The MQA Controversy

audio-quality-vs-convenience

The MQA controversy is bound to create some winners and losers in both manufacturing and for us audiophiles.

For example, LINN has a very strongly argued case against it:

MQA is Bad For Music

The Computer Audiophile has details about how MQA advances the state-of-the-art in some respects:

MQA (for civilians)

And over at HiFi+ they report that MQA might not even be lossless:

And small manufacturers agonize over what THEY should do, and must pick sides:

ZWEIMANN AUDIO on FACEBOOK

MQA has funding and is making a bold move, but… I have a feeling things are moving so fast, that just about the time that MQA might start making an impact on the regular listening public, something new will already be replacing it.

What wins these days seem to be those things that go viral, not needing a heavy hand like the old format wars of days-gone-by.

But, who knows… not me. This one I am sitting out and taking a wait-and-see wake-me-when-its-all-over approach :-)

Audio Federation at CAS 2017

[Yes, we are going to Newport 2017 this Spring as well, and I’ll post where we will be when the powers that be (Neli) tell me the details :-)]

Here we are in the wonderful world where there is a show that is only 20 minutes away. :-)

Although CAS skipped a year, it is back in force and we are signed up for one of the larger rooms on the first floor of the building where the vast majority of exhibit rooms will be.

It is now in Oakland, at the Hilton, with plenty of parking and rooms that do not have air conditioners or heaters where equipment is supposed to go [unlike most of the other shows, shows where you eventually just learn to sit on the thing while plugging cables into the back of the gear].

 

 

CAS-2017-building-layout

This is the hotel layout and where the rooms are located.

IMG_20170315_132559-CAS-2017-boardroom-7

This is the room we are in. The front wall backs to the outside. So we will not disturb anybody if we play it a little LOUD [unless, however, our neighbors on the other side of the rear wall are too loud for our listeners to bear . in which case we will flip the room the other way. ]

IMG_20170315_132626-CAS-california-audio-show-2017-boardroom-7

Hmmm, maybe we should just put the system on the long wall, on the left, also an outer wall. You know, there is hardly ever any choice when we setup rooms about where the system should go. This is a such wealth of choices here [we, (well me anyway, haven’t talked to Neli about this recently), have been looking more favorably at long wall setups than we used to. Letting the sound breathe on the sides helps clarity and macrodynamics, and clarity OF macrodynamics :-)]

We’ve been wanting to go to this show for years and years. Every year we would talk and talk about it. One or the other of us would always not be able to make it. This is awesome.

A Year Without CES

In the last 15 years, this is the second year we have not gone to CES.

Miss it? A little. Still got my post CES cold, anyway. *sucks*

ces2017

From a business standpoint the case was clear: prices going way up, attendance going way down – and because this has been the trend for awhile, the number of exhibitors going way down.

Assume the CEA isn’t just trying to call off the uniquely troublesome high-end audio part of the show [a bunch of scoundrels (that would be all of us) masquerading as business people bringing big expensive heavy gear into 100s of pristine luxury hotel rooms and playing very loud music for 4 days].

Then the prices are going up because the rest of CES is still growing. CES overall is successful and there is little competition. Fewer vacant hotel rooms in Las Vegas means higher prices. And THE SHOW Las Vegas abandoning Vegas for Newport Beach a few years ago is no longer there to keep CES competitive.

A growing CES also means attendees of the main conference have more and more to do, and it gets harder for them to find and even remember that there is a high-end audio part of this show [Apparently. Higher attendance MIGHT also mean MORE people making it over to the High-Performance Audio part of the show – but in practice this is not happening].

Last year, attendance was very, very roughly 50% industry and press (friends), 40% people coming up from the very, very busy SANDS conference center downstairs (being at CES for other business), and 10% die-hard audiophiles (more friends).

My hope at this show was always that we would inspire the 40% who just happened to be at CES and stopped by our room to love what they hear, eventually become audiophiles and, someday, someday… to buy something. And by and large this worked. These people, less angry and irritable than their audiophile counterparts I might add (why is this?), almost universally smiled, loved what they heard and told us so, and asked what things cost. And when we told them they put us on their “someday when I’m rich” list. Most of these people are in growing industries, most quite young, so a good percentage will someday be “rich enough”.

But it is a lot to ask of smaller companies, like ours, to invest significant funds right now so that in 10 or 20 years these people will decide buy some decent high-end audio gear, especially when*what* gear they buy will largely depend on what appears on their radar at that time. But larger companies? What else do they have to do in early January? [unless they want to invest that $$$ to get more immediate ROI].

To this analysis we could add the rise and preeminence of the Munich show, the recent success more local Newport show, and…

But, you know, there used to be a lot of international attendees who would come around from the main show, wheeled carry-on dragging behind them, in expensive dark suits checking things out with expert eyes and presumably expert ears [i..e they appeared to be audiophiles]. Why are they not here anymore? Do they just not go to CES anymore? Are they too busy now to make it over from the main conference? Are there just not enough high-performance audio exhibits to attract them? Are they going to Munich anyway, so why bother with a shrinking, unexciting CES audio show?

None of those answers impress me.

Really no clue why they are no longer coming – but I would love to know the answer, as we are always trying to more accurately model the high-end audio economic picture, here now and the future.

And, let’s face it, the best gear just isn’t being shown at CES by most manufacturers. This is why we really, REALLY liked this show. It used to be, but not anymore. And much of the very best, what *is* being shown there, is unobtainable…

As for shows ourselves – looks like we are at least signed up and headed to Newport (L.A.) in late Spring….