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CAF 2023: Don’t Ever Play “Lady of Spain” Again!

There was a lot to like about CAF 2023 but we need to have a serious discussion about the absence of affordable high-end audio at shows.

Capital Audiofest 2023 Vinyl Area

Driving home from Capital Audiofest (CAF 2023) last night I had one of those moments listening to a song in the car that sadly did not occur at the show in Rockville.

Some of it can be explained by the awful audiophile music selections that companies insist on playing during their demonstrations; which is even more absurd became almost all of them were streaming from music servers where they have access to millions of tracks.

Why do exhibitors still insist of playing Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz’s “The Girl From Ipanema” and can we officially burn every single copy?

A more insufferable piece of music does not exist.

My show coverage over the next week is going to focus on individual products and themes as opposed to room tours because very few systems (with some notable exceptions) moved me deeply enough that I needed to wipe away the tears and pounds my fist on the steering wheel as a form of emotional release after the past 5 weeks.

You can read all about that here, but it was a rare outburst of anger, grief, and genuine frustration. Music is better than any form of prescribed anti-depressant at a time like this; although a really good cheesesteak from Neil’s Kitchen comes damn close.

Cheesesteak at Neil's Kitchen
Cheesesteak at Neil’s Kitchen

This entire hobby was built around our love of music. That’s it. But somewhere along the way it became about gear fetishism.

But not for everyone.

On Saturday afternoon, I was seated next to a pleasant older gentleman in one of the 9 rooms Fidelity Imports had running at CAF 2023; we were both listening rather intensely to a chamber piece through the Diptyque Audio DP140 MKII Loudspeakers and when it ended — he wiped a tear from his face and thanked one of Steve Jain’s team for playing real music that he could relate to and for such a wonderful experience.

Diptyque DP140 MKII Loudspeakers
Diptyque DP140 MKII Loudspeakers

He didn’t care about the $15,000 loudspeakers being driven by a rather impressive stack of Soulnote amplification — he was emotionally moved by his connection to the moment.

Well done Steve. I will have more to say about this loudspeaker later this week.

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Capital Audiofest 2023

Capital Audiofest (CAF 2023) was extremely busy. But before you get all excited that the show represents a monumental shift in mainstream interest in high-end audio, I’m going to be the awful person who tells you the truth about the crowd that attended this show.

It was old. Closer to sixty than fifty years old. And that’s not a good thing.

I spent eight years of my life in D.C. and Rockville (my old townhouse on Rockville Pike is less than 2 miles up the road) and know the community rather well.

Montgomery County has become very diverse in a good way and it is one of the more affluent places to live in the D.C. area.

If there was outreach to the college community in the region, which includes Georgetown, GWU (not happy with my Alma mater), American University, University of Maryland, George Mason, Catholic University, Howard University, Johns Hopkins, and Towson — they certainly did not attend.

Having spent $120,000 of my parent’s hard-earned money at GWU in the 1990s, all of these schools are attended by upwardly mobile students with cars, access to the Metro, and a lot of disposable income for music, drugs, and alcohol.

CanJam Dallas 2023 also took place this past weekend and that limited how many brands participated in Linear Tube Audio’s Headphone Lounge on the main floor of the show.

CanJam NYC 2023 and CanJam SoCal 2023 raised the bar extremely high this year for all industry events; which included a significantly younger and more diverse group of buyers and the most female music listeners we have ever seen in almost 3 decades at a show open to consumers.

The much smaller focus on headphones and disproportionate number of rooms with $80,000 to $350,000 worth of equipment certainly did not help attract that kind of audience.

If the business model is going after consumers who have been audiophiles for 25 years or longer with already expensive systems — this is a recipe for long-term disaster.

Mission 770 Loudspeaker with Audiolab electronics on rack
Mission 770 Loudspeaker ($4,250/pair at Crutchfield)

For every “affordable” room, there were at least 10 that were above $60,000 USD.

High-end wireless speakers were somewhat of an afterthought at this show and that didn’t make a lot of sense when one considers how many excellent products are available from brands like KEF, PSB, Dynaudio, Q Acoustics, Triangle, Klipsch, Buchardt, and Audioengine.

