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Hong Kong: A License to Thrill, Part 1 – From Hong Kong with Love.

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Every Day an Audio Show

“Hey Richard, will you be attending the California Audio Show in California this summer?”

“Sure. Are you going?” I reply.

“Yes. I have saved up for the air and hotel and am excited to hear all those brands I read about in the press. The hotel is booked and the kids will fly  with their mom down to Disneyland.”

Does any of this sound familiar?

Similar conversations take place every year with folks planning their annual or bi-annual visit to the “event” known as the audio show.

Imagine what it would be like if every day there was an audio show? I wonder if you can. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. A land where every day is an audio show? Well friends, that land is Hong Kong.

As a young lad, Asia always seemed to me to be an exotic mistress with its flashing lights, martial arts, mysterious foods, and beautiful women who were sultry by day and deadly ninja assassins by night. Asia was James Bond’s playground where baccarat trumped poker as the game of choice, played in broodingly lit red-tinged hotels where it seemed that You Only Live Twice.

Moving from British Columbia, Canada, to Hong Kong back in 2011, I planned to fulfill a two-year teaching contract and return home. Two years have now become nine and Hong Kong has become my home away from home. You Only Live Twice isn’t just a Bond film; it is the way I feel about my second life in Hong Kong (HK). HK has become a kind of mistress. She offers a totally different world from my western upbringing.

The endless array of premium sports cars weaving in and out of traffic, the well-tailored suits, and the fashionable thirty-somethings showing off their posh handbags, jewels, and exotic manicured pets. The world of James Bond that I imagined has come alive.

Zigzagging through the crowds of Hong Kong you shall assuredly improve your skiing skills as you navigate through the sea of people. Looking down from a drone’s eye view you will see a sea of people looking deeply into the glow of their smartphone screens all seeming akin to human bumper cars.

Had 007 been an audiophile, Hong Kong would have stirred his spirit and shaken his soul.

Clearaudio Statement turntable (back left), VTL Monoblocks – 1 pair per speaker, Rockport Technologies Arrakis loudspeakers

Hong Kong has likely forever ruined the excitement of the audio show-going experience for me in the west. Let’s see, what shall I do this fine Saturday? I know, I will get on the MTR and within 25 minutes I will be in Kowloon. A short walk from the train exit passing the sights and sounds of the crowds, I will arrive at the Grancastle Building in the MongKok district. A twenty-something floored building where virtually every floor is one audio showroom stacked upon another. Take the elevator to the top and head down floor by floor and room by room. Here, retail spaces are filled with some of the most expensive and exotic brands in the audio world. Oh James!

YG Acoustics, Luxman, Pass Labs,etc.

Twenty rooms? That doesn’t seem like a large show to me? Wait! I forgot to mention that within a five-minute walking radius of this building, there are six or seven more buildings that are beckoning you to listen and to open your wallet. Moreover, there are several other buildings specializing in second-hand items. Oh yes, the second-hand market where you will find your classic McIntosh or Kondo tube amplifiers or large Krell monoblocks or Magico and Wilson Audio speakers.

Ten to fifteen minutes in either direction on the train will land you in two other audiophile hotspots where you will once again find buildings with specialty audio retailers, repair shops, and of course stores dedicated to selling tubes. They will sell you rare NOS tubes, run of the mill tubes and — being China —fake NOS tubes. They will rub off the silk screening on new $10 tubes and put a fake label of an old NOS tube and charge $200. Caveat emptor.


Richard Austen will return


LS 3/5as Are Forever


Copy editor: Dan Rubin


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One Response to Hong Kong: A License to Thrill, Part 1 – From Hong Kong with Love.

  1. Bill Feiss says:

    I too, arrived Honkers in 2011, but we only stayed three years. I did however find and get lost many a time amongst the audio shoppes. We are returning this summer for a short visit to see old friends and I want to correct the awful mistake I made of not acquiring my much dreamed of old McIntosh rig. There was a small, stand alone, dark alley shoppe in TST, that seemed to specialize in old Macs and other tubed equipment. I was wondering if you know of the place or others similar and would share that with me. Thanks!

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