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Old 11th June 2003, 04:21 AM   #1
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Default Frankfort, CES, any High End Show-Impressions, Observations, Commentaries?

With the Frankfort High End Audio show just concluded, I think it would be good to hear from anyone who has gone to an audio show, (any audio show) as either an exhibitor, visitor or journalist, and give some impressions or amusing stories about what is going on there.

These shows have a lot to do with what equipment eventually gets listened to by the public, so I would like to hear all sides. It doesn't have to be the Frankfort Show, it could be any audio show, anywhere.

General impressions or commentaries, anyone?
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Old 11th June 2003, 04:42 AM   #2
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Old 11th June 2003, 06:49 PM   #3
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Default My experiences at the Frankfurt High End Show

Some of you will know from other threads that I have been designing and building a new range of speakers to go under the Seventh Veil Loudspeakers banner. Those of you who have done similar things in the past may not be surprised to learn that the speakers were finally finished just two days before the show's set-up day.

I had listened to the speakers in various prototype forms but not yet to the completed systems, although I had taken care to run the drivers in. So it was with considerable trepidation that I set up the speakers with the EAR-Yoshino preamp and two power amps (kindly lent by Tim de Paravicini), Origin Live turntable and arm (kindly provided by Origin Live), my trusty Ortofon Rohmann cartridge, an active crossover unit (100Hz) and a Planet 2000 CD Player. There were also silver speaker cables (provided by my friend Mark Gdovin from Colorado) and silver interconnects (kindly sent by John McNichols from Sweden).

I was at my father-in-law's house, about one hour's drive from the show, and we set up the equipment in a marvellous listening room - large with not a parallel wall in sight - and prepared to switch on.

For a speaker designer who has mortgaged his house, his wife & kids and his future and then spent six months building a totally unconventional system that he believes (in theory) should sound good, this is a tense moment.

I switched on and the speakers sounded great. This was such a relief that I needed a large schnapps before I could get down to some serious listening (and tuning subwoofer levels and positions, etc.). After the schnapps they sounded even better - super fast, super detailed, warm, balanced, open and with imaging second to none (hey Mr Moderator, are you sure I'm allowed to say this stuff about my own designs. Well, who'll believe me anyway?).

And so to the show ...

Well, first there was the nightmare of setting up the room - queuing in the car park for hours in the stifling heat and then struggling with two large car loads of heavy gear and a totally inadequate hotel lift system (elevators for those of you from across the pond).

As soon as I entered our room I knew that it was a disaster. The almost square proportions meant that horrendous room resonances were inevitable, but much worse, the room sounded like a large bathroom - bare concrete and totally reflective walls. The curses that I uttered bounced around the room for far longer than I'd intended.

I was genuinely very worried. Not so much with the boominess, as my system has separate subwoofers and I knew that I could position them to minimize the worse effects and then adjust the volume - but more with the bathroom echo effect. I returned home and collapsed.

The next morning (the first day of the show) I arrived with a large blanket, a duvet and a sheet. I hung them on the walls (to hell with the exhibition's 'no hanging on the walls' rule) and, to my relief, the sound was much better. Strangely enough, throughout the show no one seemed to notice these unorthodox wall fittings except one other speaker designer who dissolved into fits of laughter. Worked though.

Of course, everyone else was also battling with the room acoustics and that made me feel much better. As we could control the position and volume of the woofers separately to the main speakers, our bass could be better integrated than most.

And so the show began ...

Our sound was very good (not that I'm biased in any way). I didn't hear anything better, although I didn't have time to look too hard. There was some good stuff around but most was awful - harsh, smeared and boomy. On the third day, I turned up with a notice for the door: "No boom - no tizz - just music". The majority of comment on the sound was very favourable.

Its a funny old business. Some young guys turned up, took one look at the size of the speakers and walked out (too small for their tastes?) Others came in and immediately looked to the array of amplification as the explanation for the sound quality. It made me laugh. Mind you, with a tube pre-amp and two tube power amps from EAR-Yoshino putting out 70W of pure class A, we could impress in this department. It was a shame that the weather was so good because in a warm room we could have lived without the extra 1/2 kW of heating that the amps provided.