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VPI and Innuos were absolutely everywhere at CAF 2023 and that certainly helped raise the performance bar.

Matt Weisfeld was bouncing around the show making sure that every setup was operating properly and it showed based on the sound quality in at least 3 rooms where I spent more than 30 minutes listening to vinyl.

The Portuguese manufacturer of high-end music servers absolutely dominated the show with units in at least 20 rooms — it felt like more but it is clear that other manufacturers and local retailers have an enormous amount of respect for the products.

The ZENmini MKIII is one of their entry-level models and a product that we have included on our “Best Audiophile Network Players/Servers” list for 3 straight years.

The Statement and ZENith MKIII are world-class products, both sonically and from an operational perspective and there is no question that this brand is on an upward trajectory with North American audiophiles.

Music

The large atrium featured a rather significant vinyl emporium and there was plenty of choice for those looking to pick-up some new releases or quality used records.

The prices were on the higher side, which is both a reflection of current demand and vendors trying to capitalize on a captive audience.

For the first time in many years, I did not buy a single record or CD at the show and that had more to do with the prices than anything else; Mobile Fidelity titles were aplenty but who has $60 to spend on a single release or $125 for some of their UltraDisc One-Step 45 RPM releases?

Older audiophiles I suppose.

Am I the only one who thinks vinyl prices are out of whack?

Zu Loudspeakers with Black Ice Audio at Capital Audiofest 2023
Zu Loudspeakers with Black Ice Audio

Final Thoughts

CAF 2023 featured some of the best high-end audio components and loudspeakers available in the United States and there has never been a better time to get into the hobby if your budget is below $10,000.

Sadly, with few exceptions from brands like Q Acoustics, SVS, Emotiva, Geshelli Labs, and Rega — there was very little of that at the show.

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If you are looking to spend $80,000 to $250,000 on a high-end system there are dozens of brands right now to select from.

I’m increasingly convinced after almost 25 years of covering this industry that a logical ceiling is much lower and one that leaves a budget for a lifetime of music acquisition.

CAF has the potential to become one of the best shows in North America but only if the focus shifts to include more affordable high-end systems and a much larger focus on personal audio and home theater.


For more Hi-Fi show coverage, check out our reports from T.H.E. Show 2023 in Southern California.

24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. David

    November 15, 2023 at 6:33 am

    Thank you, Ian.

    It is refreshing to hear your take and I share you frustration, if I may call it so, that the “audiophile” industry is and has been too focused on the ultra high end. This is a certainly a detriment to the industry. Prospective “audiophiles” (the young and the curious) will only be discouraged and walk quickly away from a hobby that seemingly requires an expenditure greater than that of a motor vehicle or a house or a college education.

    I see it as a kind of conspiracy that the “audiophile” industry routinely produces ionoshperically priced gear only to make their stratospherically priced entry-level product seem like its down-to-Earth. Certainly, $10,000 speakers seem like a relative bargain in a world of $80,000 speakers.

    I am a bit of a cheapskate and maybe my view is somewhat skewed by my upbringing and life experiences which at times saw my family living and sleeping in our car and receiving government cheese, but there it is. And for reference, total cost of my system totals up to about $1700. Maybe I am just not an “audiophile”.

    My best to you,

    David, the Unaudiophile

    • Ian White

      November 15, 2023 at 3:50 pm

      David,

      Owing expensive hi-fi equipment does not make one an “audiophile.” It makes one a person with expensive hi-fi equipment. I became an “audiophile” at 11 because I loved music and movies and wanted to experience both at the highest possible level of fidelity and image quality. I inherited my first system as a Bar Mitzvah gift from my parents in 1983.

      Gear fetishism (which is my new angle of attack) is a bad way to live your life as an audiophile. Find equipment that connects you to the music/movies and be done with it. Jump off the upgrade train and consume more content.

      Does a $90,000 turntable really offer that much more performance than a $10,000 one? Having heard quite a few tables in the $50,000 to $150,000 range…I’m not convinced. And one would need a $300,000 system to go along with that to even remotely appreciate what it might be capable of.

