Behind The Scenes (June 1977)

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Way back in 1950, when a thing called hi-fi was beginning to be taken seriously, an enterprising gentleman by the name of Harry Riezies decided to promote this phenomenon by presenting what he called an "Audio Fair." The venue was the New Yorker Hotel, where the hotel rooms were converted to exhibit spaces and various hi-fi manufacturers gave sound demonstrations of their components.

The Audio Fair was a resounding success ... and no wonder ... since it was the first time the pioneering audiophiles of those days could hear such a wide variety of hi-fi components in one place, and it was also a chance to meet some of the people behind the products. They found out there really was an Avery Fisher, a Rudy Bozak, a Frank McIntosh, a Norman Pickering, et al., and what a thrill to discuss hi-fi and music with the very people who designed the equipment! The Audio Fair became an annual event and was widely copied all over the country. Some years later, the Institute of High Fidelity was formed, and it sponsored a New York "Hi-Fi Show" which replaced the Audio Fair.

The New Yorker Hotel continued to be the site of the show for a number of years, and then the show was moved to such places as the New York Trade Show Bldg., the Statler/Hilton Hotel, etc. The IHF sponsored hi-fi shows in other sections of the country as well.

It must be admitted that after the glamour of the early hi-fi shows wore a bit thin, some of the more negative aspects of the shows gave rise to an ever-increasing din of gripes and complaints. Paradoxically, there was anguish about the low attendance at some shows, yet annoyance over inadequate crowd control. It was said that there were too many "repeaters" at the shows...not enough "new blood" entering the hi-fi components market. There was much grumbling about the increasing costs of exhibiting at the hi-fi shows and whether the results justified the expense. In later years, the IHF abandoned the hotel shows and tried other formats to promote hi-fi, but the results were indecisive. The hi-fi components industry needs a strong, effective Institute of High Fidelity. Currently, the IHF is in the process of reorganization, an Executive Director is to be hired, and more money is to be made available for new promotional ideas. We wish them well, and hope everyone will offer their support.

Of course, there are always two sides to the coin. There is a large segment of the hi-fi public that likes "hotel shows," and more than a few manufacturers feel the same way. Some 20 odd years ago, Teresa and Bob Rogers, a Washington, D.C., couple who own classical music radio stations in that city, decided to cater to these tastes and formed the High Fidelity Music Show, Inc. They concentrated exclusively on hotel hi-fi shows and presented them on an alternating year basis in such cities as Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Detroit, and Atlanta. Like anything else, they've had their share of problems, but in general, their hi-fi shows have been well received and well attended. I attended the most recent Rogers shows, the "Washington Hi-Fi Stereo Music Show," February 11th through 13th, and the "Philadelphia Hi-Fi Stereo Music Show," March 18th through 20th. Herewith is my report on what I found of interest at these shows.

French Connection

Industry marketing veteran Harold Weinberg chose the Washington show to debut his Setton International line of receivers and amplifiers. Setton is the brainchild of French industrialist Jacque Setton, an audio component manufacturer who has combined the talents and technology of French, American, Japanese, and British engineers. Design and engineering is done in France and the U.S., while the actual manufacturing is done in Japan.

Thus far, the line comprises 40-, 55- and 100-watt per channel receivers, two integrated amplifiers of 40- and 55-watts per channel respectively, a separate pre-amp/100-watt per channel amplifier combination, and their RCS-X-1000, which is a far out digital FM tuner, multi -function pre -amp, remote control center, and 200 -watt per channel amplifier. For the man who has everything, this will be sold for "around $5000!" All the Setton units are distinguished by their very attractive and functional appearance, the styling being done by the industrial design division of famed French designer, Pierre Cardin.

Tandberg had a most interesting set up in their room. Their top of the line receiver was receiving signals from a closed-circuit broadcasting station, and the signals were deliberately "doctored" to demonstrate what poor selectivity, sensitivity, separation, etc., would sound like, and how well their receiver could cope with these problems.

Speaker Reception

Throughout the Washington show there were long lines of people waiting to get into the Bose and ESS rooms. The feature in the Bose room was their Series Three redesign of the 901 speaker, which is said to have even better bass response with increased efficiency so that a 25 -watt amplifier can produce an SPL formerly requiring several hundred watts. Bose now makes their own drive units, an ultra -precise, completely automated process which is the result of much basic research in plastics, metallurgy and related disciplines. In a film Bose presented to the audio press corps some months before the show, we saw the entire process, including a machine of their own design which automatically produces a complete voice -coil assembly in about two seconds. The attraction in the ESS room was the debut of the long-awaited Heil bass unit. Called the "Transar," it looks like something out of Buck Rogers, with five diaphragms linked together by carbon fiber rods driving them in common-much too complex to describe here. Suffice to say, it puts out some really low frequency bass, but it was hard to make any quality assessments, since the room in which it was demonstrated was criminally small. It would be interesting to hear this speaker in better controlled circumstances.

