Being that I am now 42 years old and have worked in Telecom and AV for the better part of 2 decades, I have 12+ trips to Las Vegas completed and feel like I know what to expect each time I fly into Harry Reid International Airport. First, it was the annual DIRECTV Revolution Conference, then it was Channel Partners, followed by InfoComm in alternating years. As I have explained to my wife (who has never been), I feel like the mystique of Las Vegas wears off after the first or second trip out there. However, when I was approached back in 2019 with the chance to attend my first ever JBL Fest, I felt the type of excitement as if I had never been there and was eager to experience a new list of firsts. Unfortunately, a family health scare cancelled my trip that year and 2 years-worth of a Pandemic further delayed my first JBL Fest until 2022. Having enjoyed last year as much as I did, I still felt a certain sense of the “exciting unknown” when I was invited to attend again this year. Along with our Exertis Almo Incentive Winners – Josh Taylor, Kyle Smith, Randy Robinovitch, and Ray Farler, I headed out to Las Vegas and made sure to document JBL Fest 2023 for all of you!

Landing Las Vegas, you are almost immediately greeted by hosts holding “JBL Fest” signage at the baggage claim area and are ushered to a waiting shuttle (aka a rather swanky party bus) which took us to the Park MGM where we would be staying for the next 2 days. Surprise #1 on this trip was while I was checking in and I lift my head to notice Kevin Humphrey, Harman Distribution Manager (and close friend), standing next to me. I have always said that I am only as successful as those around me, so to be able to share this experience with someone deserving like Kevin made the event that much more rewarding. We then walked to the Hospitality Suite where I received a welcome packet and the “infamous” JBL Fest Swag Bag. This year, the bag contained several JBL branded items such as water bottles and hand sanitizer, but the highlight was the customized pair of JBL Tour Pro 2 earbuds. If you are not familiar with these, they are JBL’s newest noise cancelling earbuds which were featured in WIRED’s Best of CES 2023. Spatial Audio, wireless charging, and a first of its kind touch display on the charging case make these anything but your typical earbuds. I had to open and pair them with my phone the second I got to my room! Once we got to the complimentary lunch, I was able to meet with our team as well as with Frank Joseph and Whitney Bosch from the Harman marketing team as we game-planned the day and discussed all that was happening.

Next stop was a VIP-access tour of Allegiant Stadium which is where the Las Vegas Raiders play their home games. Seeing as how I just recently took my daughter on a tour of Citizens Bank Park as well as Lincoln Financial Field, this was right up my alley! Aside from going down to the field level and experiencing this newer facility up close, we received some behind the scenes sneak peaks into the A/V which included their control/IT room which housed an impressive 50+ Crown DCI4x1250N amplifiers and multiple BSS Processors amongst other items. Simply standing next to the rack of amps was eye-opening as you realize how much it takes to truly power that type of operation. While we didn’t get up close to the speakers, we did learn it was the JBL VLA Series of Line Array Speakers which are typically found in stadium-type applications. Following the tour we had a little downtime before meeting up for the evening welcoming reception at the Hotel, which we were greeted by a team photo opportunity and another swag bag complete with a custom JBL Fest Masterclass Bluetooth speaker. This opening event was followed by an even bigger party at the onsite club. Mingling with a diverse group of worldwide influencers and Harman executives is always fun but I was fortunate enough to make my way to the Harman VIP lounge which then led to a once in a lifetime opportunity! Kyle Smith and I were invited into a back room where we met and had a photo opportunity with Lenny Kravitz! To finish things off was a rather surprise appearance from Grammy winning artist Bruno Mars who sang along with some of his biggest hits. Not a bad way to spend a Thursday night!

Waking up on Friday I knew we were in for a long but rewarding day. First off was breakfast which came complete with a Johnny Fly Sunglasses gifting station! You essentially walk up and try on several pairs of high-end sunglasses and then say “ok ill take these”. The wrap them up in a custom JBL case and you are on your way! We then made our way to the Installed Audio Masterclass presented by Saben Shawhan, Director of Partner Business Development for Harman. If you have never attended one of Saben’s classes, it is a MUST ATTEND. The passion he has for audio comes through loud and clear and he also plays a very eclectic mix of music to demonstrate all the features of JBL’s product categories. During the Masterclass we learned about the CBT Series column arrays, the portable PA category, the SRX900 Series, the VTX Series line arrays, the new outdoor landscape speakers, the performance software they have for the line arrays, and the new SLP slim surface mount series. This was a lot of products to be in one space they their team demo’ d all of it! While I had to fight my urge to belt out the chorus of “Hello” by Adele, I was really excited for Rage Against the Machine being played on the VTX arrays and subs. As I mention to our team multiple times, “you really felt it in your chest!”

After the Masterclass was complete, we all headed nearby to Flyover Las Vegas. Dubbed the “ultimate flying ride” this attraction straps you into your seat in front of a fully immersible screen that makes you feel as though you are flying through the sky of amazing landscapes. Now, for those of us who might have some issues with motion sickness, such as yours truly, you are urged to make an “X” symbol with your arms and the very nice ushers will take you off the ride. There is no shame in my game, and I was very happy to have my feet back on the ground asap! After some much-needed rest time back in our rooms, the shuttles took us to the Life is Beautiful festival which was being held on Freemont in downtown Vegas. I personally have never been to this area in the past, however I was amazed that they closed down and fenced in the entire area to set up 4 concert stages along with vendors and other private access locations. We immediately went to the JBL Stage with VIP access where we all met up for drinks, food, and music. I ventured off while Bebe Rexha was performing and found myself with perfect view of the main stage where an EDM DJ was getting the crowd fired up for the next act. After looking through the street vendors and other areas, I called it a night as I listened to Bebe Rexha perform with special guest Tyler Hubbard (from Florida Georgia Line). The Killers were the headliner of Friday night and through videos I saw from Josh Taylor, it seemed our entire team left the trip on a high note!

To close things out, it was really a phenomenal experience and somehow the Harman/JBL team took an already great event and then amplified it even more (pun intended!). I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to experience this time with a vendor like JBL but to also receive all access looks at their product lines and be up close and personal to the a lot of the very people who designed it. There is no better place to be and if you ever get a chance to attend JBL Fest in the future, I promise you will leave with a much better understanding of their vast product lines as well as the perfect applications for each. Job well done to all involved in the planning of this “must attend” event!

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Robert Voorhees
About the Author

Rob Voorhees | CTS, CTP, DSCE, CTNS, Dante

BDM II – Technical Specialist

Supported Manufacturers: Business Communications Services, and Harman: AKG, AMX, BSS, Crown, DBX, JBL, Soundcraft, Martin Lighting

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