Tulsa World, Okla., John Stancavage column [Tulsa World, Okla.]
(Tulsa World (OK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Jan. 13-- While worldwide attention focused on the 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show last week in Las Vegas, another event was conducted nearby that almost didn't register on mainstream radar.
Held simultaneously with CES was The Home Entertainment Show, or T.H.E. Show. It focused on a product that long was a mainstay of almost every household and definitely the subject of much teenage longing -- the stereo system.
Traditional audio rigs -- preamplifier, amplifier, two speakers -- once themselves commanded center stage at CES. In recent decades, though, such components have declined in popularity to hobby status, and their remaining fans often are looked at with puzzlement and a little caution.
I'm one of those nutballs, I'm afraid. So, while I was following Tech Writer Robert Evatt's daily coverage of CES with much interest, I also kept up with the handful of audio bloggers at T.H.E. Show.
The audio event, as far as I can tell, didn't have movie stars, dancing girls or CEOs from bazillion-dollar global conglomerates. Instead, it had quite a few tiny companies from the U.S., many of which sprang up out of someone's garage because they thought they could build a better-sounding speaker or amplifier.
The year 2013 finds music reproduction at an interesting point in its evolution. On one hand, even high-end stereo hobbyists are downloading some songs and playing back tracks stored on computers. On the other hand, not only are compact discs still coveted among this niche of music fans, but vinyl albums -- yes, old fashioned 33 1/3-rpm records -- are making a comeback.
From what I read, T.H.E. Show had a fascinating mix of stereo equipment, ranging from wireless and USB sources to simple belt-driven turntables and amplifiers with big, glowing tubes -- just like grandpa used to have.
No matter what strategy a high-end audio designer chooses, the goal is the same: music playback that is close to hearing the real thing. Vinyl and tubes, especially, are thought by their proponents to offer a warmth that makes listening an addictive pleasure.
It's the antithesis of the digital age, where most people play squawky data-compressed MP3 files on cheap earbuds or maybe an iPod dock-equipped version of the old plastic clock radio.
Those gadgets are cool, but when was the last time your heart skipped a beat from the swell of an orchestral passage or you stayed up well into the night rediscovering a favorite artist A good stereo component system can do that.
We'll send Robert to CES again next year, and I'm looking forward to reading about all the new gee-whiz inventions. But I'm also thinking of booking some PTO that week.
T.H.E. Show is calling my name.
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