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Thread: Pacific NW Audio Fest, A Short Report

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    Pacific NW Audio Fest, A Short Report

    Colleagues,

    Due to my Wife's illness, I was unable to spend much time at the show, but I was favorably impressed with the quality of the various presentations. Almost all were first rate demo's of their gear.
    A special mention should be made at the Genesis room; they served coffee (Starbucks) and donuts. Maybe next time we will be served Lox and Bagels.

    A few observations;
    It wasn't crowded, as it was in fact Friday.
    Almost all attendees were male and over 50.
    All the music being played was jazz. I was asked at the Kef exhibit what I wanted to hear and I responded March Slav. He didn't have that but put on Granada with a terrific trumpet solo. a couple of listeners got up to leave.
    I was impressed by the Kef Blade speakers, more than any other that I heard.
    No Harman exhibit. What's up with that?

    I did have a nice chat with Bill Hanuschack of Great Plains Audio. He was showing his Altec line, and I have to say the quality was first rate. He was also showing their new 515-SW. a new sub woofer based on the 515. All GP drivers
    shown used Alnico structures.

    It would have been nice to hear a system that didn't cost the same as 2 weeks on the French Riviera, maybe someone there did but I had to leave early.

    So is home Hi-Fi dead?
    I posed that question to Bill Hanuschack and He thought that it was too early to tell.
    KEEP ON LISTENING!

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    On your last paragraph Stereophile recently reported the financial state of the recording industry.

    I call that the top end of the food chain. If the food chain is dying then everything else will.

    Itís had its share of issues like any other industry in the past few years. Artistís, producers, engineers, record companyís and streaming providers are very much alive. On the recording oindustry hardware side the compact 500 series outboard signal processing equipment has gained popularity in the home studio market and is on the up.

    The number of hifi turntables available and outboard phono stages available on the market continues to expand. Major global consumer hifi brands like Yamaha and Marantz are continuing to evolve their hifi equipment offerings with wifi and streaming source options. Mid tier brands like Peachtree Audio, Cambridge Audio, Naim Audio and Linn Sondek and smaller boutique brands keep pumping out integrated amplifiers, DACs, streamers, head amps and headphones like thereís no tomorrow. CD players seem to be on the way out. A spread of loudspeaker manufacturers like Kef, PSB, Klipsch, B&W and others are investing in future product development to meet all applications across consumer entertainment. Likewise the small home studio monitor market to very competitive.

    During the pandemic itís been said consumers increased spending on home hifi entertainment equipment. That seems logical.

    If hifi means hi end to some people l would suggest that always has and always will be a small fraction of the total consumer hifi business. Taking into account the recording industry, streaming, vinyl and consumer entertainment electronics the menís jewellery end of business is a loss leader mast head for advertising awareness and reviews which couldnít otherwise justify its existence of 0.01% of the business turnover.

    But emotional purchases involving tens of thousands of dollars do happen in jewellery shops. At least you can see the difference in a US$20,000 ring and a US$2,000 ring! Such a purchase can be protected with a valuation for insurance purposes.

    But how does a hi end hifi salesman justify US$20,000 amplifier when it is not 10x better than a US$2,000 amplifier. Because someone with more money than sense believes it based on advertising and a review. The people that regularly buy that equipment keep it for a relatively short period and trade it on Audiogon for something else after they get sick of it. I donít get it.

    This is the thing.

    A recording studio might use a premium pro AD-DA converter worth US$5,000-10,000. How does a hi end boutique brand justify $20,000 or more on a single streamer or a Dac and US$1,000 on speaker cables? I am not sure about the moral compass of some of the pocket liners behind these brands. The recording studio has US$50,000 or more in room acoustic treatments. The hi end equipment user typically has no acoustic treatment.

    How can the hi end means justify the ends?

    Just my humble opinion.

    PS : If you find this post disturbing then you are probably justified.

