Show Reporting

First, if you have a problem with show reporting, email us, don’t call.

Neli provides our customers and people interested in our store what is no doubt the most friendly, sales-pressure-free, and helpful advice people can find anywhere for their high-end audio systems. She is not a show report complaint department. That is my job 🙂 If you are really mad, email me directly at mike at

Not that anyone is really mad. Actually, 99.99% of the people really love the report this show – seems like we successfully walked that knife edge between saying nothing, glibly providing marketing copy, and blasting people for every sour note and incorrectly dampened and cabled doohickey. Whew! That blade is sharp…

But people are still finding us for the first time. And people see our report and then see all these others popping up that seem to have, uh, motivations that are different than ours.

Look, providing advertising copy “This system was to die for” in exchange for advertising revenues or semi-permanent equipment loans ain’t going to go away. At least not anytime we would call ‘soon’. People have to earn a living. Fine. [Of course, the reports that diss equipment as a threat or punishment because no equipment has been or is likely to be loaned to them is just a wee bit slimy]

[And the major magazines (like Stereophile, TAS, HiFi+) and the top webzines make enough money and do not HAVE to do this, and most of these don’t, AFAICT.]

But people see our report and they go wha? Where’s the ads? Where’s the ‘Pending Reviews’?

Oh, they are a dealer, so they must just diss all the rooms that do not have equipment that they sell.

A lot of people just deactivate their brains at this point. But if they accidentally leave them in the ON position, they will see that

1) we are an equal opportunity trash talker, and

2) if it sounded good we are likely to want to carry it so we can sell it and make money and that is a lot harder if there is a online report that says we think it sucked [hello? and even if a local dealer currently carries it, how long does it usually take before they decide to drop a product line? 1 year? 2? 5? If its good, we will wait and snarf it up if becomes available and we have the bandwidth to fully support another line.], and

3) we sell outrageously great (and sometimes expensive :-)) stuff that one might expect to actually end up in some good sounding rooms once in a while. And they do. Once in a while.

Shows are unpredictable, and don’t we all know it [we have an advantage at RMAF, we don’t have to SHIP stuff. Shipped stuff gets broken. Especially for shows. It is some kind of ‘shippers revenge part II’ or something to do with shows and expensive electronics and frustrated Terminators. Or not.].

So, leave those brains on, eyes open and ears wide people!

And when we do say something that does not absolutely thrill an exhibitor’s marketing department – look, they can either

* explain why it sounded like that,

One report, and it was awhile ago, I talked about a certain hardness in an otherwise very open and dynamic Cain & Cain setup. They respond, “yes, that is true, when [now it was a long time ago so don’t quote me] it is turned up really loud in a room that small, that is what happens.”. This gave me, and readers, so much more confidence in their honesty, their ability to hear what was going on, and in their depth of knowledge about their speaker’s performance envelope.

Another was about Almarro and how the sound went from pretty good one day to not so good the next. They later emailed about how they didn’t think it was perfect along the long wall and so they tried the short wall, and oh boy was that a mistake [I’m adding the American colloquialisms here, they are from Japan], but they were stuck with it during one of the days at the show. Fine, I put it into the report. People learn that even exhibitors have to fish around for good speaker positions [let’s here it for small speakers! hip hip hurray!].


* they can deny it sounded like that, could ever sound like that, and only perfect sound erupts from any of their rooms. If they can’t hear the problems, or they lie about them, if they can’t provide a logical reason why I heard what I heard, then that is an additional interesting factoid about the designers or dealers that people may find useful.

Look, they can always admit that they go for sound X, with compromises Y because their customer base is willing to sacrifice Y to get X at the price their product is going for. Great! Just don’t get upset when I talk about X and compromises Y so that our readers can decide if they want to buy it without having to negotiate the rapids between the shills and charlatans and honest fans who don’t know they are sacrificing Y and wouldn’t care even if they did know and all the other internet hazards along the way to finding out something about anything out there.

Some exhibitors can’t afford decent equipment so they should just be upfront about it and say that they think people can still hear the quality of their gear on the compromised system and that X, Y and Z are going to review it. etc.

