June gloom be damned, I put the top down on my two-seater and headed south. Like a scene from SNL’s The Californians – I took the 10 to the 5 to the 710 – and happily arrived in sunny Long Beach for my favorite audio event – T.H.E. Show.
This was my second time attending and first things first, let’s talk about the new home for T.H.E. Show – The Hilton Long Beach. The new space is elegant a big step up from last year. Not too big, not too small – just the right size – very goldilocks of the show organizers. The marketplace had all my faves: turntables, vinyl, reel to reel, and just outside – food trucks. I took it all in, stuffed my face, and then headed upstairs for the main event, the listening rooms.
There was a fairly diverse cross section of brands represented with even more notable offerings from industry leaders. However, it was United Home Audio that caught my eye at first, then almost immediately captured my ears as well. I’ve always been a lover of vintage vinyl since my old man handed over the keys to his collection when I was 12, but reel-to-reel has always been a bit of a mystery to me. So, when I walked by the United Home Audio room on the 5th floor and snuck a peak their Ultima4 OPS-DC Tape Deck – I jumped in head first with a barrage of questions.
Greg Beron, owner of UHA was kind enough to take me through it all. “They used to walk by and laugh because I was playing tape”, Greg lamented. “They would yell, “Got any 8 tracks?”, but it’s my passion and I just went to work.” And the work is astonishing, I dare say these machines are pieces of art in their own right. Plus the sound – he wound up Bohemian Rhapsody and let the system loose – it was all so smooth with such a sweet flavor. Now, thanks to this encounter, I’m gonna have to make some space in my “sound room” for the reel-to-reel. Next question – how long till Christmas?
The afternoon came quick and with it the educational seminars – first up was Dr. Mark Waldrep, arthur, teacher, holder of many degrees and an all-round troublemaker. I instantly fell in love with the doctor’s straightforward and, at times, brash manner of calling out those in this industry that might not always have its best interests in mind. He really has a vendetta against those $6000 power cables!
He set the record straight on quit a few subjects, including: the farcse of HD audio, how analogue never translates to high resolution, and the greed of the powers that be in the music biz. Plus, he amused us all with many anecdotes of how his dogma got him banned from several audio societies, sound rooms (like the ones at this very show) and branded “nuts” from his peers. At the end of it, I didn’t know if he was a genius or an outlier – or both. I guess I’ll have to read his 900 page book to find out.
The evening brought open bar, film premieres, and best of all cake. Birthday cake to be exact, as we celebrated the President of The Home Entertainment Show Maurice Jung’s birthday. Happy Birthday Maurice! Then we were treated to a sneak peak of the new, soon to be released, documentary film, “T.H.E. Show: The Human Side”, which highlights many of the people and many of the positives aspects of the audiophile world. (SPOILER: Blink and you’ll miss my handsome mug!) It really was a wonderful way to end my stay down in the LBC. So, as I jump back into my roadster and head for the labyrinth that is the LA freeways, I can’t help ponder what surprises will be in store for T.H.E. Show 2020.
by Bryan Beasley – Co-Host of The Occasional Podcast