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    Senior Member Ducatista47's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ian Mackenzie View Post

    PS : If you find this post disturbing then you are probably justified.
    Upper tier audiophile equipment has never made much sense to me. If you have a speaker based system and employ no room treatment, anything from mid-priced kit on up is wasted. And of what use is ruinously priced electronics when speakers yield five to ten percent distortion? You really think that 0.02% amp matters?

    Of course most enthusiasts favor highly euphonic reproduction anyway, so the quest for accurate sound is a phrase given nothing but lip service. So why pay a fortune for it? Take it from one who went pretty far down the tube and vinyl rabbit hole, the speakers will limit what everything else can do; why make it even worse by using using those inferior, outdated technologies. So what does the industry do? It leads with them.

    My rigs sounded good to me until I moved to speakerless personal listening. Then I could not deny that the former were fun but in comparison not really good. But the fun was real. I feel the only reasonable way to enjoy a speaker system is to be satisfied with what it does and resist throwing money at it. Unless it is for room treatment. They are FUN. Just don't take it so seriously. You enjoy listening to your system... Until some asshole in a magazine or at a shop or show tells you it DOESN'T sound good. In that respect the industry sucks. Perhaps you are old enough to remember how much joy was had from JBL Century rigs. That is what counts. Would you believe it if someone tried to tell you no, your enjoyment was flawed? Whatever they are trying to sell you, never, ever buy it.
    Information is not Knowledge; Knowledge is not Wisdom
    Too many audiophiles listen with their eyes instead of their ears


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    Administrator Mr. Widget's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ducatista47 View Post
    Upper tier audiophile equipment has never made much sense to me.
    Do Rolex watches or Bentley SUVs make sense? Not to me. Does an Aston Martin Vantage? No, but I would buy one if I could afford it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ducatista47 View Post
    I feel the only reasonable way to enjoy a speaker system is to be satisfied with what it does and resist throwing money at it. Unless it is for room treatment. They are FUN. Just don't take it so seriously.
    It is a hobby! There are no wrong answers. If your _____ makes you happy you have succeeded and if it doesn't you need to rethink why you made the decision to buy or build it in the first place.

    So is Hi-Fi dead? Not yet, but I do think it is far less relevant today than it was in past decades.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Kreamer View Post
    Due to my Wife's illness...
    I hope it's nothing serious. Thank you for the update.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Kreamer View Post
    No Harman exhibit. What's up with that?
    I am so over Harman. Such a shame, but it has been a fairly straight-line progression downwards since the mid 2000s.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Kreamer View Post
    I did have a nice chat with Bill Hanuschack of Great Plains Audio. He was showing his Altec line, and I have to say the quality was first rate. He was also showing their new 515-SW. a new sub woofer based on the 515. All GP drivers
    shown used Alnico structures.
    Very cool, glad he is still at it. Very good to hear.


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    Senior Member spkrman57's Avatar
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    High end audio gear

    I worked my way up the audio food chain, but not spending mega bucks.

    Good audio gear available at decent prices if time spent researching is done. I bought most of my more expensive gear demo or 2nd hand.

    Regards, Ron
    JBL Pro for home use!

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    Administrator Robh3606's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Kreamer View Post
    So is home Hi-Fi dead?
    I posed that question to Bill Hanuschack and He thought that it was too early to tell.
    I think it has morphed into HT. Any of my friends if they have anything at all it tends to be visual media integrated. You can paly anything on an HT system can't say that for strictly stereo system. Sure you can play a 2 channel mix of a movie but it's a poor substitute and doesn't do the soundtrack justice.

    Rob
    "I could be arguing in my spare time"

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    Lightbulb

    Is HiFi dead?

    Itís depends on what that question means to an individual?

    Dentists who are addicted to spending large sums frequently on hifi (or hi end equipment) would most likely disagree because they are a cog that drives part of the HiFi industry as a business. Most hifi retailers know who their regular customers are and they invite these customers to hear whatís new.

    For the rest of us back in the day being able to buy a hifi system was milestone in meeting your hierarchical wants (not a need). It was a status symbol. Values have no doubt shifted but aspirations still exist deep down. A motor vehicle is still who you are.