      My advice? Enjoy your $1,700 system and spend the rest of your days discovering great music to enjoy through it.

      People wonder why $400 headphones (and below) are the #1 category in consumer A/V? The industry needs a serious culling. And it’s coming. Mark my words that in 5 years…1/3 of these companies will be struggling or gone.

      Best,

      Ian White

  2. Catherine Lugg

    November 15, 2023 at 1:10 pm

    *sigh* and *SIGH!* While I will not be attending audio shows, given my health status (immune suppressed), I share your concern/frustration with the fetishization of high end audio. My 20-something friends, with their endless school loans, high rents, and endless bills, want simple, reliable, and no stress. Sound systems that are six figures are viewed with contempt (and it *IS* conspicuous consumption–always a bad thing in my book). I nod my head in agreement with my young friends as a disabled retiree. So, I’m a huge fan of Q Acoustics Speakers, SVS subs and NAD/Blue sound for integrated amps. All quite reasonable and reliable (unlike my KEF LS50 wireless I). Thank you for mentioning these issues.

    • Ian White

      November 15, 2023 at 7:55 pm

      Catherine,

      We are in 100% agreement. And the sad part is that for every Geshelli Labs or NAD at a show — there are 20 brands selling systems that require a winning lottery ticket.

      I don’t understand these companies. It’s one thing to offer a wide range of components for every price point, but to focus on the uber top end of the market now with so many high-end wireless products is insane.

      IW

  3. Michael King

    November 15, 2023 at 5:14 pm

    Thank you for this. Could not agree more but this situation is nothing new. Here is a take from the late and sorely missed Art Dudley. It was written eleven years ago.

    https://www.stereophile.com/content/skin-deep

    • Ian White

      November 15, 2023 at 5:53 pm

      Michael,

      I remember it well.

      The issue is not that companies continue to introduce products that 99% of the population (and audiophiles) can’t afford. Every consumer product category has that, but the high-end audio industry seems intent on sabotaging itself.

      Rather than focus on the entry-level and middle, we plan on selling $100K systems to the same old people who will be gone in 10-15 years. Along with a lot of these brands if they don’t pull their heads out of their asses.

      IW

  4. Adam R

    November 15, 2023 at 10:01 pm

    The one bright spot in diversity is I saw more African Americans than I’d seen at prior shows (though it’s been a long time since I’ve been to one). Other than, totally agree that if you’re not old, white and male then you’re in a tiny minority. (It helps to be very wealthy too, obviously)
    I was there with a friend who’d never been to one of these shows before, and the last room we stopped in was Elac’s, and they were demo’ing their small desktop wireless speakers, over bluetooth, and both of us thought they sounded amazing. Full price is $600, but the (very nice) guy from Elac let us know that the following day they’d go on sale for $400 – neither of us could believe the sound for that price, and we both promptly ordered the following day, mine are now on my desk.
    But other than that, as you say the rule was systems well into six figures, and individual components casually running $45k. Maybe it’s a money grab while the going is good, but this Titanic is about to run into an iceberg and nobody seems to be doing much about it.
    And the narrow music range doesn’t help either, as you say. I heard Graceland 3 times, Muddy Waters 3 times, Dire Straits four, and almost everything else was soft jazz or blues. I thanked the guy in the Acoustic Energy room (their new flagship sounded excellent) for playing some electronic music, one of only two rooms that did.

    • Ian White

      November 15, 2023 at 10:43 pm

      Adam,

      I agree with your first point in regard to more African American attendees. I met some wonderful couples from Maryland who came to their first show. I lived in Rockville and D.C. for 8 years and met a lot of African American audiophiles at stores so I always knew that they existed.

      But the cost of admission had to deter a lot of people who were new. Walking into a room and listening to a system that was $200K had to be deflating for many.

      And let’s be honest, very few audiophiles over 60 are going to drop $45K on a new component, unless they are so wealthy that price doesn’t matter.

      For those of us in our fifties with 3 kids (I’ll have 2 in college by this time next year), these kinds of systems are just not realistic. I recognize that I am in a very different position than other audiophiles my age because I’ve been buying high-end equipment for over 35 years and have access to most things for review. But I can honestly say that my budget today would be under $10,000 if starting from scratch.

