By Jim Guido and Carl Seibert.
*Carl really spends a lot of time under headphones, preferably, really good headphones.
The Audio Expo of North America (AXPONA) took place last weekend at the Renaissance Convention Center in Chicago, Illinois. Carl and I left sunny South Florida for the weekend and were more than excited to be in attendance. Being the first HiFi audio show in over 2 years, we couldn’t imagine what there would be to see, hear, and what the brilliant audio engineers of our industry have cooked up during the pandemic. It was also great to see everyone together again after more than 2 years, including friends and industry partners we’d only “met” over the phone!
The world of technology changes every day, every facet of it is growing and shifting with each update and innovation… it can be very confusing to keep up with it all if you’re not in the trade. With a professional’s help, though, you can navigate the low volt waters fairly easily, and that’s what this blog is meant to do. Here are the five directions that our professionals noticed the Expo highlighting, which is a good indicator of the direction HiFi audio will be heading.
Music Salon Concept
For the music lovers who’ve been stuck at home without access to their beloved venues, this one is for you! With COVID keeping people distanced from each other, this type of room rocketed to the forefront of audio lovers’ homes. It can be a room built for a single listener or a salon built for a group of listeners to enjoy an experience together.
With these rooms becoming more mainstream we’re seeing an increasing number of modern homes incorporating them into the design in addition to, and separate from, the personal theater. New entertainment options make having both a viable option. If music is a priority, then this addition makes a lot of sense.
You want a room designed to flow with the curves of the instruments, not one designed to handle movie explosions and gunshots. You want a room that allows you the ability to tell if an instrument is made of wood or metal… it can be a room that incorporates a piano or other instruments with “salon like” seating to invite all and bring your friends over for a truly unique gathering.
Playing a record is a ritual. You slow down, put your hands on the sleeve, slide the record out, place it on the table, lower the needle, and sink into the majesty of the music. Read the liner notes as the music springs to life before you. Using an LP isn’t just listening to your music, it’s experiencing your music on a personal and physical level taking you back to that one concert or to a specific venue. Playing your music with a visceral element attached ensures that you’re focused on the music: you must pay attention, you are listening to a purposeful piece of art the way intended.
No matter how easy streaming is, the care and attention required to play records well… the record is here to stay. Turntable sales are up, and seemingly everyone is excited about vinyl again. This is no surprise since it is specifically the stereo recordings that we all love from the 1950’s to recently that often sound more realistic and compelling on vinyl than any other way.
Although the LP continues to garner attention and sales, streaming services like Qobuz and engaging interfaces like Roon make streaming a much easier option and modern gear can make this a very logical go to format for critical listening. This is a very exciting time for these technologies as they can access a vast amount of music with a very simple search, even letting you save favorites and creating custom albums. Roon also duplicates and extends that “liner notes” experience in the app. With streaming services being so advanced music lovers have access to millions of hi-rez albums.
Base Control and DSP
The ability to mate the speakers and the system to the room has been around for a while, but recently it has become much more powerful. And with everyone staying at home more these rooms are wanted and used much more than in the past. There is no place like a hotel room to demonstrate how important this technology is and that’s exactly where we were for most AXPONA demos.
There was a clear distinction between the rooms that dealt with the inherent room resonances and those who did not, which rooms took the time to build an experience in the room and not just set up a product. Let me be clear: This used to be a room problem but now it is an issue we can remedy in the equipment. We can take the room largely out of the equation with the right equipment treatment and setup.
In the busy and crowded world of today, sometimes it is difficult find a quiet room in which to listen to music; to find a place where you can get away from it all and simply focus on the songs. Headphones are a way to bring very engaging music to your family room, cubicle, garage, you name it. Headphones can also be a powerful tool for private listening while others need quiet. Imagine it’s late at night and your partner is sleeping or they have a phone call or meeting – headphones are a great way to ensure you don’t bother them.
These are some of the major trends we saw at AXPONA, many of them are known quantities like streaming but a salon level music room for multiple people is relatively unknown. If you would like more details on any of this, please call or email me at (561) 336-9600 – Jimg@bocatech.com or stop in M-F 12-5, I’m happy to help!
Jim Guido and Carl Seibert are HiFi Specialists at Boca Tech HiFi, a new high-end audio store in South Florida. BTA HiFi is a division of the well-established Home Theater provider Boca Tech And Automation. Boca Tech HiFi will strive to be the premier provider of audiophile equipment to the tri-county area and a destination for audiophiles to enjoy conversations about music and good sound.