T.H.E Show Newport 2015 Wrap-Up

In last month's AXPONA show wrap post I wrote:

"I know it's been coming for a long time now, but for the first time ever at a show I kept being haunted by the feeling of how absolutely normal it felt to have a significant headphone presence. I tend to think it's going to become the norm at shows from now on."

There's no doubt in my mind that headphone enthusiasts now have a seat at the adult's table in the audiophile world. We often use the same front end gear; we speak about sound quality in the same, or very similar, terms; Stereophile saw fit to produce InnerFidelity; and we're attending these shows as both attendees and exhibitors. I've waited a long time to see this come to fruit, but now that it has, I find myself surprisingly dissatisfied.

Don't get me wrong, I continue to think we have a roll to play in the audiophile world, but I also think that we can't fully blossom as an activity within the confines of it. Let me give you a for instance: the Riva Turbo is a cool Bluetooth speaker that was exhibited at CanJam SoCal a few months ago and was quite well received at the show. I heard significant buzz about the speaker as I chatted with folks, there was genuine excitement about the product. Somehow I don't think it fits in at a high-end audio show as well as it did at CanJam. Google "riva turbo CanJam SoCal" vs. "riva turbo T.H.E. Show Newport" and you see there's more coverage from CanJam.

Or take a product like the SubPac—a wearable sub-woofer for headphone listening. Audiophiles will likely generally find the idea a bit silly, while headphone enthusiasts will more likely react with curiosity and interest. It may be that we should start thinking about ourselves as "personal audio enthusiasts" as opposed to headphone enthusiasts; I think it's more indicative of our actual interests.

At any rate, this is what's so exciting to me about the re-birth of a traveling CanJam sponsored by Head-Fi. It becomes an expression that's all ours; within that venue we can evolve apart from the audiophile world, and I think we need the freedom to do that.


I see absolutely nothing wrong with the current trend of having things like CanJam at RMAF, EarGear at AXPONA, and The Headphonium at Newport, but I think it's important that we don't see those events as the destination for the personal audio hobby. I think we've yet to discover exactly who we are. I think it's fun to think of InnerFidelity as a Personal Audio journal and not know exactly what that means. This space is evolving rapidly; as headphone begin to contain more and more electronics their place in our lives will change accordingly. Not knowing what that's going to be like is exciting, as is knowing that I'll be there to observe the changes. CanJam and things like the Fujiya-Avic headphone festival in Japan are important venues for that evolutionary process to move forward.

I mention this in my show wrap-up for two reasons. 1) Because i think it's an important observation. 2) Because I have a limited budget for attending events, and next year I'd like to do the Fujiya Avic festival and CanJam...possibly twice if they have one in the US and one abroad. That and CES will about empty my travel budget for the year. It's very likely I'll not be making T.H.E. Show Newport next year—or AXPONA or Munich or CanJam at RMAF for that matter. I love T.H.E. Show Newport, Bob and Richard do a great job, highly recommended, but I feel called to do something a little different next year.

I know, kind of a weird wrap up, but it's whats on my mind so I thought I'd share. And now that it's off my chest, I'm gonna go paint the porch. Back measurements and reviews next week. Thanks for reading along!

Seth195208's picture

I did the high end audio thing for a long time. Very neurosis inducing and expensive. Personal audio has been a welcome departure, and if I could have done it all over again, I would have gone with headphones from the start. It just seems like overall(Believe it or not), a much happier and normal crowd.

WobblySam's picture

With the escalating trend in DAPS - anything from A&K - the trend in headphones from Audeze and HiFiMan, that should start to fade soon enough.

sszorin's picture

What is DAPC ? Can we please avoid obscure acronyms ? There are thousands of them, how is one supposed to remember what each acronym stands for ?

sszorin's picture


tony's picture

Used to be it was all we had but now it's just a tiny Audio sub-set of FOGs ( Fat Old Guys ) living with a Vinyl Analog mindset.