      I did like the AE speakers. My room report is coming this weekend.

      Best,

      Ian White

  5. Jerry Del Colliano

    November 15, 2023 at 10:34 pm

    https://futureaudiophile.com/playing-obscure-demo-music-doesnt-help-effectively-sell-audiophile-gear/

    PREACH ON brotha…

    I wrote about this topic of BAD MUSIC at Audiophile shows after last year’s AXPONA.

    More people need to speak up.

    When our staff does a review, I encourage them to look at music in terms of a spectrum of cliche with some odd-ball Indonesian Gamelan music on one side (yes, print magazines that cater to Boomers – I am talking about you) and Steely Dan Aja on the other side of the moon. We encourage our reviewers to land WAY CLOSER to 100% cliche than where much of what we heard in DC this past weekend does.

    My personal challenge as a reviewer is to find a) great sounding music for reviews b) that couldn’t have ever been played on cassette tape in my Mom’s 1984 Honda Accord and c) that is fully relatable to today’s audiophiles as well as the next generation. Tom Morello’s ballsy cover of “Voodoo Chile” is a good example. Marcin’s innovative cover of “Kashmir” is another winner that people seem to love and is gaining popularity.

    • David

      November 16, 2023 at 12:16 am

      Hey Jerry,

      I understand your point and have heard it expressed elsewhere before regarding “bad music” at audio shows. I don’t agree that one person or one group can generalize in such a way to say that audio shows are playing “bad music”. Taste in music is very personal and what is particularly pleasing or engaging to your ear, such as from the likes of Rush or Underworld or John Coltrane, might cause me to wince and regurgitate the morning’s breakfast. – I’m not saying that it would, just stating a hypothetical. 😉 BTW, I could listen to Mark Knopfler for ages.

      Now perhaps there is a particular rotation of music selections that get played ad infinitum at shows and that attendees have grown tired of listening to the same tunes over and over. I don’t know. I’ve never been to a show. I do totally understand the sentiment however as I stopped listening to classic rock radio stations many years ago for this very reason. I would say that the music selections played in each room ought to span a number of genres or at least allow the opportunity for attendees to select music for themselves. That should be very easily done in this age of media streaming.

      Regards,

      David

    • Marlie

      November 16, 2023 at 6:26 pm

      Jerry, totally agree about the bad music at AXPONA last year! which makes the experience insufferable. Sigh.

      • Ian White

        November 17, 2023 at 12:01 am

        None of it makes any sense anymore because of streaming. They have access to almost everything and in hi-res formats. If you walk into a room and they look at you sideways when you request something — that might be a sign that they don’t want you to hear certain types of tracks that will illuminate some warts.

        At CAF, someone requested a pop artist that shall remain nameless in the Zu room and they played it. And it showcased how good their system can sound. Smart move.

        Best,

        Ian White

  6. Noah

    November 16, 2023 at 4:48 pm

    This really hit home with my take on the whole show. I was there with a friend for our first audio show. We both are recent (within the last 5 years) grads from college and have just really started getting into higher quality audio. When walking around we started by going into each room and taking a listen not caring about price. By the 10th room, and after we received spec and price sheets, it was demoralizing. We realized that the people actually walking around trying to find new speakers are not your average person. Yes there are reasons for higher price equipment due to engineering time, material cost, overall building time, tuning, etc. But really having the money to care about the incredibly small difference a $50k vs $60k pair of speakers is not realistic. By the time we were half way done we wouldn’t really go into many rooms if the speakers looked like art or if the price sheets outside had over $20k worth of equipment in them because we knew that we would never, in 1000 years, be even close to be able to afford something like that. I applaud Geshelli Labs, SVS, Q Acoustics and others for still being there and doing what they do best. It is time for the audiophile world to get wider and accept that price doesn’t mean better always and that to get people to pay that price you need to start off lower and work your way up. Thank you for this article!

    • Ian White

      November 17, 2023 at 12:11 am

      Noah,

      The brands that sell $100K speakers or turntables only have to sell so many of them to remain in business. I don’t see that as a viable long-term business model but that’s just me.

