CES 2005 Diary: Day 2 - On the Show Floor
Clint woke me up at 7:00 and we scurried over to the Riviera for a little breakfast in the Café. Every casino/hotel in Vegas has its requisite 24-hour establishment serving up gelatinous eggs and nitrous coffee to its hungover and starved patrons. I was hurting big time. Massive jet lag , 4 hrs of sleep and the notion of being in high rolling Sin City for the sake of work was absolutely killing me.
After ordering my Texas omelet and wolfing it down with some OJ, I at least felt some semblance of my old self again. We were the guests of Joe Cornwall from Impact Acoustics , and while I think there was some discussion of cables at the breakfast table, I was too busy wondering about Blackjack table limits to recall the specifics. This was also the first time I had met fellow Audioholic, Patrick Hart. This guy struck me as a true head-thinker, and rightfully so. It almost made me uncomfortable. Do I know as much about my line of work as these guys know theirs? I'll be honest, while my background is mixing audio for TV and film, my tech knowledge is not my strongest point. Listening to Pat, Gene and Clint rap about the business and the technology was a real pleasure. Some of it was absolutely baffling and might have well have been spoken in Welsh, but to be around people who are the best at what they do is ALWAYS fun.
Breakfast thankfully was a slow affair, giving me some time to wake up before we strolled out to the shuttle busses that would whip us over to CES. Once at the Convention Center's South Hall, we split up at got to work. Clint, Gene and Pat had hands to shake and babies to kiss, and I had the enviable task of being a human product information collector/transcriber. With a loose job description of "gathering info on cool products and toys that would interest the readers of Audioholics," I imagined it to be an easy and pleasant experience. All I'd have to do was introduce myself, take a few notes, ask a few questions, take some photos of the gear - and voila, I'd post some hot product info to the site at night. Unfortunately, things did not go quite as smoothly as I had hoped.
While most of the manufacturers, both small and large, were genuinely happy to take the time to demo a new product of theirs or simply talk shop, there were a few who simply could not be bothered with highly visible free and positive press! Enter CES Character #2: Used-car-salesman/strip-club-owner-speaker-salesman Guy. Yes, my first stop was to a well-known, high-end speaker manufacturer. Here I met CES Character # 2. For simplicity, let's call hiim "Mick." This specimen, decked out in nugget jewelry and a rub-on tan had the look of an aging 30-something trying to grasp onto his fading days as an "18 and up" nightclub patron. I approached the booth and stood patiently, making eye contact several times with "Mick." My stereotypical notepad and pen at the ready screamed "Press" and was sure to garner some attention. Instead, I felt a tap on my back and was greeted by a different toothy company rep. "Anything I can help you with?"
I explained that I was here to see if the company had any new products that were unique to this year's CES event and if I could get some info on them. He looked at me blankly, if not nervously. "Ummm… You'll have to speak to him, he's the main sales guy (points over to "Mick")" I looked over to see that "Mick" was still deep in a casual conversation and couldn't be distracted with promoting his product. "It's cool," I said. "I don't need an expert really, maybe you can just show me the new stuff and I can get a photo and some product info." The rep looked at me nervously and said he wasn't sure what was new. Now, call me crazy, but I would imagine that a high-end speaker manufacturer would want people who actually KNEW their product out on the show floor. For all this guy know, he could have been a waiter at Applebee's the night. At this point I realized I would definitely need to speak to "Mick" if I wanted any semblance of real info for the site and not just press release fluff.
I stared at "Mick" trying to initiate eye contact. When I finally got it, it was greeted with indifference. Ok, maybe he doesn't realize I am here as a member of the press… let me step closer and he will get the picture. Surely he'd realize that I am here out of interest in his products (why else would anyone be at the convention?) Unfortunately, all I got was more of the same. At this point I was close enough to see hear the conversation (which will remain a secret for the sake of anonymity) that "Mick" was so deeply ensconced in, and it was the furthest thing from speakers, company business or anything related to CES. Big surprise. Ultimately his conversation partner was the one who noticed me and suggested that he better go "talk to me".
"Mick" looked at me and gave me a word-less "whats up" nod, like I was next in line at Taco Bell. I did what would become my standard intro for the whole week "Hi, my name is Toby Dalsgaard, I'm here with Audioholics.com. I just wanted to stop by and say hello and take some pics and get some info on any new gear you've unveiled for CES." "Mick" apparently had an inability to look me in the eye and kind of stared off silently in response. I couldn't help but nervously wonder if I had somehow broken proper protocol for addressing alligator-skinned speaker sales guys… Why wasn't this guy saying anything?? He put his hands in his pockets and nodding in the direction of a nice set of speaker cabs, said: "Those." Now, getting next to nothing in terms of information is understandable when dealing with disaffected pimply-faced kids; but when dealing with disaffected pimply-faced adults WHO YOU ARE TRYING TO PROMOTE, it becomes especially maddening. "Ummm, okaaaaaayy" I said. "Can you tell me a little bit about them?" More hands in pockets and staring off into space. "Yeah… Let me just get you a CD-ROM, the info should be on there." Hmmm.. Should be? He went into his makeshift booth office and returned with a CD-ROM. At this point I wanted to get out of there ASAP and anything that would have sped up the process was fine by me. I took the CD and bailed.
Fortunately, the rest of the day did not go nearly as rocky as my first encounter, but I would be lying if I said that experience with CES Character #2 didn't bum me out in a major way. I was relieved to be welcomed so cordially by the folks at the Panamax and THX booths later on. I know it's a crazy concept: To be at a convention designed to create a presence for you and your products and to actually want to do just that.
The Audioholics crew met up at the Convention Center's mall-like food court where we dined on $13 dollar plates of mad cow Korean beef and sipped on luke-warm soda. We all exchanged war stories and had a few laughs. I think all of us were kind of feeling overwhelmed by the sheer madness of CES and decided that a few hours more would be all before we pulled the chute and called it a day. We walked over to the Hilton to check out a demo of the new Audyssey MultEQ system from Texas Instruments. I like to leave the tech talk to the experts, but what we witnessed was truly amazing and shodul change the industry for the better. On a side note, these hotel room demos are always funny. Walking into a rented hotel room with suited business men, one can't help but wonder if you are walking into a demo, or miniature scene from Eyes Wide Shut. Texas Instruments also provided free commemorative Poker Chips and Deep Fried Ravioli to snack on, which at this point in the day was just as exciting as anything I had seen previously at the Convention Center.
Later, we arrived back at our hotel, late and exhausted. The daunting task of writing and posting the day's news sat in front of us like an unassembled jigsaw puzzle. "Where do I begin?" I wondered. I figured I'd bust out the notorious and aforementioned CD-ROM from "Mick," our CES Character #2. I figured at least I could copy and paste some specs and save some writing time. I popped the CD into my laptop and was stunned to find out it didn't work. My horror quickly turned into sheer annoyance at the wasted time I had spent trying to squeeze info out of "Mick." I tried multiple techniques to get the CD to open, and when it finally did, my efforts were rewarded with zilch. The CD contained NO INFO about the new speaker line. Not only did the people at the booth know nothing about it, the one guy who did was so reluctant to speak about it that he gave me a CD which he thought had info on it. I'm sorry, but what were these guys doing here in Las Vegas? I'm thinking the answer had more to do with watery cocktails and craps tables than it did with promoting loudspeakers.
Well, at least someone is thinking like me. It's way past my bedtime.
Toby Dalsgaard, a resident of South FL, is a freelance writer for Audioholics and has worked 8 years as a sound designer and mixer for Soundelux, HBO, Cinemax, Fox Kids, and The Disney Channel among others.