Publisher Profile

The Now Listen Here Micro-Show

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Author’s note: What follows is a series of interviews with the coordinators and industry participants who collaborated to make the event possible. Others, inside and outside of the industry, should take in the content, using the knowledge gained to consider running micro-shows of their own across the country and around the world.


The Now Listen Here Micro-Show: Special Times Do Indeed Call for Special Measures, Now More Than Ever


These are indeed special times and the folks at dealership Now Listen Here took it upon themselves to meet the challenge head-on. They ventured into no man’s land by planning, coordinating, and running a HiFi Micro-Show, which took place the last weekend of September this year in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania at the Hyatt House Hotel.

The Now Listen Here shop is situated in Harrisburg, 95 miles away, 1.5 hours by car, so relatively local. Several well-known manufacturers made themselves and/or their gear available for the event: Jeff Joseph of Joseph Audio, Mat Weisfeld of VPI Industries, Jeff Rowland, Fyne Audio, and Transparent Cable, to name a few.

l-r: Aaron & Jessica Sherrick, Mat Weisfeld, Jeff Joseph and Shayne Tenace

This was no small feat under the circumstance and I (DB) interviewed dealership New Listen Here’s Aaron Sherrick (AS), Jessica Sherrick (JS), and Shayne Tenace (ST) to better understand not only the concept of such a Micro-Show but to find out what this means and may portend for the Hi-Fi industry moving forward.


DB: What would possess any of you/all of you to think in these pandemic times, with all the limitations and constraints that could be possible? What were you thinking?

AS: First and foremost, we missed connecting with the hi-fi community—both manufacturers and customers—and, in speaking with them, the feeling was mutual. Exhibiting at Capital Audio Fest is our biggest outreach effort, and when that canceled, we felt that we needed some kind of alternative. We also believed that if we created a viable event the attendance would be strong given that no other industry events are happening in the country.

Working within the stringent guidelines laid out by the state of Pennsylvania, Jessica and I started brainstorming some event format concepts.

JS: What were we thinking? We were thinking we missed seeing all of our Hi-Fi friends and family, at least I was. Aaron floated the idea of a small “show,” for lack of a better word, as a way to bring people together and highlight some of our manufacturers and set up some cool systems. Since I was updating my calendar that day and removing all our canceled vacations and events, I was for getting together with people.

I took a closer look at Pennsylvania’s mandates to see what it might need to look like while Aaron talked with a few select people about the event and what it would take to make them feel comfortable in such a situation.

ST: Well, first, I should probably point out that we willingly purchased a hi-fi store (first one for the Sherricks, third for me), so it should be obvious that we aren’t quite right, lol. In all honesty, for me, it boils down to a fundamental desire to be able to introduce folks to products we think are exciting. Nothing beats being able to hear, in person, how a system reproduces music yourself. Videos are fine and often quite informative, forums can be fine, and reviews can be useful, but none of those replaces hearing/experiencing the real thing. As the time came that we would normally be preparing for Capital Audiofest, we started asking ourselves, What CAN we do given the latest health information available and restrictions. I have to give credit to Aaron & Jessica for coming up with the format. When they shared the idea with me, I was sold.


DB: How were you able to convince/persuade/cajole manufacturers and vendors to hop on board with the idea and get so involved?

AS: We created the event format and safety protocols before approaching a single manufacturer. Without a fully realized plan, we knew that no one would be willing to participate. We also focused on manufacturers that were within driving distance to eliminate the fear of air travel. We’re fortunate to be within three hours of New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC. Despite the above, half of the manufacturers we approached declined, though some did support us in other ways.

ST: I think that it was a combination of four things, really: A solid plan that they agreed could be executed safely, a shared passion for sharing music and systems with people, relationships that we continue to try to build with them, and cabin fever.


DB: Given the rules and regulations regarding public events what was the most challenging aspect in the planning phase? And how did you manage the logistics of having the right number of people at any one time in the presentation rooms?

AS: The biggest challenge was complying with Pennsylvania’s gathering limit of 25 people. That number was for the entirety of the event, not just a single room, and included our staff and manufacturers. To manage this, we adopted a two-hour session format with defined times and had attendees register for a specific session. We had two listening rooms; attendees spent an hour in one room and then switched to the other room for the second hour. We used Eventbrite’s free ticketing website to track registrations and enforce capacity limits.

The other challenge was socially distancing listening chairs. With six feet between chairs, you quickly realize that a gigantic room is needed. Fortunately, we were able to locate a venue with 1,000 sq/ft rooms, but even that size can only accommodate about 12 chairs.

