CDs and even SACDs are still big in Japan -- and so are records. Japanese audiophiles still love physical media for music playback. As a result, it’s not surprising to see new CD and SACD players at the Tokyo International Audio Show (TIAS) 2019, like the ones I covered from Luxman, as well as turntables and related products, which are featured below. All prices are in Japanese yen (¥), with one US dollar equivalent to 108.62 yen.
New loudspeakers aren’t as easy to find at the Tokyo International Audio Show (TIAS) as they are at other shows. Part of the problem lies with the Japanese manufacturers -- some make loudspeakers, but more companies seem to be focused on electronic components. As a result, although it happens, it’s actually not that often you see a loudspeaker debut from a Japanese brand.
Each year at the Tokyo International Audio Show (TIAS), two of Japan’s best-known electronics brands exhibit in rooms that are side by side -- Luxman and Accuphase. Sometimes, the two companies even release similar products at the same time (though, as you’ll see below, their new products this year weren’t similar).
“It’s a terrible trip to an amazing city.” That’s what Jeb Roberts, one of our copy editors, texted me when he found out I was about to leave to cover the annual Tokyo International Audio Show (TIAS), held this year from November 22 to 24.
At Audio Video Show 2019, there was a large area devoted to headphones at the Warsaw National Stadium. At many of the tables, attendees waited patiently for 15 minutes or more for a chance to audition headphones and related products.
I’m going to finish off my show reporting with my last series of electronic products. At this, the close of the Audio Video Show 2019, I’d like to draw your attention to the sheer number of products we’ve presented in this show coverage. It’s a large cross-section of items, but without trying too hard I know that -- if we had time -- we could have unearthed a significant number of additional components.
More speakers! Such a diverse group -- so many ambitious designs, all coming from different countries. Audio Video Show 2019 was noticeably larger than the 2018 version, with more exhibitors, more products, and what felt like a greater number of attendees. And that meant lots of multicultural speakers for us to cover.
Well what do you know? There were a whole bunch of analog pearls hidden within the fleshy innards of Audio Video Show 2019. While my initial feeling was that there were fewer turntables actually in use this year, what I found made up in quality what it lacked in quantity.
While I was walking around the Radisson Blu Sobieski and National Stadium, it seemed like every room had new products. Every. Single. Room. Usually we have to hunt for these, but there was no escaping components that needed our attention. We found a wealth of opportunities for show coverage here at Audio Video Show 2019. All prices are shown in Polish zlotys (zł) or euros (€). (Currently, the zloty trades at approximately US$0.26. Note that prices in Europe typically include value-added tax, which in Poland is 23%.)
The day-one crowds at the Warsaw Audio Video Show were pretty good, but on day two the joint was jumping -- among the busiest I’ve ever seen at a consumer audio show. Moreover, the demographic mix was far more diverse than the male boomer crowd you typically see at North American audio shows. There were lots of young couples and singles, and young families with children, too. And the kids didn’t look like they were at the show under protest.
I had high hopes for a multi-part analog article for this show report, as I recall being inundated with turntable after turntable at last year’s Audio Video Show. However, in the first two days here at the show I haven’t seen anywhere near as many analog rigs, so I’m a little skeptical of whether I’ll be able to glean enough products to warrant a second part. But no matter! Let’s get it on, shall we? All prices are shown in Polish zlotys (zł) or euros (€). (Currently, the zloty trades at approximately US$0.26. Note that prices in Europe typically include a value-added tax, which in Poland is 23%.)
“I’m too old to do something only for money,” Peter Lyngdorf said wryly as we sat at Costa Coffee, just down the street from Warsaw’s Radisson Blu Sobieski Hotel, where I was staying. It was a day before Audio Video Show 2019 opened.
Between the Radisson Blu Sobieski and National Stadium exhibits, it didn’t take long to fill up my buffer with a whole pile of speakers to write about. Audio Video Show 2019 seems to have grown this year, and there’s a ton to cover. Let’s get right down to it, with all prices shown in Polish zlotys (zł), euros (€), or British pounds (£). (Currently, the zloty trades at approximately US$0.26. Note that prices in Europe typically include a value-added tax, which in Poland is 23%.)
You might not think a major stadium, built for events like soccer, basketball, and motorcycle racing, would be suitable for an audio show. But Warsaw’s PGE Narodowy, or National Stadium, is the main venue for the Audio Video Show, and it works really well. There are two levels of exhibits at the stadium, some in hallways, and others in box suites overlooking the athletic field. Two hotels also serve as venues for the Audio Video Show -- these host mainly high-end exhibitors.
There’s a planted, landed feeling of comfort that I acquire at shows, and it’s directly associated with the various hotel lobby bars. At the Montréal Audio Fest, it’s the brutalist architecture and excellent club sandwich in the Hotel Bonaventure Montréal. Back in my CES days, I acquired my center when I saw the same crusty bartender pouring my morning coffee at the now-demolished, where-bums-go-to-die San Remo Hotel.
Vinyl is a labor of love -- every aspect of it requires personal interaction. I’ve known this for years now. Setting up a cartridge, aligning it, cleaning the stylus. Cleaning a record -- both a wet wash on a machine or a quick swipe with a carbon-fiber brush. All a part of the life cycle of an LP-based system.
On October 31, 2019, I attended the grand opening of the first North American Focal Powered by Naim store, in sunny Scottsdale, Arizona. With stores already open in Seoul, South Korea, and Lyon, France, Focal’s and Naim’s French parent corporation, Vervent Audio Group, seeks to further expand the global footprint of these two well-known European audio brands by building a worldwide network of stores to showcase their products. (The Lyon store is called La Boutique du Son.)
The UK Hi-Fi Show Live 2019 afforded me an opportunity I don’t often get at shows -- time to sit down and have a lengthy conversation with a designer. Usually, they’re too busy -- or I am. But in the room of Absolute Sounds, Sonus Faber’s UK distributor, I noticed that Paolo Tezzon had some time on his hands at the same time I did. Tezzon is Sonus Faber’s acoustic designer, so I didn’t want to miss this opportunity. I caught Tezzon’s attention and asked, “Want to talk about the new Olympica Novas for a few minutes?” He was happy to oblige.
I spent my final few hours at the UK Hi-Fi Show Live 2019 hunting for products I know many people enjoy -- cables and accessories. I can’t blame them -- once you’ve bought the speakers, amplification, and source components you really want, you probably want to try some tweaks to see if your components can be made to sound even better. All products are shown in the order I saw them, with prices in British pounds.
Insofar as physical media products go, few audiophiles care about CDs anymore. I don’t think they ever will again. But vinyl -- that’s a totally different story. It’s back, it’s big, and it’s getting better.
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