See how sexist this headline reads? Let's flush it down van der loo and let Marja share her impressions of CES 04 from a different perspective, one that refuses to get mixed up in this type of male-dominated skewed reality. Here goes:

What do Kathy Gornik, EveAnna Manley, Jennifer Whitewolf-Crock, Kara Chaffee, Eunice Kron, Marilyn Marchisotto, Anette Duevel and Gabi van der Kley have in common? They all are strongly involved in the audio industry - and most of them were present at CES 2004 in Vegas. Women in audio? Aren't they just cuties acting as poster signs while handing out leaflets? Isn't the not-so-cute kind always complaining about the ugliness and placement of audio gear to annoy Mister Audiophile?

Wrong. These and other forms of prejudice are inappropriate and should stop. Many writers vent such sentiments in their articles, openly or tongue-in-cheek. Moreover, as one of the very few female writers among the testosterone crowd of male audiophiles, I can tell this attitude from many other signs. We should really start a separate discussion about the self-proclaimed tag of audiophile.

The above-mentioned women have put a heavy stamp on the industry. Let's name some of their tasks: CEO of Thiel and chair of the Consumer Electronics Association CEA - Kathy. Designers of amps and/or cables: EveAnna (Manley), Jennifer (Jena Labs), Kara (de Havilland). What about the managing director of Acarian Systems, makers of the Alon Lotus speakers (Marilyn), or Duevel (Anette) or Crystal Cable (Gabi)? None of these ladies got or maintain their jobs for just good looks.

The HiFi world and in particular the audiophile department is mainly a male world. The proof of male dominance is ever so clear at shows like the CES. In the massive Convention Center where consumer electronics and the odd piece of HighEnd gear are presented, some finer examples of our sex are hired to perform certain PR jobs. Flash teeth and other items. Save men from stumbling around like sleepwalkers. Stop 'em dead in their hypnotized tracks. Hand out leaflets. Direct them to a particular exhibit. Do you want my autograph? My picture?

Focusing on the more HiFi/HighEnd-oriented locations in the Alexis Park and St. Tropez, bedrooms are transformed into listening rooms. Here we see another but related image. It starts with emptying the hotel rooms.

That leaves you with bare -- and because we're talking the US -- tastelessly beige rooms. Upon entering these dormitories, we find the bathroom on the left or right also decorated in drab beige. These bathrooms are often used for storage. The endlessly stacked boxes, if you're lucky, leave just the bowl and sometimes the washbasin accessible. Some rooms also sport a sort of breakfast bar whose presence further distracts from listening space to spell something altogether less carefully put together than a sanctuary for magical sounds and music. In most cases, a couch placed in the center of the room forms the sweet spot. The standard couch of course comes in matching drab to complement the rest of the room. Nondescript earth tones are favorites.

For a standard US bedroom, this is as good as it gets. Our Dutch interior design guru Jan des Bouvries who, for the last 30 years or so, has been on a quest to add white to the home doesn't seem to be known here. The beds, though removed, leave behind their headboards. Those are still attached to the walls. In front of the window smack in the middle of the far wall, our exhibitor organizes his gear - speaker left, speaker right, a rack with the electronics in the middle. This setup causes the listener to look straight into daylight. Because we're in the desert, make that lots of bright, sunny daylight. As a remedy, the curtains are drawn. This transform the room into a dark dungeon. So we add a few lights to prevent accidents. A setup like this is common in about 98% of all exhibits. Nothing is added to the bare rooms, safe perhaps for the occasional plant in a corner, a poster on the wall.

Just a few rooms display a touch of creativity, demonstrate thinking outside the box. Here the hardware stuff finds itself in a different setup. Diagonal, perhaps, or across the length of the room. The most elusive setup we found was with Jacob George who put his fine Rethm speakers in an array turned around 180 degrees. Upon entering, you had to walk between the speakers to get to the couch which was placed in front of the window to face the door. The result? A much better image in the visual as well as listening sense. Was it because Jacob lives in India that he could think differently?

Acoustics are next. A hotel room is no listening room. The changing number of attendees make room response variable. Some rooms are treated with tube traps, Helmholtz resonators or other acoustical elements. A really nice solution is when the mattresses from the beds are used as room dampers. Yuck. Of course, exceptions to the above are available.

For example, great-sounding rooms were the Alon/DeHavilland, Audiopax and Rethm systems. All these rooms carried the signature of attention to minute details and placement based on intimate knowledge how the used components interact. In other words, both ears and eyes were thoughtfully used. The Brazilian music in the Audiopax room even inspired Ivette to spin designer de Lima across the floor for a few dance moves.

