[SoundStage!]Audio Hell
Back Issue Article

December 2001

'Twas the Night Before CES

Looming just around the corner is one of hi-fi’s most fussed-over events. Mixed in with the latest in telephones, toy robots, and hand-held video games are the best and brightest of our obsession. I’ve been told that in Vegas you can, and will, see anything -- and I believe this holds true for the audio world as well. From the tweakiest of the single-ended guys driving strange looking beasts that only a mother could love, to the bleeding-edge prototypes of the latest in high-rez solutions, it’s all at CES. Never-ending corridors with room after room of everything an audiophile craves.

And as heavenly as all this may sound, there is certainly plenty of hell to go around too. We’re not talking about dedicated listening rooms here. These are hotel rooms with irregular shapes and thin walls. The power is not sufficient to run the endless number of current-hungry audio products and it fluctuates throughout the week. Everyone is here to show off their best, but they are lucky if they can get past mediocre performance with all they go through to make it work.

Still, the CES is awe-inspiring, and I would highly recommend that anyone seriously involved in this hobby make at least one pilgrimage to Las Vegas in January. So with the holiday season upon us, and being the ham that I am (hams are in season, aren’t they?), I have decided to share the Consumer Electronic Show experience with you by way of a little poem. I know, I know -- Robert Frost I’m not. But be kind -- it’s the season, remember.

'Twas the Night Before CES

'Twas the night before CES, when all through Alexis Park
Not a vendor was idle, and their moods were quite dark.
The boxes were unpacked, components laid on the floor,
Complaints of the room, "There’s no space," they all swore.

The speakers in crates had arrived, but quite late,
Leaving no time for break-in, harsh tweeters would grate.
"Let’s hook ’em up quick, and run them real hard;
The suggested 300 hours we’ll have to disregard."

Amps when turned on their fuses did blow.
Was the current too high? Did anyone know?
The problem was solved around 7:30,
The right amount of power, but man was it dirty.

Power conditioners aplenty were pulled into the room --
Chang Lightspeed, AudioPrism -- electricity brooms.
But something’s still wrong, burning smells cause a worry,
Smoke from the chassis, "Get the extinguisher -- hurry!"

Bring in the back-up, the power is much less;
The speakers are efficient; it’ll be fine, I would guess.
Hook up the cables and plug in the cord,
Sound from both speakers, a blessed reward.

Try TARA and Nordost, Harmonic Technology,
Now Kimber, Synergistic, or how about Discovery?
From the back of the amp to the binding post,
Now synergize, synergize for sound that’s utmost.

The Shun Mook Monks are just down the hall
Gluing Mpingo discs aplenty to components and walls.
These tweaker’s obsessions really set them apart;
A blend of acoustics, physics, martial arts.

And speaking of "tweakment," a little can’t hurt,
These nasty hotel rooms, the acoustics are dirt.
Set up the bass traps and diffusers galore,
And look at that tile, "Get some rugs on the floor."

The place is just hopping, both low and high tech,
The quest is perfection, but reality's a wreck.
Analog and digital fans curse the day they were born,
The sound’s not much better than a coaches bullhorn.

You can feel a battle brewing, Super Audio and DVD;
The new high-rez formats, trying to push out old CD.
But our old Redbook buddy isn’t giving up the ghost;
Lots of up- and oversamplers every bit gives its most.

With multichannel madness now sharing the stage
Not just at the Hilton, they’ve escaped from their cage.
Yes Sony and Phillips and Meridian too,
Think channels less than 5.1 -- are 3.1 too few?

But folks at T.H.E. Expo may choose not to agree
With their tubes and turntables an analog jamboree.
They’ll spend the night swapping new tubes NOS
'Til the bloom seems just right and they declare it the best.

But whatever the format they all share a need.
That’s demo material, for there’s audiophiles to feed.
Be it Chesky, or Telarc, or XRCD,
A perfect recording of the latest queen bee.

The sun will soon rise if they’re ready or not,
So turn up the juice and let's see what you’ve got.
Whether they like it or hate it only time will tell;
'Til then you might as well join me in "Audio Hell."

May you and yours enjoy peace, health, and love in the coming year. Happy Holidays!

...Bill Brooks


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