CanJam NYC 2017 Wrap-Up
Over the last six months, I’ve attended RMAF 2016, NYAS 2016, and CES 2017consisting 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!