by Bryan Beasley

As someone who’s had a long, sordid affair with audio, I was excited to check out my local HiFi show here in Southern California.  I hit I-5 South leaving behind the June gloom of Hollywood and arrived in sunny Irvine by mid morning. After tossing the keys to the valet and working through registration, my spidey senses started to tingle as I was finally ready to swing into my friendly neighborhood audio show –  heroically titled: “T.H.E. SHOW”!!! (or the less Avengers-esque: “The 2018 Home Entertainment Show at Irvine”).

The first thing I noticed is that this is a Southern California event, in every sense – we had classic cars (Rolls to Ferraris), food trucks, cigar lounges, and vendors specializing in facials.  Let’s be honest, many of the attendees, myself included, could use a little freshening of the face! It’s not a huge show, which I welcome. I was able to take my time and dive into each room / booth knowing I had time to hit up everything I wanted to see & hear.  

First stop was Royole who makes a product called Moon.  With my filmmaker background, the tag “A Truly Immersive Mobile Cinematic Experience” caught my eye.  It basically looks like a VR rig, but it’s not – it’s a HD screen attached to high fidelity noise canceling headphones.  It sounded great and looked sharp, but I had a lot of trouble trying to get the heavy apparatus to perfectly stay in place.  I was watching movie trailers and it performed adequately for those few minutes. However, I don’t know if I could watch an entire episode of television, full film, or a sporting event – I’d be fussing with it way too much, trying to get it to stay on my head just right.  It looked amazing, but nothing I’d put my hard earned money into.

Eventually, I found my way into the AGD Productions room.  There I was seduced by the sweet amber light of the AGD Vivace GaNTube MonoBlock amplifier.  With Allen Sides’ Ocean Way Audio speakers attached, the system was humming and had pulled a packed room.  Allen, a multi-grammy award winning producer, was basically DJ’ing. Showing the range of the setup, he pushed and pulled between classical, standards and good old rock-n-roll.  With a tap of the shoulder, Alberto Guerra, AGD’s CEO, introduce himself to me. Alberto, with his smooth Italian accent, took me on an in-depth tech walkabout explaining the magic of the GaNTube sound.  Most of it went over my head, but what I do know is that the system truly had a complex intensity – I loved it.

I was so impressed with the dynamic duo of Alberto Guerra & Allen Sides that I made sure Brian Hunter & I had them on our FaceBook LiveStream (Listen NOW on the Part Time Audiophile FaceBook Page, or see the embed below).  The one question I wanted to know is how these two guys met. Alberto, who is relatively new to the manufacturing side of the audio world, told the endearing story of how one industry profesional would push him to meet with another and on down the line, until he found himself in the Burbank offices of Ocean Way Audio.  He hooked up his amp, hit play, and then Allen Sides walked in. For the next hour Allen stalked the room listening from every angle. “It’s like when you smell something bad in the kitchen and sniff around looking for the source”, Alberto said. It was an immersed assessment, after which, Allen says, “This sounds good, really good”.  It wasn’t until Alberto saw the wall filled with Platinum Albums (from the likes of Sinatra, Diamond, Manilow, and Aerosmith) all engineered and mixed by Allen, that he realized he’d just passed the ultimate audiophile test. I’m very much looking forward to what these two have instore for us in the near future.

Like an awkward Peter Parker trying to navigate high school, a 2nd time show guy like me can sometimes feel overwhelmed at these close knit hobby gatherings, but every vendor I talked to made me feel right at home.  Honestly, I’m proud to call this modest little HiFi show my local yearly audio hang. In true comic book form, T.H.E. SHOW might be small, but like the “real” friendly neighborhood spider-man, it packs a big punch.