The World today is folks wearing little white wires whilst holding a tiny device.

The Big Players aren't thinking Turntables ( Apple & Beats ). These big boys don't do 2-Channel Shows but they do do Billions of Dollars of Business in "our" Personal World.

2-Channel is now sort-of like a Hot-Rod Car Show, un-fold your lawn chair and sit around with a remaining aficionado.

Costs are Stratosphere levels considering the top level headphone system Herb Reichert described : Schiit stuff ( about $4,000 worth ) and the HifiMan HE1000s totaling around $7,000.

Jason Stoddard said he felt "Boned" by The Show this year, I agree with him despite Tyll's exciting Video coverage. The 2-Channel guys put headphone stuff "Out in a Tent" somewhere.

Have a look at a snap of Levi & Beers and you're looking at the typical 2-Channel guy, kinda living the Playboy Mansion "wanna-be" life with other Hugh Hefner wanna-be's.

2-Channell has it's place, I just don't know where that place is anymore.

We've moved on.


Tony in Michigan

sszorin's picture

Quote : "The World today is folks wearing little white wires whilst holding a tiny device"...
And after a while many of 'folks' will no longer be satisfied with tiny devices with little white wires.

Quote : "We've moved on"...
Moved on to 3 channel ?

tony's picture

3 Channel ?, that's a good one.

My wife thinks of headphones as kinda inside the head, is that mono?

I began back in the early 1950s with 78s & Long Playing 33s in mono.

Stereo ( 2-Channel ) Analog became a huge thing for everyone, even me as I became a High-End Importer and dealer in the 1980s.

Then along came the little iPod, the internet, Mapster, free downloading, then iTunes in Lossless now combined with Terabytes of music storage, then the little Astel & Kern 240 and presto we have High-End levels of musical performance whilst sitting on a Park Bench in Central Park NY,NY. Deep Bass arriving in each separate channel ( no folding all Bass below 150hz as we had from vinyl analog ), dynamic range that would cripple a good 100wpc Amplifier driving a Full-range loudspeaker system.

Everyone is wondering where we're heading from here, I suspect we'll learn about it here at innerfidelity first but we'll hear about as it happens.

We are living in exciting times.

Tony in Michigan

sszorin's picture

May you live in exciting times is a Chinese curse.

tony's picture

Yes it was but for us it isn't; for us it's exciting advancements in curing Cancer, 4 hour flights from Detroit to California, iPhones, Coronary Stints, the Internet, etc.

Exciting to see the up-coming advancements ; Driverless Cars, Re-newable energy sources, huge advances in available knowledge and Memory.

The Social Revolutions: French Revolution, the Marxist-Lenonist-Stalinist Revolution, the Nazi Revolution, the Chairman Mao Revolution all ended up as Curses.

Exciting has many meanings in our Confusing English.

I hope for a "good" exciting.

Tony in Michigan

tony's picture

"May you live in an interesting age" is the actual.

I think it's origin is from a time when live expectancy was 48 years,

Today, Life expectancy in the USA is 78 and increasing ( at least among the affluent.

Tony in Michigan

Jim Tavegia's picture

so my headphone listening, for the most part, as been in tracking and making sure that the instruments and vocals are there, at the right levels, and that there are no external noises that will mar a recording (generally using Sony 7506s that we all know are flawed) . I am not so much listening for perfection, but that all the pieces are there at the right levels. This attitude has changed over the last year+ in that now with my AKG 701s I can hear more detail and can hear if there is something in the room or electrically (buzzes, hums, room noises) that can ruin the recording.

I am now convinced that if I want to really hear into a recording that headphones are the most cost effective way to do this. Great sets of can can be bought for under $500 and really good headphone amps for less than that and can more than compete with audio systems costing thousands and thousands of dollars and that are still "room-dependent" to sound their best.