    But if you asked the question with someone who can remember sitting down to listen to a whole album in the 70ís they would possibly agree that hifi is dead. The response is likely l spend most of my quality time on Facebook. Iím too busy.

    But people fork out on going to concerts to hear their favourite music and see Elton John.

    So they still place listening to music they like high on their list of must have wants. So whatís going on in peoples heads? Your hifi system was and still should be your teleport to listening to a concert at home. The question then is is that experience simply dormant or is it no longer relevant to the current narrative?

    Could it be if people were less wound up and obsessed with looking at their smart phones 500 times a day they might have time to ďthinkĒ about buying a nice SLR camera or wondering through a slick HiFi store?

    Or is the smart phone consuming our capacity to be ďpresentĒ so we can enjoying emotional experiences?

    Why has Mindfulness become the go to word for being in touch with our minds, our bodies and souls?

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    Administrator Robh3606's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ian Mackenzie View Post
    Is HiFi dead?

    But people fork out on going to concerts to hear their favourite music and see Elton John.

    So they still place listening to music they like high on their list of must have wants. So what’s going on in peoples heads? Your hifi system was and still should be your teleport to listening to a concert at home. The question then is is that experience simply dormant or is it no longer relevant to the current narrative?

    Or is the smart phone consuming our capacity to be “present” so we can enjoying emotional experiences?

    Why has Mindfulness become the go to word for being in touch with our minds, our bodies and souls?
    Hello Ian

    Interesting points. I am a frequent concert attendant averaging between about 70 shows a year pre-pandemic. And as you know I enjoy listening at home as well. I see them as two very different experiences. I enjoy both very much but for different reasons. You just can't match the intimacy of seeing artists up close and personal. It's so much fun actually being there in the moment seeing a live performance. If you are lucky you can meet them and have a chat.

    As to you point about smart phones they are a double edge sword. They are great for memories after the show but can also be addictive recording videos and taking snaps during the show. The worst thing these days is seeing a sea of cell phones some held overhead with no respect for the people behind. I will often do a video or two take photo's but also make a point to keep it in my pocket for most of the show to be "there"!

    Some bands King Crimson comes to mind will ask you to leave if they catch you using a cell during the show. I can see why. Too many are on Facebook during the show and simply not there.

    At home stereo is not dead for me. Compared to a live show you typically get a more balanced overall sound and can hear what the entire band is doing. Up close the sound can be dominated by lead guitarists amp as an example or determined by location in a large hall.

    It's all fun!!! So here is your stereo vs live! How some think a stereo can match live has me a bit baffled?? It's more than just sound. Real is real a stereo is at best a vehicle dependent upon ones imagination or mood.

    Rob
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    Further thoughts on audio shows and a personal note

    I realize that an audio show is like going to a Ferrari show room and wishing you were James Bond. But still a smart Dealer could show that a modest outlay could get you almost as good a sound (or maybe even more accurate) than the latest Belchfire IV speaker with speaker wires made from Unobtainium mined from the east coast of Madagascar and driven by the Alien Quest mono Block amplifier.
    As an aside, I heard nothing that I would replace my 4410's and Altec 411 subs for.

    Don't get me wrong, I enjoy audio shows they are great fun, and if one is produced here next year I will attend it. Hopefully Harman will show up, but I fear those days are gone.
    I have enjoyed audio since high school, and I miss those days when we would go to someones house to listen to listen to the Beatles on his new speakers. Come paring notes and enjoying a Rainier beer.

    Regarding Concert Going;
    Music affects us in ways that nothing else can. Nothing except your children being born, the way your beloved looks on moonlight nights your sons first home run or your daughters first soccer goal. And music can take you there.
    As a performer and listener to classical music, nothing can replace a live performance. But a good system can get ......well almost there. But not quite.

    A personal note;
    My wife of 47 years now suffers with the most horrible disease of our time; Alzheimers. I won't belabor that she is being taken from me and our children in drips and drabs every day. I hope none you will ever have to face it.