Onkyo was showing a comprehensive line of receivers, amplifiers, and loudspeakers, and their point of pride was the quartz-crystal locked tuning featured on all their receivers. Saul Marantz was doing yeoman duty demonstrating his partner's Dahlquist speakers, with their new sub -woofer, and both passive and electronic cross -over networks. Both classical and rock music came over with a lot of "oomph." New to the audio scene was Shahinian Acoustics with a pyramidal shaped speaker called the "Obelisk." Hardly new to speaker design is Dick Shahinian, who has been at it for over 20 years and has designed speakers for companies like Harman-Kardon and Rectilinear.

Tweeters and mid-range drivers are clustered in the top of the unit, while bass response is via an eight -inch woofer and a rear -mounted passive radiator. The unique shape of the speaker eliminates any parallel surfaces and standing waves. With Dick's impeccable demonstration techniques and superb selection of classical recordings, the small speaker was impressive for its mid -range and top end smoothness, good stereo imaging, and solid extended bass. In short, a thoroughly musical sound.

Sansui kept the quadraphonic flags flying with a new four-channel receiver, the QRX 9001, with 50-watts per channel, which can be bridged to produce 120 watts in stereo. Hitachi was getting good mileage showing how its Class-G receiver works. In the Discwasher room, people were titillated by listening to a tape made during the recent Cleveland Orchestra direct -disc recording session. The disc itself should be at most hi-fi dealers by the time you read this.

Philly-Fi Show

Moving on to Philadelphia, Phase Linear was showing its new speaker system, consisting of two large freestanding panels, which look like electrostatics, but use dynamic drivers, and a bass cube. The system is obviously capable of very high SPL, and there was plenty of solid bass, but here again, the room was too small for true appreciation of its quality. In the Bozak room, Rudy himself was on hand, looking quite fit and beaming with pride about his new continuously variable bucket -brigade delay line. He was playing his monolithic "Concert Grand" speakers, which have newly designed tweeter arrays, and in his good-sized room many people were quite impressed with the sheer musicality of the sound.

Technics was demonstrating their new "Linear Phase" loudspeakers, using their new RS-1500 closed-loop tape deck, with 15 ips Dolby "A" master tape copies. Interest...as well as the SPL...was high! Roy Allison was on hand with his interesting concept in loudspeakers, and his room was a haven for ears overloaded with 200 dB of boomy rock bass. You always can hear high quality civilized music in Roy's room. IMF of England was demonstrating their smooth -sounding transmission line speakers, here again with well-chosen classical music. Their presence at a show like this is a sign of a more aggressive sales effort in the U.S. One of the things that has always been permitted at the Rogers shows is the participation of hi-fi dealers. Thus, it is possible to see equipment, much of it exotic high end stuff, that would never be exhibited in the normal fashion. For example, Barclay Recording and Electronics of Wynnewood, Pa., had a whole room full of gear, dear to the heart of the far-out audiophile. A Lux turntable was mated with a SAEC (Sound of Audio Engineering Co.) arm and an EMT moving-coil phono cartridge. The SAEC arm, like the well-known SME, uses knife edges, but in this case, two of them and a ruby thrust bearing. A unique feature is their "stabilizer," a massive, fist -sized, very heavy piece of metal which screws under the arm base, and is said to help attenuate resonances. Barclay heavily features Crown equipment, and they had a whole rack of it, tape machines, pre-amps, amplifiers, and the latest item, the EQ-2 equalization unit, an elaborate phase -compensated octave band device for room equalization. Also in the rack was the new dbx DB-3, which is a single pass, three -band noise reduction unit said to afford up to 30 dB of noise attenuation without pumping or breathing effects. Also on display in this room were the Magneplanar speakers and such professional items as Neumann mikes and Malatchi mixing units. Last but not least, I was shown a prototype of a large-screen (19-inch) real-time analyzer. If they can turn it out at a projected price under $3000, it should attract immediate interest.

Needless to say, at both the Washington and Philadelphia shows, there was a great deal of equipment from most of the well -established names in the industry. However, since most of it had been shown before, I've had of necessity to be selective, and report on what I thought were the main items of interest.

One last note ... New York has not had a "hotel hi-fi show" for some years, so the Rogers have finally decided to tackle the Big Apple and will run the New York Hi-Fi Stereo Music Show at the Statler-Hilton Hotel, November 10th through 13th.

(Source: Audio magazine, Jun. 1977, Bert Whyte)

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