The 2008 CES Experience
By Paul M. Messett / Sales & Marketing Manager

It's been almost three weeks now since I've returned from the CES Show and it's taken me that long to sift through projects and punch out another blog for your reading pleasure.

Is This a Show or Funeral Home?
The CES Show itself is for us a rather exhausting week as you can imagine it is for most folks attending the show. The manufacturers may have it a little bit harder because we usually have to arrive a few days earlier and leave a few days later because of setup and teardown. This year, we set up camp in the South Hall with the home audio and video crowd. We have been there for the last few years because of our steadily increasing commercial and residential business and it's much nicer being in the South Hall. Why? For one, it's quieter than the North Hall (mobile audio) and secondly, we are able to see some really, really cool stuff. Mobile audio never really seems to change, just more companies selling the same stuff and saturating the market even further.

This year, we heard of many 12 Volt companies that decided not to exhibit at CES, even Rockford Fosgate and many others chose not to show. For the first time in years, I saw huge open floor spaces where big booths should have been as well as empty smaller ones. Many companies also chose to downsize their booths compared to years past. Is this a reflection of just how bad things are in the industry right now?

It used to be that if your company was not at CES, you were thought to be out of business. That is just no longer the case. CES is a tremendously expensive show to participate in for so many reasons. Travel, lodging, booth costs, food, freight etc. all make for a very expensive week. Throw in dinner at Fleming's (mmm..Beef Flemington.) three or four times for three or four people and you'd better make sure you give the accountant a bottle of Advil when you hand in the expense report.

The trend now is for 12 Volt companies to show at SEMA which is my opinion the best show of the year. It's less expensive in regards to booth costs because it is a different organization hosting and there is always cool stuff to see and do. I remember the days when 12 Volt had a small showing in the Center Hall behind the Ford booth, now 12 Volt takes up almost three quarters of the North Hall. To top it off, more companies are using the SEMA Show to launch new products because more and more dealers are going to SEMA instead of CES.

The Highlight of the Show.
The one thing that I will remember from this show (other than the 150" Panasonic flat screen) is our visit with Jon Whitledge, car audio phenom, and listening to his Mercedes Sprinter van. It was early on the last day of the show that Doug and I had decided that we would get to the booth a few minutes late because the show is always dead on the last day. As we made our way from our rental house, through the city streets of Las Vegas and into the RV park at the Circus Circus Hotel, we knew what we were about to hear was going to be good, but we were not prepared for what happened next.

We met Jon at his Mercedes van, he had been demo-ing the van to a few folks throughout the week, but he seemed very glad and excited to see Doug and I show up to listen to it. Jon, by the way, is sponsored by us along with other companies such as Kimber Kable, Genesis, Stinger, Bosch Rexroth, Radix Wire, and Xtreme AV. Jon is also a seasoned car audio competitor and knows what it takes to win, he also has a tremendous ear (understatement) for sound quality. Everybody's perception of what sounds good is different. To be recognized by home and pro audio types, recording industry top guns and world class musicians is admirable, to be recognized as having designed and constructed the best sounding vehicle they've ever heard on this planet is spectacular.

Doug Moir (left) and Jon Whitledge upon arrival

Doug jumped into the drivers seat as I sat back and thumbed through his install photo log book. Now keep in mind that Jon is not a professional car audio installer, he is though a polymer research scientist, mechanical engineer and perfectionist and it shows in his craftsmanship and attention to detail. I pay attention to detail as I have been an installer and judge for almost 17 years now and believe me when I say that I have known very few professionals that can even approach the level of quality put forth in this van by this man.

Although the vans interior was not complete at the time we listened to it, the foundation was there. The wiring is beautiful, is laid out well and looks extremely clean. The subwoofer enclosure, which weighs in excess of 300 pounds, uses six MW190s in an isobaric configuration and is completely decoupled from the floor. Dynaudio speakers (model number MW180) are also flawlessly installed and fully decoupled from the structure of the door. For the front sound stage, Jon also employs Dynaudio's MD130 tweeters and MW150 midranges. The overhead compartment holds Genesis amplifiers and signal processors, all very clean in an excellent use of space. The engineering is awesome, and it's only just begun.

Click here for sound deadening installation photos.

RF View of the Custom Pod and Door

Note the Severe Attention to Detail.

As John loaded the first test disk, he selected "Spanish Harlem" and for those of you who have listened to this track, there is a high point near the end of the track that always causes sound systems to break up, always. As Jon ran the volume up to midway, Doug turned back and looked at me, we both thought "OK, listen for the distortion." But it never came, the track played and powered through the most distressing part with ease. The smoothness and tonal quality of the system gave me goose bumps, and I was sitting in the back of the van! Doug's jaw was nearly on the floorboard as Jon continued to demo various jazz tracks and I was in back itching to have a listen from center stage.

The Power Distribution Center.

Comments From Highly Respected Individuals.

This Signature Confirms It All.

When I sat down in the drivers seat, I had to hear "Spanish Harlem" again. It sounded even better and that was the first time I'd ever heard that track with such power, smoothness and clarity. As I continued to listen to various tracks, I was in awe of the height of the sound stage as well as the width and depth of it. The response was so sharp and clear I blinked every time the high hats hit and flinched when the midbass attacked. I thought, "This is definitely worth being late to the booth!"

The New Reference.
References for me are based on tonal quality, stage height, width and depth and install quality. And until recently, there was not one vehicle that encompassed all of these characteristics. So I guess you could say I had many references. John's van encompasses all of these and even raises the stakes by smacking around many of the high end home systems I've heard. Jon has worked and will continue to work very hard to achieve unparalleled excellence in his designs. This vehicle has been regarded as the best sounding vehicle many of the home and pro audio guys have ever heard, and they are a hard bunch to convince. I think a lot of guys will knock this vehicle out of sheer ignorance and that is a shame. Cascade Audio Engineering is very proud to be a part of this amazing auto sound project. It confirms that those who want the best, choose the best. I can't wait to see this van when it is finished, hopefully Jon will make it up here to Central Oregon to visit us this summer.

If you want to get a hold of Jon Whitledge, please visit.

To read more about this auto sound system.

Adios CES.
This was most likely the last CES for us. Am I sad? No. We have enough shows on our calendar to keep us busy and the removal of one does not bother us a bit. Our dealers and distributors worldwide know we are not going out of business so that's not a factor. What's it boils down to is the value of CES, it's just not there. With rising show costs and fewer national and international dealers and distributors coming to the show, it's not as valuable to us anymore.

Thank you CES for the friendships we've made and good times we've had.
Thank you for the all the late night parties both good and bad.

Sometimes we were in a big tent in a parking lot,
Mostly we were in the North Hall, set up in the middle of it all.

Thank you for Nicole from MA Audio and the Blinder girls.

The show at times was very loud and our hearing we may not regain.
We will never forget meeting the celebrities and others of fortune and fame.

We won't miss the lunchtime twelve dollar hamburgers and fries,
We won't miss the twenty dollar parking and 1 mile hikes.

Thanks again CES for the occasional heart ache and pain,
From now on the second week in January just won't be the same.

Paul M. Messett
Cascade Audio Engineering
Sales & Marketing Manager

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