T.H.E. (The Home Entertainment) Show, which takes place in Las Vegas every year prior to the Consumer Electronics Show, has branched out to Orange County, CA, with its first annual Newport event, which ran June 3rd through June 5th. Organized by the Los Angeles and Orange County Audio Society, T.H.E. show was a smashing success by any measure, with the Hilton Hotel spilling over with exhibits and attendees, and entertainment.
There were was an abundance of audio world dignitaries in attendance, mingling with excited audiophiles and colleagues. Industry giants such as Ray Kimber of Kimber Kable; Harry Pearson, founder of The Absolute Sound; Michael Fremer, Senior Editor at Stereophile; David Robinson; Dave and Carol Clark of Positive Feedback; Robert Harley, Editor In Chief of The Absolute Sound; Paul Seydor and Neil Gader, Senior Writers at The Absolute Sound; Kevin Deal of Upscale Audio; Richard Vandersteen, Albert Von Schweikert; and too many more to mention!
As I went from exhibit to exhibit, I noted the diversity of sources and source material used. Many rooms had turntables reel-to-reel decks, music servers, and good old fashioned CD players. Some had all of the above! Many were plainly decorated, while some exhibitors smartly created ambiance and offered refreshments. For the large part the sound in most rooms was very good, with just a few exceptions. I also appreciated the variety of music being played -- everything from classical, to classic rock and jazz, to alternative singer-songwriters.
Home theater was fairly well represented, though it certainly was not a focal point. The Meridian room was a show stopper, with an enormous projection and a complete Meridian surround system, presenting stunning realism alongside concert level, yet audiophile, and highly refined sound. It was nice to see how the other half live, as the system had a price tag near six figures.
Headphone lovers were in heaven as there were a number of major vendors displaying their wares. Mini audio systems were the rage as well, with displays from Audioengine, Centrance, Headroom, and others being quite popular. Of course iPod, iPad, and laptop connectivity were major selling points. I see this area growing in the near future.
There were many other attractions offered at the show as well. Audiophile LPs, CDs, and DVDs were available for purchase from a number of vendors. Not to mention, tons of accessories and tweaks. There a steady diet of live music in the outside the Hilton's lounge area, along with a cigar bar, wine tasting, and a classic car display were among the highlights.
There were also some excellent seminars, covering such topics as computer audio, tubes, home theater, speaker design, and turntable set up. One of the most entertaining seminars was a reviewer question and answer session with Robert Harley, Michael Fremer, Paul Seydor, Neil Gader, Dave Clark, Steve Rochlin, and David Robinson. Fascinating stuff. The audience clearly enjoyed interacting with some of the well known members of the audio press.