Here in California, we are going to be blessed with three (count 'em) three Hi-Fi Shows this year, and I'm going to go to all of them. (If you see me wandering around at any one of them, DO say hello). The first is the Los Angeles Audio Show (LAAS), co-sponsored by the Los Angeles, Orange County Audio Society (LAOCAS) which, with some 2200 members now and certainly even more to be added by Showtime (you get a free show ticket for joining the club), is the world's largest Hi-Fi club). It's coming up quickly or, because it runs from June 2nd through June 4th, 2017, it may already be on by the time you read this.
If so, stop reading and, if you are anywhere within range, GO NOW! With not only the latest and very best in High-End and personal audio, but also live music, craft beers (tres yummy!), exotic and high performance cars, and all manner of other toys and goodies, this show – in just its first year of existence is already (based on the number of exhibitors and advance ticket sales) projected – with an expected 10,000 or more attendees – to be the biggest consumer audio Show in the country, and second in the world only to the HIGH END Munich Audio Show that just recently ended.
The next Show coming-up is the California Audio Show (CAS7) coming to Oakland, California (near San Francisco) from July 28th through 30th, 2017. In many ways, this will be the exact opposite of LAAS. Unlike the new-this-year Los Angeles Show, CAS7 will, as the number indicates, be the seventh year for this Show, making it the second longest-running consumer Show in the United States. Its approach will be different, too, focusing on intimacy and great sound in a hotel specifically chosen for the greater size and better acoustics of its exhibit rooms. It will also be all Hi-Fi (both High-End and personal, with audio exotica on display valued up to $200,000), live music, and seminars and one-on-one forums (yeah, I know it's supposed to be "fora", but nobody actually says that) where you'll be able to personally meet and get answers to your questions from some of the top people in the audio and music industry.
Importantly, this show is all about making it easy and interesting for audio newcomers to come and learn about our hobby, and with an advance ticket price of just $10 for all three days ($20 at the door), it's more fun and far cheaper than going to a movie, (and there's also a free drawing with High-End Audio prizes) so even people who are "just curious", but not yet committed audiophiles should be there in abundance. It also has all of the attractions of the San Francisco Bay Area, the wine country, the Tesla Car Company, and Silicon Valley within easy range, so if you don't live in the area, the Show becomes a great excuse for visiting a broad range of attractions and having adventures of all kinds. Be there if you can; you'll enjoy it – I know I will, just as I did last time.
The last of California's three Shows this year is T.H.E. Show, Anaheim (September 21 through September 24 2017), which, frankly, I don't know whether to describe as old or new. On the one hand, it's the direct successor to the outstandingly successful T.H.E. Show, Newport, following the passing, last year, of its founder, Richard Beers. As the Newport Show was, itself, first an offshoot, and then the successor to T.H.E. Show, Las Vegas (which ran for years as a "same time" second High-End choice for CES-goers), I'm inclined to say that it has a long and solid history. Because the choice of hotel, the city of venue, the timing, and the entire management and ownership organization for the Show are all brand-new, though, I think I'll just leave the decision of old or new up to you.
What will definitely remain the same as it was at the Newport Show is the great High-End and personal audio equipment from the world's best manufacturers; hours and hours of live music from "...the best in National music...": a lottery with thousands of dollars in audio prizes; a luxury auto show of high performance cars equipped with equally high performance audio systems; cigars; wine tasting; and the best in food tasting from LA's choicest Food Trucks.
One of the reasons why I'm going to the Shows is to see old friends and make new ones, but there's another reason, too: Except for monthly meetings of LAOCAS, of which I'm a member, I never go to Hi-Fi shops, and I absolutely never go to them to audition new equipment. As a former audio manufacturer (XLO cables) and as, currently, a writer for the audiophile press, I can generally buy what I want directly from its manufacturer. That means that if I were to go and listen to new stuff at a dealer's store without telling him in advance that I'm "just listening" and that there's no possibility that I will actually buy from him, I'd be stealing his time or keeping him from dealing with a customer that he might actually make a sale to. I simply won't do that, so about the only way I ever get to hear new things is either at the homes of friends or at Hi-Fi Shows.
I'm not the only one in that position: For a great many audiophiles or people who might become audiophiles if given the opportunity, Hi-Fi Shops are either not available within any kind of reasonable driving distance or, even if they're close-by, they might not carry all – or even a significant part – of the equipment that a customer might like to audition. Even worse, even if they do have it all (hard to imagine when you consider the broad range of products at any Show and the fact that most new products will be introduced at Shows before they're released to dealers), there's still the inevitable pressure to buy that a "maybe" customer won't get at a Show, and the fact that listening to them all may take more time than even the most generous and understanding dealer can allow. With three days of a typical Show, there's plenty of selection and plenty of time to listen to it all.
Quoting from the website of T.H.E. Show, Anaheim, "In wide swaths of the United States, serious audio products simply cannot be found. Even major cities have few venues for audiophiles to hear the products before they make a purchase. Much of the time, there are only two options for audiophiles (1) take a chance and buy a product online or (2) come to a High-end Audio show."
That's a good reason, but there are better ones: It's fun; You can enjoy a day or a weekend with people who share your interests; there's – at all of the Shows – lots of live music for your enjoyment and to help remind your ears of what "the real thing" sounds like; there will be lots of great recordings to buy and lots of great equipment to play them on so that you can buy or knowledgeably order them and, when you get them home, you can put on your favorite disc; sit back; close your eyes; and...
Enjoy the music.