      I think the problem with the shows is that they don’t expose new people to the reality that a lot of affordable high-end equipment actually exists and a lot of it is rather good.

      Q Acoustics, SVS, Geshelli, NAD, PSB, Bluesound, Cambridge, Rega, Pro-Ject, Triangle, Magnepan, Emotiva, WiiM Audio, Schiit Audio, and others have some great options for consumers at almost every price point.

      Do you need to spend $20K for a really good system in 2023? No. There are some excellent wireless options that one can add a turntable or CD player to and you’re done.

      Focus on finding an amplifier and pair of speakers first. Digital sources have become much more affordable and you don’t need to spend $5K on a VPI to enjoy vinyl playback.

      Best,

      Ian White

  7. Asa

    November 16, 2023 at 4:58 pm

    Thanks for the based write-up and reality check! Excellent comments that resonate.

    I grew up with musicians friends who turned me on to good music and decent sound equipment that was generally affordable for its time. We spent hours going through magazines seeing what brands musicians were playing, what inspired their music, etc., and what they listened their music through. We couldn’t afford most of it, but it still gave us an idea about what represented high quality equipment that our favorite musicians used. Similar to your e-zine for the consumer world.

    There’s a massive disconnect between some of these companies and audio/video buyers, especially the younger gen (I’m an Xer). Most are happy with their AirPods and some venture out with their Beats or Skullcandy pods. Most of my friends may have large flatscreen tv, but almost none use external speakers with them. Like you mentioned, the market isn’t sustainable and is chasing people who are rounding third heading into their final resting base.

    I don’t know if this anecdote is limited or more broad, but my father, who loved music and had some decent sound systems during his life, never really listened to much of it in his last 5-10 years of life. He usually had the TV blaring, but music wasn’t to be found anymore. After his death, and clearing out his home, I found stacks upon stack of CDs, some vinyl, some of which had never been opened. Between house moves, he had a storage locker broken into and his latest receiver and speakers stolen. He replaced them with a small boom box that didn’t get much use.

    I tend to hang on to things until there’s a large enough shift in the space via technology/invention/obsolescence to warrant an upgrade, which generally seems to be 8-12 years (there are exceptions, of course). After our house move four years ago, I began upgrading some of the sytems we use most (home offices/TV room/home gym). None of it broke the bank, increased our joy of watching/listening, and also made it easier to operate, which is essential to my better half.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  8. ORT

    November 16, 2023 at 6:14 pm

    For many the phrase “the law of diminishing returns” is true as fewer and fewer folks will be back because they cannot afford the price of even the “entry level”.

    The “High End” customer is often plagued by “The Emperor’s New Clothes Syndrome”. The virus can be present in the poopulace any time of the year and once contracted can (the next word is very appropriate!) lie dormant for several months and them suddenly spring to life activated by something as simple as magazine cover, an internet review or as deadly as a fellow frAudion calling to tell you about their newest acquisition…

    Suddenly your ego is swollen! It begins to feed upon review after review after ad infinitum and becomes more and more bloated with every bit of fAd Copy these typist throw your way! Aaaaaaaaagh!

    “Transparency so transparent you can hear right through it!”

    “It was as if (insert mid ’60s hippie band) were right here! Right now!”

    “When the needle dropped, I had an eargasm worthy of ‘When Harry met Sally’!”

    “The gnu cartridge was like a syringe with a clean needle filled with Melanie singing –
    “I got a brand new pair of headphones, you got a brand new DAC!
    I think that they should get together and it will feel like crack!”

    “Did you hear that?! Well, I did!”

    “Critical listening is necessary to dubious enjoyment.”

    “The noise floor was so low a flea couldn’t limbo under it!”

    Yup. It’s TWUE! It’s TWUE!

    ORT

    • Ian White

      November 17, 2023 at 12:04 am

      ORT,

      I walked into one of the biggest ballrooms with a $200,000K system and walked out. I’ve heard some of the components before and I had zero interest in hearing that mix of gear because I knew that it did not offer $200K worth of playback quality.

      That doesn’t make expensive components bad. The Unison Simply 845 is $9,995. That’s not very affordable but the sound quality was superb. I sat and listened to 5 songs and started debating selling one of my kids to order one.