Now we get to presentation. CES is a trade show. Exhibitors look for new contacts to sell their products into new markets. Buyers attend to look for new products to add to their portfolio. We, the media, are the link between the industry and the consumer. We have to inform the reader/viewer about new market trends and products. So these three groups of interests are brought together by CEA and depend on each other. One would expect a general conduct in view of this fact. Not so in many cases. Imagine a corridor with rooms on both sides like at the St. Tropez, or a gallery like the Alexis Park. In each of these rooms, an exhibitor wants to share his offerings with us, the attendees. Well, we assume that this is why he's there. For reasons of sound isolation, the door to the room is standing barely ajar. Each room features an outside sign stating who and what can be expected inside. Most savvy attendees have made a list of rooms which they intend to visit for certain. Other room visits will be based on another criterion - more about this later

You walk up to this door, push it open with care -- you don't want to whack attendees right behind it -- and then... Well, now three possible experiences await you. One is the possibility that you entered a presentation in progress. All ins and outs of the gear on display are first explained, then made audible. The exhibitor, even amidst the full drive of his spiel, sends you a friendly nod of "hi, how ya doing". After the presentation and questions from the audience have been wrapped up, the exhibitor comes up to you and shakes your hand. Yes, a press badge does mark your status from a distance. Plus, an appearance like ours after years of show visits does help, too.

A second form of reception occurs when a representative of the exhibitor joins you the moment he (so far no she) is available and enters the conversation. Just as in the earlier welcome, such cases promise lots of info to be gathered. More importantly even, personalized listening is made possible. We had lots of fun with the Rchestra, Bratsch and Erik Vaarzon Morel recordings we used to x-ray the various systems. This sort of visit is the most valuable and leaves you with a positive while objective impression.

Much to our chagrin, the following type of non-reception happened to us on more than one occasion instead. Here the exhibitor is completely uninterested in the visitors of his room. There is no contact nor any written information. How handy would it be to have a sheet of paper detailing all the exhibited gear, the exact specs and prices. It only takes minutes to produce such a sheet. No, in these cases sheer arrogance ruled - or even worse, indifference.

When a woman enters a room in this so-called man's world, another three different receptions can be hers. First and most preferable under the circumstances, she is met as one of the guys, gender no issue. Second is the total neglect as mentioned above. The third option is selective neglect. This is the rudest approach. The answers are directed at the male companion/s. The woman asks, the man gets the answer. Is this fear or fair?

The criterion to enter a non-preselected room is for us music leaking through the door standing ajar. So-called audiophile recordings like the ones by Hugh Masekela or Eva Cassidy are first- class turndowns. In these rooms, any originality or fantasy is most likely missing. From rooms that radiate more daredevil music, there's always something to learn. Tango, Czardas, Gypsy, Villa-Lobos, Jonasz and the like - that is tantalizing. It also shows there's music behind the hardware. A striking notion is that rooms playing this kind of Music with a capital M have listeners stay significantly longer than other rooms. Rooms with mainstream audiophile sounds generate more visitors in a quantitative sense, but they stay only for a short while. It seems the span of attention with this type of fare is very limited.

Now we come to the point where women excel: Listening. Yes, the predictable remarks come to mind. Those are all yours to keep . Women do not listen to systems as so many men do; through the gear, we listen to the music instead. For a woman, it is very easy to, while walking through a CES hotel corridor, distinguish where music is played and where sound is produced. This feature must go back to the times when we needed keen survival techniques. Male hunters did not need to protect house and hearth against stealthy predators. They could attack a mammoth with plenty of noise.

Women bring subtlety to the surface. Look at the audio designs they have a say in. EveAnna's Harley is one of the finest tuned V-twins around. So are her Manley components. Kara Chaffee squeezes incomparable musicality out of a single GM70 valve in her 60-watt DeHavilland. Anette has a great influence over the stunning design of the Duevel loudspeakers and the Duevel room accordingly spread "welcome" all over us. Small things make big differences. Less is more.

Less is definitely more in the message of the only Dutch female exhibitor at CES. Gabi van der Kley used Las Vegas to present her new company Crystal Cable. Instead of following the trend towards thicker and thicker cables, Crystal Cable returns everything back to very fine proportions. The use of high-quality materials stems from aerospace and aviation techniques with production facilities to match. Next to their audio properties, these products also exude high aesthetic value.

The promotional materials show an elegant hand dressed with an interconnect as though a bracelet. To be honest, the thin shiny cable does have the look and feel of a jewel. The 1 meter long and barely 3mm thick interconnect we received clearly shows a silver braid underneath its clear cover. The silver conductors are injected with gold and insolated with Peek and Kapton. Though the cable is thin, it is extremely strong. Bending the cable at an angle greater than 90 degrees poses no problem and when bent back, no telltale marks remain.

A subtle cable needs subtle connectors. The ones used have a deep black coat and are crimped onto the conductors, not soldered. For multi-channel use, Gabi again offers single, extremely thin cables. Hiding these cables is very easy - but why would you now? We received a review set and will report our findings soon.

So guys, once and for all: A woman at a show like CES, T.H.E Show, HE and even VSAC is not an extension of the male audiophile, darling of the press. Be aware that we are knowledgeable in our own ways and know exactly what we want out of audio. We investigate and sort out the things we need to know about specs and backgrounds of our chosen equipment. We need our music and we get it the way we want - whether you get that or not. Next time one of our alien species enters your room, remember that the equipment interests us far less in what it is than in what it can do - make music that speaks to us through small cracks in long hallways stacked with door after door, room after room. Which ones we'll enter -- and stay in once we've entered -- may well depend on things you haven't fully considered before. But perhaps you should? To every male audiophile, there's a female companion... isn't it time you addressed us directly, rather than in passing or through our male friends?