People, honesty is the best policy. Yeah, dishonest people do make sales, and maybe more sales than honest people in the short term, but over time they could make more sales and sell for higher prices if they were honest and the products they are selling are of a decent quality.

At least, this is what we tell ourselves. Every show report I have to cruise the forums, answering questions, posting links. Checking out other reports. The shills, the duplicity, the dishonesty, the politics, it gets us down. I probably shouldn’t even talk to Neli about this stuff – you know women, they think we men have messed up the world BAD – and this just adds lots of proof to the pudding.

But you know, the naivety out there, people liking things that we all think are severely compromised, naivety that a lot of people complain about, doesn’t bother me. Compared to audiophiles in a hundred years down the road, we are all idiots and know nothing [nothing!]. Let people enjoy the discovery process – it is one of the most fun parts of this professional hobby.

Another long winded post. Hopefully we can reuse this periodically, during show report seasons, to remind our new visitors who we are.

Our Room, Other Show Reports

Lots of people have written to ask why our big room wasn’t covered in the other show reports.

First, thanks to everyone who did cover the room and is yet to cover the room. We live on the net. We see it. We appreciate it. (And we still read the print zines too of course :-))

Our room, for the first time this year, was packed on Friday and Sunday [the slow days], as well as Saturday. So at least a lot of people there were interested – and many spontaneously went out of their way to complement the system sound [not in the polite “thank you” way but in the “Oh Fudge, You’ve spoiled me!” kind of way]. Just doing our job ma’am and/or sir.

Looking at the lineup of show reporting suspects … We have:

Enjoy the Music only covers a certain number of rooms and they covered our Audio Note room, figuring that their readership is more interested in a $15K System than, and I just now added it up for this post, a $480K system. Well, yeah…. I can see that. Make perfect sense. Darn! 🙂

Stereophile graciously covered our Audio Note Room and our large room. They like the Audio Note room (everybody does, especially when they hear the price) they thought the large room did not, essentially, have enough ‘air’, mentioning cables or positioning as a potential culprit. Well, we had all Jorma Design Prime cables (except on the bass towers) for the digital, which are some of the best cables in the world, if not the best, so that probably wasn’t it. But maybe they had just heard the Nordost ODIN cable demo downstairs and wondered, ‘Hmmmmm…. How can we encourage Audio Federation to put ODIN cables on the system next year so we can hear THAT?’. 🙂

[Seriously, the positioning was also fine but perhaps they noticed that the bass was sometimes turned up a wee bit too high, making the highs seem a little attenuated? It is pretty subtle. We talked about this issue in the report and previous blog post(s) and I think Neli has finally torn up the divorce papers because I convinced her that, although this setup and therefore the concomitant problems, were largely my fault, I could have done stupider things and so she should save the papers for a time when I do something REALLY stupid. Probably won’t have long to wait…[but I can always claim that I will do something even stupider yet, so this defense is flawless :-)]].

OK, as you can see, my ability to be serious is seriously in trouble here today.

Dagogo will probably cover the both rooms. Or at least I think they were in our room. I saw them everywhere – all over the show. Everywhere I looked. Everywhere I didn’t look.

SonicFlare will probably cover at least the large room. They were in the room play cuts of this and cuts of that – one of the more fun times during the show for me.

The Absolute Sound was there in force. We are hoping for a positive report from them.

6moons was there, but I got distracted and I am not sure they got to hear enough, or something familiar enough, to form an impression.

Positive Feedback may have been there – I didn’t see them but I often seem to be out of the room doing our show report when many of our friends choose to stop by.

HiFi+ was there and charmed Neli [it must be that British accent, and I bloody well better start doing it too, hip hip. Oh, who am I foolin’…]. But I do not think they were there in a show reporting capacity.