      There were some serious hippies at this show. Mostly dinosaurs.

      IW

      • Mike

        December 2, 2023 at 1:41 pm

        I witness the same thing every year at the Montréal show. With a few exceptions affordable audio gear sits idle on a table while they demo gear that 99% of attendees can’t afford.
        The music is mostly curated audiophile drivel designed to make the gear sound good and not real music for real people that listen in real world conditions. That being said…as many I still look forward to attending every year. Partly out of habit and love for the hobby but also for the few rare refreshing finds and NOT for the Kodo drum music being played on $500,000.00 of Nagra gear.

        • Ian White

          December 2, 2023 at 6:43 pm

          Mike,

          Same. I can’t stand the music being played. Shudder.

          IW

  9. marlie

    November 16, 2023 at 6:18 pm

    Thank you for this article, especially the part about music. I went to the show last year, as a female and relatively younger group I find it hard to believe that the whole show plays very limited varieties of music. (young generation do not only listen to party music btw). Plenty of the room plays the same track of a low register male vocal who stays in the same register for the whole time with simple guitar, I feel so confused that how is it showcases the different characters of their systems and what’s in their mind when they choose their demo?
    at least I understand why they tend to pit expensive gears in the show, but I cannot understand why they didn’t put a careful consideration about what music they’re playing.

    • Ian White

      November 16, 2023 at 11:57 pm

      Marlie,

      They are playing music for older men who have been their base for decades. Some of the companies won’t play anything that might illuminate any warts. I’ve had exhibitors put on a CD or record and turn it off in the middle of the track because they didn’t like it or the sound quality.

      Companies spend a lot of money on shows and it used to be the policy that they only played music that they hand-selected to show off the performance quality of the system.

      Streaming changed that because one has access to everything. The weirdest moment is when a potential customer asks if they can listen to a specific track and you say “sorry” or “we don’t have that one.”

      Some brands like Zu Audio do the opposite. They turn their room into a massive party and play a lot of really interesting music. I can spend hours in their room.

      If you walk into a room and they are using a streamer, don’t be afraid to ask them to play something you want to hear. Listening to audiophile recordings that you will never own doesn’t help you make an educated buying decision.

      Best,

      Ian White

      • ORT

        November 17, 2023 at 1:21 am

        To all concerned – If you ask a vendor/representative of a company to play a song and they say no because it is a favorite of yours or because they say it’s been played to much and you need to hear gnu music instead because “familiarity breeds contempt”?

        Pfffft!

        Your soundtrack is very familiar to you. In truth, familiarity does NOT breed contempt. It gives comfort. I usually ask for my favorite song of all, “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love” by The Spinners and one my favorite rock songs, “Sin’s A Good Man’s Brother” By Grand Funk Railroad.

        I would elaborate on these two songs but I do not wish to bore you. I am familiar with them because they are a part of my life’s soundtrack. Not theirs. Mine. If someone is playing a song that does nothing for me, I am polite and wait my turn but if the music is anything but “music” to me, I just leave and if possible return later.

        Do not take it personal unless it is obviously so and then just leave. Do not make more of some thing or some one until it/they have been prove to be worthy of you doing so.

        As my mother taught me, too many people (especially so these days!) are looking everywhere to be offended.

        Except the mirror.

        Oh. And never forget that the Doobie Brothers sang, “Listen To The Music” NOT listen to the equipment.

        ORT

  10. Mike Cornell

    November 19, 2023 at 1:43 pm

    A little bit late to the party on this article but couldn’t agree more. I wonder what attendance would be like at a car show where 80-90% of the vehicles were Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Bentleys etc etc with almost nothing for the common person. Pretty low I would imagine. I’ve attended a couple of AudioFests in Toronto and while there was some effort to show more attainable gear, for the most part they mirror CAF, both in the high cost of components and the same old tired music being played. I pretty much just walk right past the unobtainables and concentrate on gear I can actually afford. Same is true for audio mags/sites…don’t need to waste my time reading/hearing about some crazy-priced components I’ll never be able to afford. And here’s the thing…even if my ship came in and I won the lottery or something, I still wouldn’t be spending crazy money on a HiFi system. Thankfully there are brands like you mentioned that can reproduce music in a completely moving and satisfying way that doesn’t break the bank. It’s time these shows flipped the script and had 80% of the rooms featuring affordable systems and 20% for those who want to kick the tires on a ‘Ferrari’. And please be open to playing music that people actually enjoy!