    Ed
    KEEP ON LISTENING!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ian Mackenzie View Post
    Dentists who are addicted to spending large sums frequently on hifi (or hi end equipment) would most likely disagree because they are a cog that drives part of the HiFi industry as a business.

    A motor vehicle is still who you are.
    Finally! Now I know who buys that expensive stuff!

    Sorry, yes I am being sarcastic, but honestly I really don't know who buys the high end gear that I see in the magazines or the shows. I have two or three friends who have some surprisingly high end systems, but even though I know many very wealthy people (mostly through work) I think only five or six friends own a respectable hi-fi at the level of most here on this forum and yet I know several dozen who own Ferraris, Bentleys, or other exotic supercars du jour.

    Other than the couple of guys with uber high end stereos, the others with good systems have JBL M2s, lower end second hand Magicos or cool vintage systems.

    I define a decent system as one with a quality receiver, an integrated amp, or separates, and a decent source playing through a quality pair of speakers from Large Advents to some of the far higher performing systems we see shared here, or a nice pair of cans if that's your thing. Like most here, I believe you can have a stellar system without spending a ton of money. If you can afford to spend more and make wise choices the sound quality does improve but the law of diminishing returns can really bite.

    FWIW: I guess I am a VW Golf. Go figure.

    Quote Originally Posted by Robh3606 View Post
    I am a frequent concert attendant averaging between about 70 shows a year pre-pandemic. And as you know I enjoy listening at home as well. I see them as two very different experiences. I enjoy both very much but for different reasons.
    Agreed 100% about the joy of both and how they are such different experiences. That old school hi-fi goal of recreating a live performance in your home is pretty much nonsense.

    With the right recording of a simple piano playing on my 2 channel system it can sound like the real deal from another room, but anything more complex and nah, it sounds great, but not like Led Zeppelin or Stan Getz is performing in my listening room. Then again, I assume many will agree that listening to many recordings from any genre of music, a jazz combo, to opera, to stadium rock, the detail captured on recordings and available for playback in our homes has more nuance and subtlety than you can hear in the best seat of the concert hall or at the stadium.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Kreamer View Post
    As a performer and listener to classical music, nothing can replace a live performance. But a good system can get ......well almost there. But not quite.
    I listen to a lot of live classical music and see a few operas every year... I am mostly a rock and jazz fan, but am musically mostly agnostic.

    Listening to the symphony there is no way to capture the enormity of a 70 piece orchestra via any system I have ever heard, but even at my season ticket seats, 12th row center, I do not hear the detail of the violin soloist like a good recording playing back at home can, and at the opera, few singers can project out to the audience what we hear on a recording. But then again, live is electric and the best systems I have heard bring some of that home, but not all of it.

    Ed, I am so very sorry to hear about your wife. I lost my father and several friends to other forms of dementia and Alzheimer's disease and it is so tragic. I wish you and her the best.


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    Sitting in an orchestra gives a very different perspective than sitting in the audience. I suppose that being a low brass player, I'm looking for something different than the fiddle players. maybe that's why I prefer minimalist
    miking over multimiking, the decca tree method is my favorite.

    Maybe that's why I drive a Volvo x/c 90. I bought it used.

    Lets all go to the next audio show and have some fun.


    And thank you Widget, I do appreciate it very much.

    Ed
    KEEP ON LISTENING!

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    Senior Member BMWCCA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Kreamer View Post
    Maybe that's why I drive a Volvo x/c 90. I bought it used.
    That one confused me.
    My assumption is that you lack power in your low horn performance and feel like you're going to come apart when pushed to high-output?

    ". . . as you have no doubt noticed, no one told the 4345 that it can't work correctly so it does anyway."óGreg Timbers

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    1. I have the V8
    2. I have never had a Volvo motor come apart on me. Not even when I lost my oil cooler hose going over I 70, in Colorado.
    3. I usually play the bass trombone, or the BB flat Tuba.

    I meant the inclusion of my car as a bit of humor; as you are what you drive, ( didn't someone say that here?) and Widget remarked about his VW.

    Any way no harm, no foul.

    Shalom

    Ed
    KEEP ON LISTENING!

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