CanJam NYC 2017 Wrap-Up

CanJam was unbelievable!
Over the last six months, I’ve attended RMAF 2016, NYAS 2016, and CES 2017—consisting of predominantly traditional two-channel hi-fi systems and enthusiasts. While that can be enjoyable in its own way, I feel more at home in a room full of headphone enthusiasts. There’s less negativity, less pressure, less unspoken competition for the center seat, and most importantly, less sense of some bizarre imposed hierarchy. This drastic difference was immediately apparent as soon as I stepped foot into the bustling halls of the Marriott. (Over 2000 attendees!)

My two minor gripes:

1) Typically this term is taboo for me, but it is sadly accurate for what I am trying to describe: “booth babes”. I won’t be specific, but I went to a couple booths, asked a few straightforward questions, and received empty answers or looks of confusion in response. Don’t get me wrong, CanJam is about experiencing and listening firsthand. However, in an understandably less than optimal listening environment like CanJam, I live for interactions with knowledgeable experts. Booth babes (for lack of a better word) detract from the experience as a whole for both exhibitors and attendees.

2) Booths who pack up before the end of the show. I ranted about this at RMAF 2016, at NYAS 2016, and at CES 2017. It seems to be a show trend and one that I will never understand. If any of you ventured down the side hallway hoping to listen to the Sennheiser Orpheus at 4pm on Sunday, you probably came upon an empty room. A few booths in the ballroom also began bringing out the boxes at 4pm, an hour before the show’s close. Sigh. I’ll never understand the psyche of the impatient, self sabotaging exhibitor.

That being said, thank you to all the friendly attendees, to the knowledgeable designers who took the time to talk with me about the future of headphones, and to the manufacturers who stuck around till the very end of the show. Thank you.

Editor's Note: Ha! You're a fun read, Jana. I think I need to make a few comments on your wrap.

Gemütlichkeit Headphone Geeks - as defined by Wikipedia, Gemütlichkeit means, "...a space or state of warmth, friendliness, and good cheer. Other qualities include coziness, peace of mind, belonging, well being, and social acceptance." The thing about the headphone community is that it came from a completely different place than where the traditional two-cannel world arose. Headphone geeks were born on the web. Young folks who just wanted something better than earbuds. A grass roots swarm looking for great sound at prices far lower than could be equivalently achieved with speakers. The Koss Porta Pro became legend. Being hip to computers, early headphone geeks were early adopters to portable MP3 players and on-line forums. Many enthusiasts eventually became manufacturers and, in any number of cases, remarkably successful. Despite the close ties through common equipment, the overlap in the Venn diagram of headphone enthusiasts and traditional two-channel audiophiles is fairly modest sliver. So yeah, headphone enthusiasts have historically been a pretty tight group with their own manufacturers who hovered in the circle.

On the other hand, the only constant is change, and the headphone enthusiast world is quite different now than it was 10 years ago. Just like the two-channel world has come a long way since Heatkits and DIY speaker building, the headphone world now has garnered significant attention from big makers and CanJam is a pretty big deal...and, of course, that comes along with some loss of the intimacy we had in days of old. None the less, lots of people in the community hold the experience of the early days in their heart, and, by and large, the youthful on-line connected headphone enthusiast community is a closer knit group than two-channel audio, it seems to me.

Booth Babes - Hm. I guess I don't usually see "booth babes" at headphone events any where near as often as at CES, for example. Unless by "booth babes" you mean it in a much broader context. If you were to include in that category "sales dudes in suits", well, then I'm in total agreement. Pretty much the first thing I ask when approaching a new-to-me booth is, "You got any of your engineers here?" I...well, I'll abort my rant.

I think the thing manufacturers really need to know is that headphone enthusiast are quite often surprisingly technically competent. If you want to effectively impress these guys and gals, you need to be able to tell them much more about the product than what they can read on the outside of the box. Bring measurements from the factory; bring mechanical drawings; bring product disassembled for close viewing of the inside bits; and be able to effectively explain what the heck is going on. That's how you're going to get a rise out of this audience. And, in my experience, it's those companies that respect and service the intelligence of their enthusiast customers that win lasting loyalty in the end.

Early Out Exhibitors - I've been an exhibitor and know this is, at times, difficult to avoid. For a lot of folks, it's a choice between packing up an hour early to make a flight, or burning a day by planning your flight out on the Monday. But I'll not make excuses for them; show hours are on the program, sometimes atendees can only make it on Sunday and they may have a lot of vendors on their list to visit. They'll be bummed if you stand them up. Your choice.

Thanks for the lovely reports, Jana. I enjoyed following along!

COMMENTS
tony's picture

Wouldn't it be nice if every booth had their version of Tyll to take the visitor on the Tour of the Product?

The reality is that many folks are working off a prepared script, ask a question and you might de-rail their train of though.

In the Auto Show business, we don't let people ask Questions. You want to know sump'm, ask the Dealer!

Besides, many of these 2-Channel guys are struggling to sell. Have a look-see at Michael Fremer's tour of Audio Research followed by a look-see at his tour of REGA. The Europeans are far beyond the US outfits in most things including having products that sell well.

One more thing is that 2-Channel will view a Woman as a Bubble-Gum. 2-Channel is Man territory far more than the democratic world of headphones where women are viewed as Prime Customers, I'd even suggest that headphone people know that women love music.

