Was there from about 1230 til close today.
Dan Wiggins of Periodic Audio gave one of the best presentations I've ever seen, about transducers: What they do, what they don't do, and misconceptions and myths about same. Sadly this talk will not be repeated tomorrow, but a version of his powerpoint was promised for Periodic's website. Worth watching for. I was going to record audio (I have seen some previous talks video recorded in the past) but the Tidal system across the hall was too loud to do it.
Pamela Mason's presentation on hearing health is highly recommended. What good is a great system if your hearing is shot? Invest the hour. It happens again tomorrow at 1:30pm.
Bob Carver's ribbon arrays sounded good but really need room; when I moved from the third or fourth row to the front, it sounded as if all the sound was coming from the top of the arrays.
I wanted to hear the Quad S2 mini monitors featured in the Tenacious room (Kudos to Tenacious for showing some nice sounding reasonably priced gear) but they had just been rotated out when I got there so I didn't get to.
I felt sorry for Klaus from Odyssey (who consistently shows up a lot of big buck exhibitors year after year not to mention being one of the nicest, most approachable exhibitors) as he seemed to have drawn the short straw in the room lottery. His setup put the second/last row of seats against the back wall resulting in very boomy bass there. I have heard these speakers before and they sound better than this- much better. Moving away from the wall solved it but I'm afraid some people who aren't familiar with what his great equipment really sounds like won't 'get' that.
(Not Klaus' fault: The MoFi reissue of 'Abraxas', which requires a disc flip right at the segué between 'Gypsy Queen' and 'Oye Como Va', ruining one of the classic segués of rock). Kind of reminded me of the track-switch interruption right in the middle of the sax solo in the 8-track version of Pink Floyd's 'Money'. Others from the Mesozoic era may remember this. What was old is new again...
Fyssion had some interesting little speakers of unusual design. Even more unusual was their source: The headphone jack of an iPhone, not even into a DAC. The system sounded respectable though, presumably playing lossless.
Schiit had a good representation of their desktop line (headphone amps and DACs).
I'm a headphone guy, partly by inclination, partly by necessity, partly because of economics, so I was very interested in the 'CanMania' headphone space. Koss and ESS were MIA as far as I could tell but Koss is kind of irrelevant in today's headphone market anyway. Biggest discovery here (or, for me, the show) was the Beyerdynamic Amiron from my 'hit list', which sounded phenomenal- neutral without being sterile sounding, detailed without being 'zingy' like some of the T's, was extremely comfortable, and IMHO gave the more expensive Focal Utopia and Elear (which I finally got to hear) a real run for their money and beating their a**es on sound-for the dollar. The Amiron actually sounded less 'colored' to me than either and absent a more extended audition, Im not sure the extra $ is well spent.
General thoughts about the show:
I suggest printing out the exhibitor list from the website as the show guide only gives the exhibitor name and room number. If you came to audition a specific component, this will help.
I skipped rooms whose sponsors brought the same stuff they bring every year, and which I've heard. Too little time for that. Won't name names but you'll recognize them if you've attended before. I also skipped several that I heard music coming out of but had no signage or labeling.
Many rooms had problems with sound leakage from adjacent rooms, possibly worsened by the high playback levels that many seemed to insist on. Nothing like listening to the bassline from the next room while you're listening to a soft string quartet piece. Setup issues seemed rampant too, although I recognize that it was Day One.
The show also seemed to continue the 'Real audiophiles Play Vinyl' vibe which became very noticeable last year.
Other than that it was the usual sea of 'deep-end' 'statement' systems, with little really differentiating them in terms of absolute SQ, just pick the one whose sound signature you like the most and sign the five (or six if you're really flush) figure check. The first room I went into handed me a price list: Phono cart $5995; TT $30,000; phono pre $13,500; digital streamer $1595; optional power supply $450; DAC $14,000, CD transport $8500; assorted tweaks including power conditioning $11,285; interconnects $1672 (fourteen power cords add up to $9260 though); line preamp $16,500; power amplification $25,000; loudspeakers at a piddling $11,500/pr; racking and stands $14,304 finishing off the package bringing the total for everything shown to $147,304 which at a glance seemed in the ballpark of quite a few rooms. Did it sound good? Sure. Thirty times better than the $5K system in the Tenacious room? Of course not; in fact the $600 Beyer headphones were more revealing, but, we all know cans are not everybody's cup of tea and not for many situations (like listening with friends).
There you have some of the reasons IMHO why personal audio and 'smart speakers' are gobbling market share while 'systems' are becoming rarer and rarer in the 'general population'. I apologize for my occasional 'beefing', I know I've done it before. Kudos to Klaus and Tenacious (and CAF for having them as exhibitors) for providing a 'door in' so people can get interested in quality audio.