September 29th: Two high-end shows coming up
And we'll be covering one of them. It's TAVES, which stands for...well, it used to stand for Toronto Audio Visual Entertainment show, but that's no longer spelled out, perhaps because it isn't really in Toronto any more. As last year, it will be in Richmond Hill. There was grumbling about that last year from audiophiles who didn't live north of the 401. However, the rooms are cheaper, parking is free, and a number of potential exhibitors have their headquarters in the area anyway.
Although high-end audio is the main focus, there will be much more: virtual reality, robotics, 3D printing and video gaming. You can check out the details at the TAVES Web site.
And now the New York show.
It takes place the weekend following TAVES, and that's the first red flag. Exhibitors already think there are too many shows, and holding one right after the other is asking for trouble. The other red flag is that the organizer is the now infamous Chester Group.
Remember the Chester Group? It ran the long successful Montreal Salon into the ground, actually cancelling the 2015 edition with just 10 days warning. All was well, finally, with the show's original owners swooping to save it at the last moment. But a number of high end exhibitors across North America can't pronounce the name of the Chester Group without scowling.
So will the New York show actually run? Here, in approximate English, is an excerpt from the press release. See what you think.
Sustaining a High End Audio Show in New York City given the massive costs is the reason why previous organisers have pulled out. (...) The Hotel we have chosen ‘wants’ this show and we are already planning ahead so the industry needs to have ‘no doubt’ it will continue to be organised providing of course if they are prepared to support it.
That sounds positive...except for the "providing of course" part. But if you want to keep an eye on it, the show does have a Web site.
September 16th: The Uberization of audio
It hasn’t been so long that selling merchandise on the Internet has been a thing. And the high-end audio industry has been resisting it. After all, the higher prices of true hi-fi over mass market could be justified only if the true hi-fi gear was truly superior. How could anyone know it was better unless it was demonstrated. Demonstration was what the dealer was there for.
But then there was a new phenomenon called showrooming. You’d go to a dealer for a demo, and then you’d order on line from Amazon. Or you’d buy from a small Internet dealer, perhaps operating from his parents’ basement, who had almost no expenses, and could undercut any dealer. The basement dealer might or might not supply a factory warranty, but the price was right.
Call it the Uberization of audio. Just as now just anyone can be a taxi driver, anyone can be an audio dealer. Naturally, the dealers with storefronts, who have to pay rent and salaries, are suffering. More than that, they’re going out of business.
One company, Klipsch, has decided to get tough. It has been suing unauthorized sellers, and has gotten US federal courts to freeze five million dollars of assets of some dealers while awaiting judgments. But it has gone further, terminating factory-authorized dealers who supply the “pirates” with stock. This is a major operation: the dealer network will shrink from 50 to a mere 10. Wow!
In many a case manufacturers are the architects of their own misfortunes. They impose quotas on dealers: they need to buy, let’s say, $100,000 a year of stock in order to remain dealers. If a dealer can sell only $80,000 of that product, what will he do with the rest?
Of course he will. Wouldn’t you?
June 23rd: Technics tables for all
Is vinyl coming back into fashion, or what? Bryston has a turntable of its own, and now Technics has brought back one of its legendary direct-drive turntables, the SL1200.
We first saw it at CES in January. Back then it was a collectors'item, with only 1200 of them to be produced. The launch must have been successful, because Panasonic has put the table into full production.
These Technics tables have been especially sought after by deejays, because the platter gets to full speed in less than a quarter turn, something you can't achieve with belt-drive.
The relaunch has led to a call for Panasonic to bring back its one-time flagship, the Technics SP10. No word on that yet, but Technics, a long dormant brand, now has a range of two-channel audio products, from amplifiers to loudspeakers.
June 10th: Bryston spins records
It's not as though Bryston has ignored vinyl all these years. It makes a number of preamplifiers with phono stages. It used to make, and has now brought back, its MC-cartridge stepup transformer—in fact we own one. But perhaps it's a sign of the times that it now has its own turntable, the BLP-1.
It's a belt-driven turntable, with the motor driven by Bryston's own pulse width modulation power supply. The platter is made of Delrin, a Dupont polymer chosen for its ability to damp out vibrations. The record mat is part of the platter.
The BLP-1 has its own tone arm, made from titanium, with tungsten steel bearings. The headshell is not removable, to enhance rigidity. On the other hand, the tone arm cable is removable, which means you can use whatever cable you want.
With the release of this $4000 table, Bryston can boast a complete branded system...but for one detail. No cartridge is included. The one shown in Bryston's photo appears to be a Benz Micro Glider. Bryston says it will work to identify the available cartridges that will best match its table, tone arm and phono preamplifiers.
Will there be a Bryston-branded cartridge? We'd be surprised if the company isn't thinking about it.
May 12th: The Vancouver show lives on?
Notice the question mark. 2015 was the first year that the Chester Group attempted to run a high-end show in Vancouver...well, actually way out of town. We are surprised to see the Chester Group try its hand again. Why?
This is the Vancouver show's second successful year, says the press release. Successful? The few exhibitors who attended were delighted, because visitors had little else to see. But there's more. The Chester Group had run the wildly successful Montreal Salon into the ground, cancelling it with less than 10 days notice. It was saved by its previous owners, Michel Plante and Sarah Tremblay. With only a few days to get their act together, they recruited exhibitors who didn't ever want to see the people from the Chester Group, and put together one of the best shows ever.
So has the Chester Group learned its hard-won lesson?
We're betting not. The phone number for booking a room is in the UK! The press release includes instructions on dialing overseas calls.
May 11th: The return of Dynaco
This famous hi-fi name dates from the late 1950's. The Dynaco MkIII monoblock and the Stereo 70 amp were among some of the most famous affordable power amps of their day. Now a Canadian company, Radial Engineering, is bringing back the Stereo 70 under its new name, the ST70.
It's still a tube amp, of course, using one of our favorite output tubes, the EL34. The rest of the tube lineup has been rejigged, since some of the old tubes are no longer available. We note the presence of the EF86 pentode, often a better choice than the usual twin triodes. The rectifiers are all solid state now, the power transformer is all new, and biasing is simplified: adjust until two diodes are the same brightness.
If you're old enough to have built a Stereo 70 from a kit, we must report that no kit version is likely to be available. We don't yet know the price either. The new Dynaco will arrive in July.
BY THE WAY: An extended version of our Flash Sale is under way, running through next Wednesday. Look for an eye-popping deal on Moon CD plater/DACs, and a 20% sale on BIS cables.
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