Women ( wives ) are nearly adversaries to the 2-Channel outfits selling $5,000 wires and such. Women are rational, not quite given to the hocus-pocus of rituals like Wire Trusses and Tip-toes.

I've worked with 2 Women CEOs, the stories they tell about being invisible seemed amazing to me until I traveled with them and saw for myself.

MQA is about to hit like a Shock-Wave. Record Players and related stuff will probably be un-sellable again, a whole lot of 2-Channel is Analog based, these 2-Channel guys will be hurting more than they are now.

You're doing nice work, Stereophile is advancing, you get to work with Tyll and JA. You've won Life's Lottery!

Tony in Michigan

Journeyman's picture

"The Europeans are far beyond the US outfits in most things including having products that sell well."
-> Sennheiser, Beyerdynamic, Philips, Pro-Ject, Creek, Naim, AKG when it was still European.

Journeyman's picture

The above companies sell better or similar to REGA and Audio Research,but these days because of struggling European Economy they don't sell as well as before, plus they have massive competition from cheap Asian brands.

Dan Wiggins's picture

AMEN!

I never understood that. As an exhibitor I paid good money for every minute of the show - and I plan to use it all. We actually had a few people come by just as the show was "ending" - and stayed for 10 minutes afterwards. Most of the booths were down by 6:30 PM anyway, so is that extra half an hour so important?

Additionally, as an exhibitor, often the only time you get to go around and network and scope out the overall show is near the end. I always took it as a point of pride that other exhibitors stopped by my booth and checked out what I created.

markbrauer's picture

Many years ago I took my 7 year old son to the annual new-car auto show. As we walked around he asked me "What are all these Vanna Whites doing here?"

ArthurPower's picture

I feel the need to comment on the “booth babes” remark since some of those who did not attend the NYC CanJam (or any CanJam for that matter) might get the wrong picture. There were no "Vanna Whites" like you see at car shows or scantily dressed girls in anime costumes like at CES. All the woman at this event were professionally dressed wife’s of business owners, company representatives, and even a couple manufacture CEO's.

The people behind the brands I represent were, unfortunately, not able to make this show. I knew it would not be possible for me to be at my table 100% of the time. I was very relieved though, when some friends of mine offered to come to NYC and help me. I could not have done this event alone! They just happen to be woman who are young and attractive. However, they also really appreciate quality audio which is more then I can say for most young people today. Both of them are very intelligent and really enjoy leaning about this new hobby. I also met other young men and woman at this show who were just recently employed by some of the other manufacturers. Yes, they were newbies just like all of us were at one point. The important thing is that all of these brands were present and represented at this event and the ranks of this hobby keep growing.

CEO's and product engineers can not attend every audio show. There are a lot more events in Europe and Asia then we have in the USA. Many of these companies travel the world 10 months out of the year to support these shows. If their top people were at every audio exhibit they would never have time to design products or run their company. So I think we need to be realistic that the engineers and top brass are not going to be available at all these events. Should there be someone available who knows their products well and can answer most of the questions attendees have? Of course, but we also have a lot of new people coming into this market who work for these manufacturers and they are still learning. Things are growing fast and new employees are being hired all the time. And yes some of those are woman.

Like it or not there are woman audiophiles and business representatives in this market now. Not everyone is a technical guru though, and that also includes a lot of guys at this past show. I do understand that most woman are not as focused on all the technical details as most men are. That doesn't mean they should be excluded from this hobby and market. In Asia it's very common for young woman to be the top representative for a company and handle most of the sales work. They are smart, focused, and very driven! The days of this being a men's only club is over.

Power Holdings Inc (Violectric, Matrix, Euphony, & Keces)

Three Toes of Fury's picture

Thanks bunches for all your reports and videos from Canjam! You did an outstanding job and put together concise, objective, informative information. The reports provided some great thoughts from headphone knowledge experts as well as introduction (for me) to some new players and new offerings in the marketplace. As a huge fan of this world and one who doesnt have the chance to attend canjam, i appreciate it greatly.

Here's looking forward to more reports (and reviews?) from you going forward. Tyll...consider this my official 'letter o recommendation' for more from Jana.

Peace .n. Living in Stereo

3ToF

Corsair's picture

Two channel reps at shows are more uptight (generally) than those at headphone shows because of the stress of the money and sales involved. As for not knowing the product and leaving early, your business is charging a lot of money to the consumer, you should have the decency to be there and to be able to answer questions for the mere two days you were notified about (well in advance). Here's a crazy concept: hire and train your reps better and buy the appropriate plane ticket.

ArthurPower's picture

This was my first CanJam and I have to admit I found it very strange as well that so many exhibitors were packing up early and seemed in a mad rush to leave. We didn't start packing until 5 but by then half the exhibitors were already gone. I had scheduled a limo for 6:30 figuring I would need about an hour or so to box everything up. Everyone was very exhausted from two long hectic days and just wanted to get home (myself included), but I do agree exhibitors shouldn't leave until the end of the show. There we're still quite a few attendees there who wanted to see and try out products.

Unless you have owned a business you have no idea how hard it is today to find competent reliable people who want to learn let alone travel. Stereophile/Innerfidelity are very fortunate to have someone like Jana to travel and cover these events.

AllanMarcus's picture

RMAF 2016. In the lobby, right next to the elevator. They do exist!

I've never seen the likes of these at a CanJam though.