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After all: 2008

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2009 CES and T.H.E. Show are coming up swiftly, and as Dagogo’s staff prepares for coverage of the annual events, I would like to put in my two cents’ worth of what I’ve learned in 2008 and share it with everybody.

Similar to my experiences in all previous shows, Exhibitors’ systems at this year’s Rocky Mountain Audio Fest (see the Dagogo Coverage) did not sound their best until they had run the course of the burn-in process for a day or two. As a matter of fact, I was asked by several Exhibitors to return on the final two days of the show to listen and write my show report, for their systems would have burned-in properly by then and would sound their best.

My predicament is that I intended to stop by any given Exhibit only once, then I would have to move on, which means the listening impression of certain Exhibits that I obtained in the first days of the show would just be as final as the ones I got in the last two days. A show is supposed to be fun for everybody, but a Show Report is useless if its content is not relevant to its readers, especially when accounts of detailed listening impression are involved.

The ability to burn-in the systems prior to the show is absolutely crucial, and apart from initiating the burn-in process days before the show, I don’t see much alternative for Exhibitors. Unless there is a device that Exhibitors can use to accelerate the burn-in process …

The other practice that I hope Exhibitors will also consider implementing is the provisioning of a System List of their Exhibits. Such detailed information on paper will not only be helpful to journalists for their show coverage use, it will also allow attendees to have better appreciation of what goes into the system and thus a more lasting impression of the system. After all, with all the finance and labor that have gone into making your Exhibit a reality, it only makes sense to do the most sensible thing: Let people know what you have and let them leave with that information for later reference.

Dagogo even offers free PDF version of products that it reviewed to the companies that provided the review samples. If you have a product that we reviewed and you would like to give out nicely formatted copies of it to your show visitors, just drop me a line.

Hopes for the Industry

The high-end audio industry is decaying along with its middle-aged and senior audiophile demographics, and many of its manufacturers, importers and dealers will not survive for long without an infusion of the next generation of audiophiles.

As of October 2008, Wadia Digital sold over 6,000 of its 170 iTransport ($379), and there are millions of iPod™ in the hands of the younger population. The question is: Will the average dealer be ready when the younger generation walks into his store and asks to play music via the million-dollar system from the iPod?

An Exhibitor was visited by a 22-year-old show attendee at the show, who asked to play his un-audiophile, heretical sound effects and “music” CD on his expensive system. That young man was a recent college graduate with a Master Degree and was already a fully-salaried government employee. This Exhibitor proceeded to sell a pair of his loudspeakers to this young attendee, who will soon be purchasing more items, too.

I am beginning to realize that there are more financially affluent young people interested in our hobby than I once thought, and if we are to survive this economy and prosper in the long run, all of us, audiophiles, dealers, importers and the sales personnel, need to take note when a young man in his T-shirt, jeans and cap walks in. Exhibitors need to acknowledge the interest of the young person and offer to play his music. We, the audiophiles, then, need to be patient and not boycott this young man’s presence by walking out. It’s all about whether we are positioning this hobby collectively as one for older folks or for people in all walks of life and of all ages.

In addition to the very seminal mentorship of an older sales staff, we need younger blood in the selling end as well, for the younger sales force will not only have the same energy level and be able to communicate more directly with a customer of his generation, he will also be more likely to interest the young customer to return.

There may also come a day during shows when someone walks into an Exhibit and asks to play music from his iPod. I witnessed the ubiquity of the Wadia device at the recent RMAF, which was testimonial to such keen awareness on the part of the Exhibitors and I applaud them, even though there still haven’t been many of such play requests by attendees yet.

Hearing Difference

Speaking of the younger listeners among us, a 19-year-old kid, I mean young adult, visited me recently and I played some music for him. He actually preferred the sound of a class-D solid-state amplification over that of a pair of SET monoblocks many times more expensive, and he kept asking me to increase the volume until I couldn’t take it anymore. I remember when I was his age, I would crank up my Sony Discman’s volume so loud that even people on the 100dB+ noisy bus could hear the sound leakage from my earbud, and I would still feel very comfortable.

It would seem that younger people can take sonic abuses more gracefully than the older folks, and what is deemed painstaking to our ears is perfectly comfortable to them. When I was his age, I could eat anything, not sleep for days and not follow any of the health routines that I have today and still not get fat, or even get bad skin. If we, the older, more experienced and financially more capable generation are progressively resorting to softer-sounding sound systems just to accommodate our reduced tolerance of sound, then it follows that the audiophile hobby is truly meant for the younger generation, for they can take the heat and enjoy the sound more than we can.

What are those old degenerates doing playing lame-sounding music with obsolete, degenerate vacuum tube electronics? Well, my only comfort in all this is knowing that everyone gets old.

Let me relate what a loudspeaker manufacturer recently shared with me. He has been attending live concerts quite regularly, whether it was a classical symphony event in a concert hall, or a jazz ensemble in a club. He told me that his tolerance in higher frequencies had gone so badly that he was more and more comfortable listening to his audio system at levels and settings he would enjoy. He believed his hearing at his age had changed so much that the direction of his design must change with him to reflect his new priorities, at the risk of alienating his existing customers.

Room Acoustics at Show

On the acoustics of demonstrations at the show, I was surprised to see how inattentive many Exhibitors were in addressing the acoustics of their hotel rooms. To my ears, suboptimal room acoustics hampered the efforts of many companies who took tremendous efforts to partake into the show only to leave the final, most crucial element of their Exhibits to the mercy of the brutal acoustics of the rooms. There were a few Exhibitors that went to great lengths in altering the acoustics of rooms to become less chaotic, and they included MIT with the hiring of an acoustic consultation firm in setting up its room, Aaudio Imports in its employment of Golden Acoustics modules, Scaena Iso-Linear Array in their commendable application of hanging ceiling panels between the loudspeakers and the listening position, et cetera, but not everyone can afford the resource muscles of the likes of MIT.

Recently, Dagogo Senior Reviewer Ed Momkus reviewed the Lyngdorf RP-1 RoomPerfect™ room correction device, and its intriguing potential has been on my mind since. I haven’t had the chance of experiencing one for myself yet, because all review samples were taken; but I experienced a most impressive demonstration of the taming of the shrewd acoustics at Lyngdorf’s 2008 RMAF demonstration. To all Exhibitors: I urge you to experience the $3,800 RP-1 and see if it will help you in your future show efforts. Send me a line and tell me how it went.

All of us at Dagogo wish our readers a prosperous and safe 2009.

Thank you for your readership.

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