Attendees rightfully keeping their Social Distance

JS: The gathering limit and social distance aspect was trying. Each of the sessions needed to be considered a separate gathering and kept to only 25 people, which did include all of us working at the event. Registration was the only way to guarantee a person’s entry. We did allow walk-ins if there was space but a wavier needed to be signed and all safety precautions followed.

Social distance was the second issue, which caused two issues. First, it meant at most we could have 14 chairs in the room given the system location. So, while the rooms where 1,000+ square feet each we had to work around “crowding” issues. In the end, since we (and the facility) read the mandate as all the people registered for the event as a single gathering (even though we split it between the spaces) it wasn’t a huge issue for us. Some of the chairs in the back were just a little closer to the wall than we would have liked. The second issue: needing to keep chairs 6 feet away from each other only allowed for one or two good listening positions as the rest would be several feet away from the center position. I was fairly strict with this part (likely annoyingly so to the presenters) since this is where people would be spending time with those outside their bubble. To elevate this issue, in some sessions the presenters would move people around so everyone could get a chance to hear the systems from the very different positions.

ST: As I mentioned, earlier, Jessica & Aaron did the hard work involved with the planning. They took a lot of time measuring the dimensions of the spaces, mocking up likely system locations, etc. While getting the word out to people about the event and committing to a defined display window was a challenge, it allowed us to lock in the number of attendees in a room at a time.


DB: How did attendees react? Were they open to this strange new world? Or was it that they were so glad to get out of their homes and be around fellow audiophiles that any obstacle was surmountable.

AS: Attendees loved it! We had many people express their gratitude to us for putting the event together. Everyone was very respectful of wearing masks and socially distancing. Honestly, it didn’t seem that strange. I guess that’s 2020 for you!

JS: I spent most of my time at the registration table talking with guests and they were excited, very excited. And oh, so thankful for us hosting a listening event. There were several “boys’ days out” and a few couples on “date day” just enjoying some amazing systems and music. Wearing masks and having temperature checks at this point is almost standard for our lives.

We had people ahead of the event contact us from both camps. All said they were glad we were doing something but either they couldn’t risk attending since it wasn’t mandatory, or they didn’t go anywhere masks were required. Again, both sides were very polite but rightfully stood by their beliefs and understood ours.

ST: The attendees uniformly seemed extremely positive. I certainly believe that part of it was being able to get out and share in our mutual love of music and its reproduction in the home


DB: How did you decide upon the pairings of the gear in the presentation rooms? And who led the respective sessions? From what I gather the rooms were somewhat larger than normal. How did that impact gear selection, and how challenging was it to set up speakers appropriately?

AS: There were several considerations. First and foremost, we used products from the manufacturers that were presenting with us, Joseph Audio speakers and VPI turntables. VPI used this event to premiere their new universal Arm Pod. We also wanted to present products that were new to most attendees (Fyne Audio) and new to our store (Jeff Rowland and Chord Electronics’ Ultima line).

Given the limited number of attendees that we could accommodate we chose to show higher-end products. Using larger speakers like the Joseph Audio Pearl 20/20 Graphene and Fyne Audio F704 and F1-8 worked well in these larger rooms. We also played the much smaller Joseph Audio Pulsars and Perspectives with impressive success given the large room size and their diminutive footprints.

The Speaker setup was challenging in these larger rooms, especially with socially distanced chairs.The reality is that only one or two chairs had great sound, but attendees were understanding of these limitations.

JS: What would be a dream system with our brands? What would I want to learn about and hear? Do any of our new lines fit into this so we can highlight them? Are there any new products from our brands we can showcase? And we worked from there getting manufacturers on board and making sure we had everything in house (or coming with a manufacturer) ahead of the event. We had a few tight moments getting some new gear due to COVID delays but overall, we pretty much did what we set out to do system-wise.

ST: We did pair the gear based upon the different rooms. We knew that Joseph Audio speakers and Jeff Rowland gear partner extremely well together, so that was a natural combination. Jeff loves the VPI HW-40 table, so we also selected that table for that room. The Fyne Audio, Chord Electronics, and VPI room was a lot larger risk as both pairs of speakers demonstrated were the first pairs in North America, and the Chord Ultima series models were also the first to arrive and only showed up 10 days before the event. Knowing that the rooms were quite large certainly played into selecting the Fyne f704s as they are not small-room speakers. We didn’t plan to demonstrate the smaller F1-8s until I decided for grins to play them. In the VPI/Fyne/Chord room, Mat Weisfeld and I shared duties. I typically kicked things off, then we would tag in and out.

