps bad times have made CES prohibitively expensive? Unfortunately there is probably some of this as well.

Rumors were that some of the prices at the Venetian went up, even though brands like Acapella / Einstein and Kharma moved over from THE Show to the Venetian this year.

Other trends… other trends…

There is something of a musical chairs effect of exhibitors sharing rooms with different partners than they used to. Walker with Perfect8 and VAC. Atma-sphere with PranaFidelity. Magico with Vitus. Kondo with B&W. TechDAS on Acapella / Einstein. Some of these really work awesomely well [Atma-sphere with PranaFidelity, TechDAS on Acapella / Einstein], and others with mixed results [Kondo on B&W].

People and brands who did not make it this year:

Peter Qvortrup of Audio Note U.K. got sick at the last minute, and ANUK was nowhere to be seen at the shows this year. Audio Power Labs was also missed. Avantgarde, Hansen, Classic Audio.