This was my experience at T.H.E. Show 2019 as an exhibitor/vendor.
TL;DR (Too long didn’t read)
Summary Report – I had a great time. Our rooms were always packed. Our systems sounded fantastic and attendees thought so too. Thank you to everyone who made this possible. Thank you to the companies who trusted in us. Thank you to everyone who came by our rooms to hang out with us and listen to affordable audio gear.
I wish the show was bigger and had more attendees. Next year.
Who are you and what are you doing here?
I am also a moderator on Reddit.com/u/budgetaudiophile where we help people getting into the hobby.
I am not a dealer. I do not have a brick and mortar or online store. I’m not a distributor and I’m not a manufacturer. So why in the world would I have two demo rooms at a high-end audio show like T.H.E. Show? I wanted to answer this question.
How would attendees of a high-end audio show react to an affordable entry-level system?
Based on reactions from attendees, the level of interest in affordable audio is astounding!
I called some of the manufacturers I’ve reviewed products for. They loved the idea of me showing affordable audio at this high-end focused show. They were confident that their products could stand up to more expensive gear. I ended up needing 2 rooms.
I called my friend and fellow YouTube content creator Techno Dad. He said he was willing to drive down 4 hours each way to help out with the room. Thanks Channa!
I also needed a third person. I offered the volunteer job to one of the moderators on budgetaudiophile. He goes by Polypeptide147. We needed to fly him in from NY to LA and pay for his hotel. A few of the other moderators in that group pitched in to make it happen. That was awesome!
We had our volunteers. We had the support of the companies. We were ready.
In one room, we had the following companies: Micca, Vanatoo, Schiit Audio, and SVS. In another room, we had Kanto Audio. We signed the agreements that T.H.E. Show had sent to us. Easy and painless.
Products to Exhibit. A Pallet to Sell.
I asked all these companies to send me their product to show. I talked to Micca about sending a few products to sell so attendees could go home with something. They agreed. They said they would allow me to make a bit of commission for selling the products. Cool!
I was surprised when shipment after shipment of speakers, amps, and cables kept arriving at my doorstep.
I enjoy getting packages in the mail, but when a lady calls saying there’s a pallet waiting outside, it’s a bit frightening. Never again!
Promotion and Preparation
Knowing I would have to ensure my rooms sounded good, I visited the room a few weeks in advance to get an idea of the acoustics and dimensions. I then put the general dimensions into an acoustic simulator to get an idea where not to place the speakers. That extra research paid off in the end.
I had to unload 30 pairs of speakers, 2 subwoofers, 2 pairs of powered speakers, and miscellaneous cables and trade show banners. I filled up my van, drove to the loading dock of the Long Beach Hilton.
I proceeded to make many trips up and down two separate elevators. It was a far walk and a lot for one person, but it got done.
I finished setting up my room around 11pm. I had made special requests to have them keep the desk and large chair in the room and Kyle from T.H.E. Show was very accommodating.
Room 1 #507
The Micca System
Disclaimer: Amazon Affiliate links below give me a small commission on each sale.
$129/pr at the time of the show. These have a 4″ woofer, 3/4″ soft dome tweeter, 3/4″ MDF rear-ported enclosure and a 10 element crossover allowing an 18dB slope. Recommended power is 15w-100w but from my testing, you will want closer to 100w minimum per speaker.
These have an amazing amount of deep bass for a speaker this size. Watch the rear ports move the backdrop from a few feet away.
$99 at the time of the show. This is a tiny class D amp rated at 50 watts per channel. It also has a built-in DAC so you can plug into your computer via USB with a 96khz/24-bit sample rate. The AD250 also has an RCA input, optical input and 3.5mm full-range pre-out that you can use to connect a powered subwoofer.
These were $19.99 a pair at the time of the show.
The total system cost was $249 + tax.
I did have other accessories connected to this system, but nothing that would affect the sound in a big way.
I had a Chromecast Audio, $35 but now discontinued, streaming Tidal from my Pixel 3a to the Chromecast Audio. I could have opted to connect the Chromecast Audio to the Micca AD250 with an optical cable, but I wanted to control the volume with a remote and I wanted to have some fun with a tube buffer in the system.
Instead, I connected the Chromecast Audio to an SMSL SK10 DAC which did have a remote. That went into an FX-Audio Tube-03 with GE JAN5654W tubes. That tube buffer proved to be the center of attention which was initially part of my plan. When people asked what it was and how much it was, I was happy to say that I bought it for $64 on Amazon. I like the rounded out sound of tubes so I prefer to use these in a few of my systems, but some people wanted to hear them bypassed and I obliged with a simple switch of some RCA cables. About half of the room liked it better with the tubes and half without.
The last day, I chose to bypass the SMSL SK10 and the FX-Audio Tube-03 buffer because people kept asking about them and they did not sponsor the room so it was a bit unfair for the others who did.
These Sanus stands I used were $54 on Amazon at the time of the show.
The Desktop Setup
Tidal streaming from my Macbook Pro.
Modi 3 DAC – $99 at the time of the show
Loki 4-band EQ $149 at time of the show – blasphemy I know, but I love it.
Vali 2 Headphone amp/preamp – $149 at time of the show. I told you I love the tube sound. If you don’t Schiit has a solid state version called the Magni 3.