As far as speaker placement, the size of the room and the fact that we were trying to optimize for an audience that was socially distanced certainly was a challenge. There was a really strong bass mode (floor-to-ceiling) that was certainly tricky.


DB: In hindsight what would you have done differently? Assuming there is to be another Micro-Show how will you improve upon this one? Not getting too ahead of myself, would you even consider doing another event of this nature next year in 2021?

AS: Honestly, not much. The event went surprisingly well considering it was a completely new format, at least for us. Events like this are costly—similar to doing a show—so we must see some return to justify doing it again.

JS: I’m not sure there is much I would do differently, maybe order lunch a little sooner. I was prepared to deal with a lot of crazy but in the end, it went basically as we planned.

If we did it again, which we are not against, I would want to have a little more for people to hear. While the 2 systems we had were great and we have them both in our showroom now, having more variety and price points would be nice.

ST: Personally, since I get excited about introducing affordable gear to people, I would like to add a room or two built around a set system budget. Perhaps add in another dealer or two. I’d also like to figure out how to expand our audience a bit beyond the traditional base. We have some ideas there. I’d love to do another event towards the end of Q1 or Q2 of 2021.


DB: There must have been time for some socially distant/responsible attendee feedback. What did they think of the event? Did any of them translate to sales at the show? Or would it be fair to say they might very well become Now Listen Hear customers in the near term?

AS: Attendees loved it! We had many people express their gratitude to us for putting the event together.

We did not make any sales at the event, but considering the level of equipment we exhibited, I did not expect to. We planted some seeds and fertilized some existing ones, so I do expect that the event will bear fruit.

ST: The feedback I received certainly indicated that the majority appreciated the event. I believe that at least some of the attendees will be Now Listen Here customers in the near term.


DB: What were you all expecting to get out of the Micro-Show, both personally and professionally? Where either or both of those goals achieved?

AS: Sales are always the ultimate goal, but as I mentioned I didn’t expect to make them at the event. It will likely take 6-12 months before we can truly assess the impact on our business. To that end, the event allowed us to connect with new customers and reconnect with existing ones. Additionally, our advertising ahead of the event drew attention to our store as did the overwhelming press coverage that we received before, during, and after the event.

JS: Personally, it allowed me to stretch my event planning and organization skills. While we have participated in shows and similar events in the past it is a whole other thing when it is all on our collective plates. Add in the COVID factor and I’m proud of how well we did as first-timers during a crazy time.

Professionally, it was all about getting out in the community. Making connections. Getting people interested by showing off manufacturers’ best, new, and coming soon items. If we make a sale, awesome! But it was not the primary goal and one we may not see come to fruition for a few months.

ST: Personally, an energy that comes from sharing my love of both the music and gear that reproduces it. There is something magical about the shared laughter, sh**-eating grins, and body movement from hearing a great track that just MOVES you. Being able to experience that helped refill reserves. Professionally, I just wanted to continue to broaden our exposure, both of Now Listen Here and our partners, to the market. I believe that demonstrating consistency helps build confidence and, ultimately, sales. While that goal is harder to measure, we appear to have accomplished that goal. Lastly, we ultimately want to monetize the show. While it is a work in progress, I am confident that we will ultimately realize that goal as well

Lastly, the event was good for manufacturer/dealer relations, especially with the ones in attendance but also with the ones that supported us in other ways.


DB: What advice/counsel would you give others around the country and across the world looking to run their hyper-local Micro-Show?

AS: We’ve proven that it’s possible. It remains to be seen whether it is financially viable. Assuming you can find a venue with appropriately large rooms, gathering limits are the biggest factor. Had we not been limited to 25 people we could have had more than two listening rooms.

JS: Do it! Research the area you want to have the event, make sure you know and follow safety protocols, get your plans together, but be ready to adapt them, and go for it.

We need human connection and these events are a way to see old friends and make new ones.

ST: Just do it! Having said that, I also look forward to seeing what the promoters of the regional events come up with and how those events evolve.


For a fuller picture, I thought it would be a good to have one of the participating manufacturers chime in with their perspective on the event. Jeff Joseph (JJ) was happy to oblige and answer a few of my questions:

Jeff Joseph of Joseph Audio

DB: What possessed you, Joseph Audio, to participate in the Now Listen Here Micro-Show? How were you convinced that this was an event with which to be involved? And what gear did you bring to the event? And which bits garnered the most attention?

