The Best of the Worst CES in Decades: 2017

Plenty has already been written about the awfulness of the high-end hi-fi section of the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show, including commentary in our own on-the-spot show coverage on SoundStage! Global, Ken Kessler’s “CES-Sux” article on this site this month, and in articles on other websites around the world. Timing and location weren’t to blame -- CES 2017 was held about the same time it always is, January 5-8, and its high-end hi-fi segment occupied the Venetian hotel, as it has for years. But all numbers were way down even from 2016, which itself had been a decline from previous years. Display rooms, exhibitors, attendees -- the totals of all of those paled in comparison to what they once were. The only things that were up were the Las Vegas prices for hotel rooms, food, you name it -- the costs were sky high. Which meant that everyone who attended paid a lot more for a lot less.

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Our 2016 Products of the Year -- One-Sentence Summaries

It’s time to name our Products of the Year for 2016, and below is the list of winners. In Las Vegas in early January, at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show, we’ll present a trophy to a representative of each company whose product was chosen. Photos of those presentations will then be posted on SoundStage! Global, which will also feature our coverage of CES 2017. But before you read the winners, it’s important that you know what the awards themselves mean, and how we arrived at our final decisions.

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Warsaw: The Best of Audio Video Show 2016

I had no idea what to expect when, in September, I decided to attend Audio Video Show 2016, held November 4-6 in Warsaw, Poland. (Read my coverage of AVS 2016 on SoundStage! Global.) I’d never visited the show, or even heard much about it. But as my departure date neared, I heard more and more positive things about AVS from audio-industry folks who’d attended past shows, and I began to get jazzed about what I might see and hear there. Still, nothing prepared me for the size, scope, and significance of this annual event. Other than the annual Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas, AVS 2016 was far bigger than any hi-fi show currently running in North America.

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The Best of the 2016 Tokyo International Audio Show

I enjoyed the 2013 Tokyo International Audio Show (TIAS) -- and Tokyo itself -- so much that when I asked myself if I should attend TIAS 2016, held September 30 through October 2, the answer was easy: Yes. (For my coverage from the show, see our SoundStage! Global site.)

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Bespoke One-Bit and Multibit DACs -- Assaults on the State of the Digital Art from Aqua–Acoustic Quality and EMM Labs

Of all the many types of audio products, I most enjoy reviewing loudspeakers. Unlike, say, well-designed solid-state amplifiers -- which often sound so similar that I find them hard to tell apart -- no two speakers have ever sounded, to me, even close to identical. Even speakers of nearly the same size and identical driver configurations vary considerably in sound. This degree of difference among speakers gives a reviewer plenty to write about, and makes the job fun.

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Danish Audio Trio -- Gryphon Audio Designs, Dynaudio, Bang & Olufsen

Our InSight videos, which we post on our own YouTube channel, have been more successful than we ever imagined they would. They were originally conceived, in early 2014, as a series of videos, each five or six minutes long, and each telling a company’s story through one or more of its current products. That concept hasn’t changed, but our production schedule certainly has.

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Future Sounds -- Sonus Faber’s Sf16 and New Directions in Hi-Fi

Change is inevitable everywhere, and it isn’t new to the hi-fi industry. Hi-fi continues to change, mostly as a result of shifts in consumer demand. In the time I’ve been into hi-fi, the major shifts I’ve seen have included moving from the LP to the CD as the primary music source, and now to downloads and streaming -- and, for some, back to the LP. On- and over-ear headphones went out of fashion; now they’re back in. But the shifts we’re seeing in hi-fi today cut right to the core, since they involve the very kinds of systems we use to play recordings.

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McIntosh Group on the Mediterranean

My four trips to Italy have taught me that a North American should never try to outdress any of the multitude of well-dressed Italian men. It’s like trying to outbox the late, great Muhammad Ali in his prime -- the chances of failure are almost assured. Italians have a knack for making and wearing clothes that fit so well and look so good that it’s no wonder that they’re usually the literal walking definitions of what’s in style at any given time. And Italian women follow suit.

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The Best of High End 2016

High End 2016 was held May 5-8, in Munich, Germany. According to a post-show report issued May 12 by the High End Society, the group that organizes and runs the show, the number of exhibitors was up 2% over High End 2015 and trade visitors were up 7%, but the total number of attendees was down 6%. Is that last statistic a sign of weakness for HE2016?

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My Current Headphone and Loudspeaker Favorites -- from KEF, NAD, Pryma, and Vivid Audio

Every so often, I like to use this monthly column for a roundup of products we’ve recently reviewed or written about, highlighting my current favorites to shed more light on them and help readers with buying decisions.

Read more: My Current Headphone and Loudspeaker Favorites -- from KEF, NAD, Pryma, and Vivid Audio

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