If you think that the annual CES is about audio, you're in the vast minority. The figures of a recent NY Times feature tell a very different story. Profiling attendance costs for a technology company, "...it starts with $24,500 for reserving 700 square feet of booth space on the sprawling convention center floor, tens of thousands more to furnish and operate the booth, plus $300 a night for hotel rooms for each of the 29 Diego employees who are attending the convention. Then there is the cost of rental vans, thousands of dollars to advertise at the show and meals for employees. The eight-year-old company, which makes gear and software for home entertainment, estimates that it will spend $500,000 to $1 million on the show this year."

If you look at the keynote speakers which traditionally usher in the event, the presence of Microsoft, Dell and Disney merely underscore that the big money isn't written in hi-end audio - not that anyone really believed that anyway. According to the Times articles, CES "provides more than $80 million in revenue for the Consumer Electronics Association, an industry trade group and lobbyist." Meanwhile, "the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority estimates that 140,000 attendees and 2,700 exhibiting companies will pump about $230 million into the city economy this year, 40 percent more than the show generated in 2001."

The article goes on to break down the madness that is exhibiting at CES further, itemizing a number of hidden costs which would not occur to the average attendee wondering why his favorite company wasn't there or didn't show off in a ball room-sized venue. Then there are the shit-happens mishaps. They can range from merely annoying to catastrophic. Shipments get speared by forklifts, high-priority deliveries rejected by hotel clerks who fail to read closely enough to realize that the addressee is a guest who put his room number on the shipping papers. Both this and more happened to OnTrack Audio who endeavored to show off their new Directorate Loudspeaker System and persevered with the assistance of helpful fellow manufacturers.

2007 saw the Alexis Park replaced by the Venetian, a more expensive if also more upscale venue that's further bedeviled -- for show purposes -- by a large-scale casino and overloaded elevators which can't be bypassed when many exhibits are on the 29th floor. One of the Alexis Park's attractions was not having to walk through or around a smoke-filled casino. Reports about the Venetian as venue vary. SoundStage! Editor Marc Mickelson reported very favorable responses from exhibitors while some manufacturers reported to us that they won't attend again in preference of the RMAF show in Denver. Certain manufacturers had told us ahead of time that the split-level rooms in the Venetian weren't suitable for their purposes. They'd be at the St. Tropez of T.H.E. Show instead, fully aware that now being outside the formal CES perimeter of Venetian, Sands and Convention Center, they might suffer reduced attendance. Other manufacturers took a year out to let management sort out first-year issues with the Venetian and quiz fellow makers post-CES on whether to attend again next year or not.

No matter how you slice it, hi-end 2-channel audio is the least important segment of CES. Despite the very best efforts by the organizers to create a dedicated venue that's suitable for active demos, our interests at this event are really a fifth-wheel affair. The flip side is that CES, first and foremost, is an opportunity for manufacturers to meet their existing distributors all in one place and court new ones. To seek out the five or ten exhibits that may make up any given importer's portfolio is a far lesser challenge than it is for the press to attempt covering everything - which would have to include many offboarders and has become de facto impossible. Offboarding in non-CES hotels is a long-standing tradition. It works beautifully for that business aspect which focuses on established distribution. Your expected visitors aren't as pressed for time. They actually appreciate the more isolated nature of your exhibit which is freer from distractions. When it comes to attracting new distributors however who are now expected to go out of their way to find you, it's far less convenient. Ditto for the press.

6moons didn't cover CES this year. My present location in the Mediterranean makes access quite inconvenient and present airline security for overseas flights to the US merely compounds matters. Those on my staff based in America who've been to Las Vegas in years past expressed no interest to formally do it again. Considering how many US publications alone cover the Consumer Electronics Show -- the Primedia books, The Absolute Sound, PFO, SoundStage, ETM, StereoTimes, Audio Federation, AudioXsell, forum participants and more -- I'd rather focus on EU and Asian events now. Those are more out of the way for US-based correspondents and thus less extensively covered. Remember, the press at large is expected to finance its own show reports. What to cover isn't merely a function of interest and time. It also becomes a matter of expense. It's the rare show organizer who is sympathetic to this and offers to cover travel and hotel expenses.

What you can expect from us this year is coverage of the Munich show; at least one Asian show still to be determined; and assorted reports of smaller European events and factory tours. There's little benefit or attraction to having all the press cover all the same events. Hence we'll take advantage of our present location to explore certain paths less traveled.