JJ: Since the pandemic has made it impossible to do traditional shows, I was intrigued by the possibility of Aaron & Jessica’s proposed event.
They assured me that all reasonable precautions would be taken — masks would be worn at all times, listeners and presenters would be physically distanced.

Our original plan was to feature the Pearl Graphene that just received a wonderful review in The Absolute Sound, but I had also brought a pair of Pulsar2 Graphene with me, and we soon learned that very few of the show attendees had heard them before. The listeners were surprised to hear such room-filling sound from such a compact pair of speakers.


DB: What was the best part of the weekend for you? Under these special circumstances, what was your biggest takeaway from the event? Is the hunger for HiFi and audiophile camaraderie still there on the part of the attendees.

JJ: One of the advantages of our speakers is a very broad listening window. While the imaging was more definite precisely in between the speakers, a great listening experience was had even by those who were seated far off to either side for maximum safety.

We had some wonderful takeout food from Saffron on Saturday that satisfied MY hunger. I enjoyed seeing everyone come out to listen. Most everyone wore masks properly. Hopefully, we can do something similar again.

As was Mat Weisfeld, (MW), of VPI Industries, famous for the turntables among other things.

DB: What possessed you, VPI Industries, to participate in the Now Listen Here Micro-Show? How were you convinced that this was an event with which to be involved? And what gear did you bring to the event? And which bits garnered the most attention?

MW: It was initially a tough decision since we have been very cautious about safety and maintaining everyone’s health, especially with another baby on the way. However, after a few talks with Aaron, it was clear they were taking every measure to ensure safety for the attendees and manufacturers. VPI has been doing its outreach via live streams and Zoom chats both with societies and customers in general. It seemed time to take that next step, in-person listening. VPI Industries supports their dealers no matter how crazy their ideas, and given Now Listen Here’s enthusiasm, their thinking outside the box to create a micro-show mimicking the norm… well. it was just what we all needed right about now.

We brought the VPI Anniversary HW-40 Vanquish Direct Drive to showcase its Direct Drive “Can” assembly, and the new “Universal Arm Pod.” The Arm Pod was the hero, being one of the few (or first for that matter) manufactured to work not just with our VPI arms but just about any other tonearm regardless of brand and/or length.


DB: What was the best part of the weekend for you? Under these special circumstances, what was your biggest takeaway from the event? Is the hunger for HiFi and audiophile camaraderie still there on the part of the attendees?

MW: The best part was that a happy medium was struck as we returned to an aspect of HI-Fi normalcy without sacrificing safety. Everyone masked up, attendance was capped, and all seats were spaced appropriately.

What truly excited me was to see that all of the attendees were genuinely interested in learning more about the products and listening to music. We were able to listen to tracks all the way through without interruption (talking, standing, moving about). This made connecting with attendees that much easier and fostered that audiophile camaraderie to which we’ve grown accustomed to at shows. It was that much more enjoyable because we’re able to talk directly to attendees and dive deeper not only into details but into recounting the stories behind the gear.

We (VPI), will continue with our live streams and Zoom chats, but this inspired us to consider re-opening VPI’s Listening House in a properly controlled setting and is encouraging for more micro-shows.


Now Listen Here’s Micro-Show was a bold and creative attempt to jump-start the Hi-Fi industry out of its collective complacency. The very lifeblood of the industry is the relationship between manufacturers, dealers, and their customers, both established and prospective.

Now is the time for all parties in the industry to take heed of the Questions & their Answers above and determine whether or not they would want to spearhead Micro-Shows in their cities. Who knows how long we are destined to live within the constraints and confines of this pandemic and when there will again be Hi-Fi Shows as we knew/know them? 2020 is a write-off and with cancellations already announced for 2021, those in the industry are going to have to accepted a new definition for an Hi-Fi Show.

Now Listen Here’s first and worthy attempt in Pennsylvania should be celebrated as a vanguard, a new take on an old chestnut. It should not be denigrated, nor downplayed for it being something other than that to which one has become accustomed.

While there are indeed many unknown quantities, what we do know is that even with the onerous but necessary policies, it is indeed possible to put on a Micro-Show and meet the needs of inquisitive audiophiles. While it is indeed too soon to gauge the financial success of this show, the goodwill and camaraderie that it has fostered shall go a long way in re-invigorating the spirit of audiophiles and manufacturers alike.

Let the responses above serve to inspire and precipitate others around the country to start Micro-Shows of their own.


Copy editor: Dan Rubin


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