  11. Harris Fogel

    December 18, 2023 at 12:18 am

    Hello Ian!

    Thank you for the lovely conclusion. We also enjoyed the show, and founds lots to consider.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you about the ultra-luxury emphasis, but understand it from the business POV. These shows are still aimed at the serious money buyer, and they pay the bills.

    But, just as one could purchase an entry level sports car at an affordable price, most things seem to have jumped the first time buyer. Because I chose a career as an art professor and unlike the movies, most of us didn’t have a lot of disposable income for stereo equipment, so we were forced to consider more humble gear, used equipment, or build it yourself kits. Add marriage or kids, and whatever discretionary income we pretended we had was greatly reduced. Mind you I did have colleagues with trust funds, sports cars, grand homes, and more, but most of the audiophiles I met growing up were more similar to me, loving the hobby, but looking for the Dynaco and Advent speaker combo we would afford. Even then a McIntosh Amp was big bucks.

    One thing that allowed us grace were the smaller purchases, namely music. So, while maybe we didn’t have a fancy set of speakers, were able to buy maybe a hundred LPs, an album at a time being the prize. I do think that this is the golden age for audio, never before have we had so many incredible pieces of gear for so little money, so much music at resolutions and quality we could have only dreamed of, for a pittance. I’m amazed at what as fifty dollar USB DAC can do, coupled with some good headphones, and Qobuz, for a couple of hundred bucks total, it’s an amazing time to be alive in audio!

    To support your comment further, I remember shows where they had budget gear competitions, and the rooms were packed, absolutely standing room only. So, it’s clear the interest is there. It might be that conventional audio shows aren’t the place for this. Hence the success of shows like CanJam, even if they do include stratospheric systems at times. I did see many examples of great, affordable gear at CAF, folks like ELAC, Triangle Audio, Geshelli Labs, and many more had great rooms.

    Keep up the great work!

    Harris Fogel
    Mac Edition Radio
    Copper Magazine

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JBL's new line of A/V receivers are priced from $399 to $1,599. Which model is right for you?

Blok Stax 2g Modular Equipment Racks Blok Stax 2g Modular Equipment Racks

A/V Furniture & Accessories

Blok delivers modern and stylish ways to showcase audio and home theater gear with new Stax 2G Shelf Collection.

Kaleidescape Strato V 4K Movie Player with Dolby Vision Kaleidescape Strato V 4K Movie Player with Dolby Vision

New Products

The company's new player can store up to 10 reference quality 4K movies without the need for additional storage and also adds support for...

Steinway Lyngdorf Model C Loudspeakers Front Pair Steinway Lyngdorf Model C Loudspeakers Front Pair

Floorstanding Speakers

Steinway Lyngdorf's new Model C MK II loudspeaker system claims flagship level performance within a smaller, space-saving design.

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New Products

The premium audio brand has inked a 6 year deal to bring "Audio by Bang & Olufsen" to the number 2 TV maker in...

HDTV 4K & 8K TV

The TV Shootout returns to its roots with six top TVs competing for the crown of the "King of TV."

Reviews

Does Sony's advanced new wireless home theater system earn its lofty price tag?

Daily Deals

Prime Day 2024 has some great discounts on top performing soundbars. Here are three of our favorites.

Daily Deals

Today is a good day to score a deal on some of the top-rated ANC headphones.

Daily Deals

Apple's flagship AirPods Max over-ear ANC headphones just got a rare discount for Amazon Prime Day. Grab a pair while you can.

Gift Guides

Coinciding with Amazon Prime Day, Crutchfield is offering huge savings on some of our favorite hi-fi, headphones and home electronics.

News

The kiosk DVD and Blu-ray disc rental service Redbox is shutting down. Is physical entertainment media doomed?

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