$599 at the time of the show.
These do a ton of things and it does them well. These are powered speakers with a lof of tech built-in. You need to check out everything it can do here on their website. One feature I wanted to highlight was the smart switching of the high pass crossover when a subwoofer connection is detected. That allows the speakers to play louder without distortion. Crossover points are 80hz or 120hz depending on the DSP mode set on the Vanatoos.
SVS SB3000 Subwoofer$999-$1099 at the time of the show depending on finish.
This is a 13″ sealed sub that has a flat response, 800 watts RMS and 2500 peak. You can control the settings (including DSP with a PEQ) with your smartphone. It hits down to 18hz. What more is there to say? It’s amazing and it compact. How did they do that?
Room 2 #511 Kanto Audio Room
Kanto TUK (to be released by July 2019 at an estimated $799) – powered bookshelf speaker with a 5″ aluminum woofer and AMT tweeter. This also has the option to apply an 80hz high pass when a subwoofer is connected. Due to the room and where we had to place the speakers, we found that the system sounded better without the sub. In-room measurements showed unavoidable nulls in with the sub.
Kanto TUK 10″ Subwoofer – no info as this was a pre-production unit. We’ve measured it nearfield down to 28hz-30hz in that room. Not bad for a 10″ ported sub in a relatively small enclosure.
I was excited. People started rolling in earlier than the official start time. Next thing you know, my room was packed. That didn’t stop the entire day.
I even got comfortable enough to sell some Micca systems towards the end of the day. People were impressed with both the Micca system and the desktop system. I did notice that a few people stayed in the room for over an hour. Some stayed for a while, left and came back with friends. Awesome!
My seminar was from 5pm-6pm in Gallery 1 so I put a note on my door and locked up.
I was planning to record my talk, but they hired people who were recording the entire time so I figured I didn’t need to.
The talk went well. Not every seat was filled, but more than I expected. About 30-40 people. I talked about how to get the next generation into HiFi.
Intro to HiFi
A few tips I gave were:
1) Be more welcoming to newcomers. Don’t be a snob.
2) Welcome low price point, entry-level systems like the ones I was showing.
3) Market and advertise to the next generation on social media, forums, and YouTube where they spend most of their time.
I work with a few audio YouTubers and our combined watch time on our videos is approximately 4 million minutes watched in the last 28 days! Compare that with other traditional publications!
Jeff…I mean Polypetide147 was manning the Kanto TUK room while I was away and he said the response was positive.
Techno Dad got in that night so he setup his DJ setup in preparation for the next day.
I was still tired from the first day and I didn’t get enough sleep. I got to the hotel 4 hours before the show started to run REW and take some in-room measurements to further tweak all the systems to make them sound their best.
People exhibiting in other rooms were bringing in their co-workers to hear our system. That means something. If it sounded terrible, I doubt they would waste their time so I assume they were impressed.
Despite having much less energy than the first day, I was able to sell even more of the Micca systems. I did not want to go home with those speakers!
I met a lot of people who said they watch my videos so that was cool. This day seemed like the busiest of the three days.
Techno Dad was doing his DJ thing and he seemed to be enjoying himself. The others in the room seemed to enjoy it as well. Win-win.
After the show was done for the day, I had a group of people stick around while we did more demos of the Vanatoo/Schiit/SVS combo. We were testing out 18hz test tones on the SVS SB3000. We tried to do this with as much respect and consideration to our surrounding rooms. When stuff in the room started shaking, we turned it down asap.
I got more rest. I let Polypeptide147 man the Micca room while I live-streamed the show for my subscribers who couldn’t be there. We had more people on our live stream at any given time than people that could fit into these rooms. We had 30-50 people watching the stream live at any given time. As I write this article, the views on that live stream is now up to 1,485 views after 6 days with 16,302 minutes watched. That’s 11 days of attention. The power of technology.
T.H.E. Show Long Beach 2019 Live Stream
We sold out of the Micca amps and cables. Jeff sold some while I was walking around also. We only had a small handful of unsold speakers.
Polypeptide flew back to NY around 4pm on the 3rd day.
Teardown was a lot easier with the help of Channa aka Techno Dad.
I was 100% satisfied with the responses from the people who came to our room.
I only wish this show was bigger so that we could show more people that entry-level audio doesn’t have to be bad. It’s getting extremely very good.
Hey, audio industry! Let’s not underestimate the demand for more affordable audio. If we do, it’s at our own peril. Manufacturers, distributors and dealers, I can hear you now: “There’s not enough margin in budget audio gear.” Well, I hope you find a way for it to make financial sense for your business otherwise, someone else will.
Amazon Affiliate links for products I was showing at T.H.E. Show.
Schiit Audio Website: http://schiit.com
Modi 3 DAC
Vali 2 Headphone Amp/Preamp
Kanto TUK (To be released): http://www.kantoaudio.com
Kanto TUK Subwoofer (To be announced)
Budget Audiophile on Reddit: http://www.reddit.com/r/budgetaudiophile
Disclaimer: The rooms at T.H.E. were sponsored by Micca, Vanatoo, SVS, Schiit Audio, and Kanto. The affiliate links above do give me a small commission if you buy products using those links.