Well, of course, these are not institutions, but real people, and often just a single person. Steve, Constantine, Jason, Marja, Henk, Bob, Josh, Roy, Dave, Carol, Danny, and a lot more whose camera shots I flub up when my flash goes off right before theirs… and whose writing I read and learn from and try to incorporate (or not incorporate) into my show reports and posts on this Blog. And most of them add commercial marketing information to their show reports, which takes a lot of effort, and, while it can quite boring, can be quite useful because for some reason many, many manufacturers like to keep information secret (stuff, like, oh, the PRICE! for example) unless it is in a show report, in which case it is OK to blab it to the world.

And before I forget, the reports on the forums, which have taken a severe hit when Trelja stopped reporting, seem to be by people who only visited the 1st and 2nd floors. At least it seems that way if you go by the things they are talking about. I think there was a incorrect assumption on their part that this was where the best rooms were. Don’t they know that this show always, in tribute to the White Album, one of the best albums of all times, puts the best stuff on floor Number 9? Apparently not. So everybody, …everybody! Please fill your neighbor in on this. White Album. 9th Floor. Got it.

But seriously, they are hearing things like big MBL amps on big MBL speakers, big BAT amps on Big Wilson,… for the first time. They seem to having a blast, and which of us didn’t when we first heard those big boys? [Well, you know what I mean. And some of them are big boys, aren’t they. Much yang. [ Maybe the key to a great system is balancing yin and yang? [ Or, after 3 days of too loud rooms at a show, maybe it is the removal of all yang. :-)]]].

You just know when you start typing triple-nested levels of narration and jokes it is time to End This Blog Post.

Optimizing the Coltrane Supremes – Bass

[Hopefully, some of these techniques apply to other speakers as well, but regardless, perhaps you might find them interesting as a study in What is Possible with the right design and tools].

This setup in our main listening room is more or less the setup we used at the show [well, the bass towers are on the inside, and there are a few cable changes, but….yeah, the same. Kind of.]

This is part of the Marten ‘Coltrane Supreme’ speaker system. It contains the amp, for the bass towers, and, most important for this current discussion today, the active crossover.

On the back of the active crossover there are controls for the phase and the bass level (volume).

Because we were / are using an integrated amplifier (the Audio Note Ongaku) to drive the main towers, and no preamp in the system, we are forced to change the bass volume every time we change the main volume on the Ongaku.

Turn up the volume on the Ongaku, then turn up the volume on the bass amp. [For some reason, I always think about turning UP the volume, but it is the same when turning down the volume, when and if that ever happens].

So, that is the situation, we are forced to keep adjusting the bass when changing the volume because of this particular system setup we are using.

We keep having to judge what is the EXACT right amount of bass… for a particular volume, and sometimes for a particular song (have to turn it up the bass for reggae, Mon).

OK, here’s the thing. With one person adjusting the bass and others listening to the result, certain behaviors are noticeable.

* The resulting sound is linear, by which we mean that it smoothly changes in response to the change in bass volume… EXCEPT at a particular point

* At this particular point in bass volume, the sound suddenly ‘fills in’. It reminds me of something like an old TV / CRT – like the beginning of Outer Limits – the ‘picture'(i.e. sound) suddenly grows from nothing to fill up the entire soundstage (room?).

* At this particular point, and this is weird [well, it is weird to me, along with being an awesome side-effect] certain in-room distortions disappear.

At this particular point, where the bass level is just so, we could increase the volume to our (my) pain threshold and every note was clear and separated and positioned perfectly – whereas at a lower volume, when the bass was not just so, it was a little bit confused and not completely enchanting, shall we say.

Well, that is all we have to report to this date – we have not tried this here yet, we still have a way to go to position the speakers correctly [ Yeah, we’ve been busy here, which is good, but…]. And we only learned this the last few hours of the show when we felt that it was OK to get a little wild and experiment a little.

Hey I think one lucky room visitor did to hear all this… Perfect Circle, perfectly rendered at 110 – 120dB and something else which I always forget the name of…. But I imagine people outside in the hallway, and in the nearby stairwell between floors, well, not sure WHAT they thought… 🙂

Maybe this has to do more with the ears and not room interactions. Maybe we are just nuts. We’ll let you know when we try the same thing here, in a vastly different space.