I am constantly amazed at these show reports of systems over $30K to $50K that writers complain about this or that and how some music does not sound very good in the room they are in. Since most high end audio systems must exist in "a room" this should really bother more people than it seems to. Room treatments can cost crazy money as well. And only that will work if you are willing to mess up your home decor, and many are not willing to do that.

So I now find myself listing on my AKG 701s more and more and my speaker systems much less for my critical listening. I just hear more this way and it may be that my age of nearly 68 has something to do with that as well.

I have been enjoying some high rez downloads over the last few months and I am hearing much more through my AKGs than through any of my speaker systems and people love my speakers when they come to the house for a listen. I have one 2496 download in which I hear a problem with one of the instruments on one of the tracks that has been hidden when listening on my speakers. At first I thought I was mistaken, but when I could easily hear it on my AKGs, even hear it on my lowly Grado's (80s) and even on my lesser Sony 7506s, I knew I wasn't wrong in what I was hearing. How someone missed this in tracking I'll never know, or maybe they liked it and left it. It is not a natural sound for that instrument to make. I could easily also hear it clearly through my $150 Steinberg UR22 usb 24192 audio interface with the computer driven files with either my AKGS or my $99 Shure SE-215 IEM, so it is not about needing crazy expensive equipment to hear it. The Steinberg interface and my AKG 701s are rediculously good for almost no money. (Under $400) A great audio listening experience does not need to cost big money any more.

So, I will be buying more cans in the future (AKG 612s?) and doing a much higher percentage of headphone listening in the future, and from now on most likely. I have 2 nice, new headphone amps that are way, way more than serviceable, but I may look at one more that might be considered "highend", but that phrase bothers me some as more expensive does not mean better to me, but to all too many it does.

Headphone listening is also the way that many will get out of the MP3 rut and most of those folks will never spend crazy money on a amp/speaker audio system. They are headphone customers all the way now.

Love your web site and bought the Shure SE 215s off your review and glad I did for my portable listening. I use my 2 Tascam DR-2d's and 2496 files for all my portable listening.

sszorin's picture

Quote : "So, I will be buying more cans in the future (AKG 612s?)"

Beyerdynamic T1

Tyll Hertsens's picture
I think you're absolutely right. The high-end of imaging and palpable impact is on speakers, but the high-end of resolution is on headphones.
DeepEar's picture

In 1971 at 23 I got into audio test measurement and loudspeaker design engineering at Marantz. We used a Bruel and Kjaer 1022 audio oscillator to design the Marantz Imperial 4b, 5b, 6, 7, 8, and 9 in a back room at the Sony-Superscope Marantz facility in Sun Valley, CA.

But the actual genesis of my desire to design loudspeakers was as a result of not being able to clearly hear the words on early rock songs when listening to my buddy's Sony six-transistor (mono) AM radio either from the speaker or over the funky and generic ear bud available back then.

Thus, it was a genuine pleasure hearing your measurement seminar at T.H.E. Show and later meeting you and talking with you at the Hi-Fi Man booth re: the difficulty of establishing measurement protocols.

You are a true pioneer in headphone measurement my friend. May you live long, listen long, and continue imparting your findings and interpretations to us lucky 'philes.

Thanks Tyll. And a word of advice, keep it enjoyable for yourself first.

mikemercer's picture


"headphone enthusiasts will more likely react with curiosity and interest. It may be that we should start thinking about ourselves as "personal audio enthusiasts" as opposed to headphone enthusiasts; I think it's more indicative of our actual interests."

"At any rate, this is what's so exciting to me about the re-birth of a traveling CanJam sponsored by Head-Fi. It becomes an expression that's all ours; within that venue we can evolve apart from the audiophile world, and I think we need the freedom to do that."

wait til they read WHAT WE WANNA DO for a HEADPHONE SHOW!!!!

and Thank You!
Warren and I love puttin' on T.H.E Headphonium at T.H.E Show Newport

adam jackson's picture

Being a technophile i feel amazed to read this post. Came across things i had never heard for.
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