Win·ter Con·sum· er El·ec·tron·ics Show, The: n. 1. Meeting and greeting place (Las Vegas, NV) for high-end audio manufacturers, distributors, retailers, press, and anyone else who can forge an audio company business card on their PC. 2. Strange desert gathering at which nearly-catatonic cult members wander about in seemingly random fashion, periodically stopping to worship glowing glass bottles, rotating shiny black discs, and someone named "HP" (likely the cult leader.) The group has repeatedly failed in its attempt to have the name of the show's locale changed from Southern Nevada to Sonic Nirvana.

The 2000 Winter CES was noticeably more upbeat than the '99 event. With most high-end audio manufacturers, distributors and retailers having at least partially recovered from the Asian Flu, last year's anxiety and long faces were replaced with less anxiety and slightly shorter faces for the first show of the new Millenium (CES Tip #1: No matter how good business is, audio manufacturers are never happy. When meeting a manufacturer for the first time, ignore the temptation to break the ice with phrases like "Boy, you guys really got reamed in TAS last month" or "Who voiced this speaker, Helen Keller?" Trust me, they won't be amused.)

Having formed groovenoise just weeks before the show began, I was particularly excited about the opportunity to spread the word to those in the industry who had yet to hear about it - which was pretty much everyone (one day I've got to take the

time to write up one of them press release thingies.) Starting an analog publication in 2000 was a dicey prospect, what with 17.3 channel DTS-enabled, Dolby Pro-Logiced, DVD-ABCDEFG, SACD-capable, MP3-compatible, Music-B-Damned players becoming all the rage. Much to my delight, the majority of the manufacturers I spoke with thought that an analog-centric publication was an idea whose time had come. Of course, most of those people manufacture turntables, tonearms, cartridges, phono stages or LPs, so the deck was stacked in my favor. At this point, I'll take whatever I can get.

Lucky for us, analog delights at the Alexis Park (Specialty Audio's official CES home) and The St. Tropez, (home of the dastardly rogues who chose to display at T.H.E. Show), were more plentiful than cabs at our hotel (CES Tip #2: If you need to catch a cab in under a half-hour, don't stay at a hotel without a casino. It seems most cabbies avoid those like the plague.) My guess is that upwards of 20% of the rooms at this year's show housed a turntable, fully setup and ready to go. This was in stark contrast to the '99 show, at which the venerable slab-spinner appeared to be on the endangered species list. This time around, turntable, tonearm, cartridge, and phono stage manufacturers were plentiful and prominent. Let's face it, in the age of digital everything, putting your heart, soul and kid's college fund into designing and manufacturing vinyl playback gear takes gonads the size of Jonathan Valin's ego. Kudos to all of those who have busted their humps to keep analog's head above water.

Back to Reviews