The Home Entertainment Show 2015 - A Tale of Two Cities

Pre-show First Thoughts - The New Venue and HiFi - Is a Silent Rift Being Played out at T.H.E. Show? - Stay tuned and follow me on Twitter (@MichaelGJK)

Pre-Show First Thoughts

This is the first year that the show will be held in a single hotel, the Hotel Irvine. Kudos to the organizers to bring it together under one roof. The past shows were always split between two hotels, and while they were right next to each other, having to walk to the building next door always made one the poor step-child of the other. And it felt that way too, with one hotel being more luxurious but also much smaller, that part of the show always saw less foot traffic. Let’s hope that with everything in a single hotel, those differentiations disappear.
Speaking of differentiations, this show is now no longer in the city of Newport Beach, but in the city of Irvine. On the other hand, the name of the show is still The Home Entertainment Show Newport, and the web address is still Does this imply that this change to the Hotel Irvine is temporary? Did the organizers just want to just dip their foot in another hotel's pool to see how warm the water was? (by the way, it’s been uncharacteristically cool in Irvine - so bring a jacket). Personally, I kind of liked the "Newport Beach" name, it just sounds more inviting than "Irvine."

The modern, upscale lobby of the Hotel Irvine

The modern, upscale lobby of the Hotel Irvine

What does it make you think of?
I'm from the area, so I am quite familiar with both Newport Beach and Irvine. This makes me wonder, will the move to Irvine also change the character of the show? You see, Irvine is very different from Newport Beach. Everything in Irvine is very rushed; it’s more uptight and the people are all about neatness, standards and community planning (i.e. HOAs). Newport Beach, on the other hand, has a totally different vibe. It's more relaxed, for one, but it also has less of a business feel. It's more beach-y. When I'm there I always feel like I'm on vacation. 

So will this affect the show?

Well, perhaps.

The New Venue and HiFi

Not an audiophile? He's wearing Sennheisers.

Not an audiophile? He's wearing Sennheisers.

Now as the crow flies, or in this case, the seagull, the show is actually only moving a couple of miles away. I mean you could easily walk from the old site to the Hotel Irvine in about 15 minutes. Yes, it's also on the other side of the freeway, and this freeway is also a bit like the proverbial railroad tracks, almost as if the freeway blocked a bit of the sun away.

This could very well affect the people that might wander in, particularly those who flew into John Wayne Airport, are in town for a couple of days and thought they might take a peek, because the airport also is no longer right across the street. Hotel Irvine is more in the business center of Irvine, too, and so it's less urban. For example, you need a car to get to the new hotel. While I suppose you could get to it with a skateboard, that crowd probably won't wander that far from their home turf. This would change the type of client that would otherwise hang out in the Headphonium to check out Fang Bian's latest cans (Fang is a bit of a celebrity in that crowd).

This is also the type of customer who won't be put off by a name like Schiit Audio, a name that might send the typical Irvinian scurrying away muttering something about those pot-smoking liberals up North, or some such nonsense. Of course, that may not be so bad to some in audiophilia (I know it's a legit word, but every time I use it, I cringe a bit). Anyhow, it's quite possible that some of the snootier audiophiles would welcome a lessening of that "element" in the hallowed halls of HiFi. Is there a silent rift occuring in HiFi?

Is a Silent Rift Being Played out at T.H.E. Show?

The cafe at the Hotel Irvine - it's no party, but business is being conducted, contracts signed, and tech is everywhere.

The cafe at the Hotel Irvine - it's no party, but business is being conducted, contracts signed, and tech is everywhere.

I’ve been in the Hotel Irvine for conferences many times before. It’s a touch stuffier than the Newport Hotels, for sure, but there are some upsides too. For one, there will probably be better tech there: WiFi will be better, air-conditioning quieter, lighting will be more uniform, and security will be nice and tight. Furniture will be newer, beds softer, walls cleaner, and we can be certain that all pests will be in Raid-heaven. All this newness may just be a welcome change and fit a more modern HiFi esthetic too: class-D amps, digital media streamers, and smaller, more "convenient" gear will find a good fit in this environment.

Those are all positives, but are there any downsides?

Does this change also signify a move away from huge speakers, table-sized turntables, and bulky amps that could melt through the floor if driven hard enough? Does it also mean that the show is moving towards a more impersonal, high-tech, and perhaps a more business-oriented model? In so doing, is the show, perhaps without even meaning to, signalling a change for the industry? This is the question I will try to answer in the next few days as I wander the booths, the seminars and the demos.

For this year, I will be using Twitter to post comments & pics during the show. I'll focus my attention on manufacturers and dealers who are doing different, innovative, interesting, and especially green things. They may not all be the familiar names you read about in the pages of Stereophile, but that is what makes this blog different.

Stay tuned and follow me on Twitter (@MichaelGJK)