T.H.E. Show Newport 2016 Wrap-Up
I really wasn't aware of the changes to T.H.E. Show management until I started these reports. It seems we're in very good hands. Marine Presson, now General Manager of T.H.E. Show Newport, started working with Richard Beers prior to last years show aiding with smartening up the look of the graphic design...something it sorely needed, IMO. Richard quickly realized he had a tiger by the tail and rapidly promoted her into the inner-working of show production. I'll not spoil the tail, which she tells much better in her own words in this Tone Audio interview.
I was particularly struck by her comment, "Secondlywe are also putting more emphasis on the personal listening market and expect to see more young faces than ever before, a necessity for the survival of the audio industry in general."
In my last five years of experience at T.H.E. Show Newport I've always felt it a terrifically fun audio enthusiast event. It's begun to show its influence as a trend setter with food trucks now a staple at R.M.A.F. The past three years has seen the Headphoniuma special area set aside for headphone and personal audio exhibitsmake its appearance in the venue. I was sad to see it disappear this year, even though there was a significant headphone presence among vendors in the marketplace room.
I've often wondered if the headphone presence at an audiophile show should just be subsumed into the larger body of exhibitors. After experiencing this show, I don't think we're quite ready yet. Headphones and personal audio, in my opinion, are part of the larger audio enthusiast activity, but I don't think we're as mature or settled as traditional two-channel audio. We're still changing and growing into our identity as a segment. I do think headphone enthusiasts and audiophiles are fundamentally different in the nature of how they self-identify as audio enthusiasts. I do think we need a little separate space to play out this maturation.
Obviously, we have separate event like the Head-Fi CanJams and regional meets like CanLanta. But when audiophiles and headphone enthusiasts do come together at an event, I do like the diversity of the two cultures to be apparent...like with CanJam at RMAF and the Headphonium at T.H.E. Newport in years past.
These separate areas also provide a clear draw for personal audio firms. Without the special areas, presenting new personal audio ideas and product is less likely to become a special draw for headphone enthusiasts, and therefor less potent exposure for exhibitors. Basically, I think headphones still need a leg-up when presenting itself alongside its more mature two-channel audio brother...or we start looking like an accessory all over again. We've long struggled to become a legit category that stands on its own two feet; going backwards is not an option.
So, putting money where my mouth is, I'll commit to next year's show and will help in the ways I can should Marine want to hoist the Headphonium back onto the stage. Without it, I have a hard time seeing T.H.E. Show as needing my coverage...which would bum me out because it's still my favorite show to attend.
And that, dear reader, should be your take-away: I'm not sure of where its value is regarding headphone stuff directly, but its a very good time for an audio geek! If you want to have a really fun look at two-channel audio gear and experience a whole bunch of like-minded folks, T.H.E. Show Newport 2017 should be at the top of your list! A really fun time by design...thanks, Richard.