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2010 California Audio Show Original Commentaries IV

Boppin' Around Audio Shows

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As an audio columnist/reviewer you have a great excuse to go to audio shows. I hardly ever miss going to Denver and I personally avoid CES like the plague. It’s not that CES isn’t a good show, it’s just in the wrong city. I loved and miss the New York shows and the one we had in San Francisco. Now thanks to the hard work of Constantine Soo, Dagogo’s editor we have a brand new show here in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Going to audio shows is really is one of the fun things about the hobby. Why? Well, let me take a few minutes of your time to talk about what you should get out of attending a show. Suppose you have already been to the show for one day and are now resting and flipping through the show catalogue. Before I go any further let me suggest if you have a computer, iPhone, or if you’re a lucky dog with an iPad handy you should go to and read “The Beatnik’s Journey: Two Dilemmas from the Rocky Mountains.” This was my attempt to give our readers insight into the fundamental differences you will encounter in our hobby and at audio shows. For now let’s get back to answering the question: “Why go to Audio Shows?”

First, they are fun. You get to meet other audiophiles. I don’t know about you but before the internet I only personally knew a few of our kind. You also get to meet and talk with people who make the equipment you own or want to own. I bet you have been shocked how passionate some of them are about music and equipment. For some it is obvious that it is more of a passion than a business. Of course you might run across someone who is just the opposite. Then, if you care about it you get to meet some of the people who write the reviews and columns you read. You get to discover how reviewers are as different from one another as you are from the other people who do your job. For me, the people are the most fun thing about audio shows, but I know you came to hear the equipment. So, on to point two.

Second, audio shows give you a chance to be exposed to different ways of attempting to reproduce music in our homes. It’s not really fair to judge the sound of specific pieces of equipment at shows for numerous reasons: rooms, break in, setup, associated equipment, and noise just to name a few. I would warn against quick impressions at audio shows, but I would suggest that if you take your time they give you a real opportunity to hear and come to understand the differences in audio design philosophy. You should make the effort to hear a pair of Lowther or Feastrex drivers driven by a SET (single-ended triode) amp, some planers, maybe some full-range electrostats, mini-monitors, floor standing two-ways, and a few large multi-driver speakers, as well as some designed with dead (inert) cabinets, some designed with live (resonating) cabinets.

When you listen to these ask the right questions. Does it move me emotionally? Does it sound anything like live music? Most important, is it fun and do I like it? Chances are you can find system of each design philosophy that you like, but with some effort you will find which camp you are in at this point in your life. That discovery alone will be worth the effort to attend the show, for now you can go home and work on a system designed for the sound that you truly like.

Third, you can take your own music and hear these systems with music you like and know. This should enable you to discover which design philosophy comes closest to feeding your emotional need for music. I highly suggest you do this because most people play what sounds best on their system, they’re only human. Of course, one of the fun things about audio shows is discovering new music.

Lastly, don’t be shy, speak up and talk to people, you’ll be surprised what you can learn and with most people, you’ll be surprised how much they care.

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