Tim de Paravicini (of EAR-Yoshino) turned up for one day. I asked him what he thought of the sound and he said simply "It works". High praise from someone who has been a guru in the industry for 40 years. Mind you, he was quite happy to spend the whole day sitting in our room - chatted loudly for much of it too. Doreen Jordan of Bandor also spent two days in the room and I would like thank both Tim and Doreen for their tremendous support.

Many people came in and out. Some stayed to listen to quite a few tracks and we received many complimetary comments.

Reviewers - who knows? Various press people came in, sat down and listened to 2 or 3 tracks. They made notes, took pictures, asked a few questions and thought goodness knows what. We will have to wait to see if we get mentioned in any show reports and what those mentions say. By the way, I'd be grateful if anyone could let me know if they find anything about us.

Paul Messenger (who's just about forgiven me for doing terrible things to the floor of his house with my last speaker) said some good things about the sound.

One US magazine had a photographer and journalist slip in unnoticed. When I finally got into conversation with them I mentioned that a major difficulty was that no one has heard of Seventh Veil Loudspeakers. The journalist replied "They will soon". Now that could be very good or ominously bad.

The system seemed to go down well with "High Fidelity", Finland's one and only hi-fi magazine. I'll look forward to receiving loads of sales from the gigantic Finish audiophile market.

As for sales, well I spoke to a number of people who had been many years in the industry and most told me that in many years of attending shows they have rarely taken a single cheque. All you can do is create a buzz, build up interest and get some mentions in the magazines. Sales will follow. I hope.

And the funniest moment? Well, we were next door to a Linn AV room. On the last day of the show the man in charge of the room (who will remain nameless) came into the Seventh Veil room and sat down for 20 minutes. Afterwards he said: " I just had to sit down and listen to some music!"

- note to Linn's solicitors: Of course Linn had other rooms at the show which were more hi-fi oriented and I have no doubt that their sound was of the very highest calibre. Phew!

As for me ... well if I never listen to 'Walk on the Wild Side', Jazz at the Pawnshop', 'Take 5' by Brubeck, Rickie Lee Jones, 'Julsang' or that Swedish organ/saxaphone thing again it will be too soon. That is until the next show.

Signing off now. Thanks for listening.

Steve - your man in Frankfurt.
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Old 11th June 2003, 11:36 PM   #4
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Quote:
As soon as I entered our room I knew that it was a disaster. The almost square proportions meant that horrendous room resonances were inevitable, but much worse, the room sounded like a large bathroom - bare concrete and totally reflective walls. The curses that I uttered bounced around the room for far longer than I'd intended.
That`s the reason why many don`t play their stuff at the High-End at all but just show their equipment (at least it was so as I have been there the last time many many years ago).
I have not heard one single good demonstration of big speakers there - what was acceptable were small speaker systems ...sometimes....most of it was just bad also (and many times not only due to the room).

IMO the only two demonstrations (at that time) which has been worthwhile to listen were "Sonus Faber" and "Point-Source" speakers (I believe they called Aria 5 or something the like) ....and both were not in the Kempenski but in another hotel in the city with better rooms.

I can remember after a while feeling SICK to see chrome or gold plated monster amps, monster cables, mons ...... the top of the cream was a monster chrom AND gold thing of a turntable (cannot remember the brand anymore) - this was just too much for me and I had to leave the show.

The only amusing thing there sometimes was to take occasions and asking questions and discussing technology with some of the speaker constructors and why THEIR speakers sound soooo good ....many times me and my DIY buddies had a really good laugh.
But too less joy to drive 500km ever again for something like that.
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Old 12th June 2003, 01:12 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally posted by cocolino
IMO the only two demonstrations (at that time) which has been worthwhile to listen were "Sonus Faber" and "Point-Source" speakers (I believe they called Aria 5 or something the like) ....and both were not in the Kempenski but in another hotel in the city with better rooms.
Mind you, there are so many exhibitors at these shows that you can't really listen to all of them. I notice that we didn't even get a mention in the enjoythemusic.com show report.

Quote:
I can remember after a while feeling SICK to see chrome or gold plated monster amps, monster cables, mons ...... the top of the cream was a monster chrom AND gold thing of a turntable (cannot remember the brand anymore) - this was just too much for me and I had to leave the show.
I know exactly what you mean. If the sound doesn't give you a headache, the sights certainly will. Mind you, I can only assume that these chrome and gold monsters are what people like to see.

Quote:
The only amusing thing there sometimes was to take occasions and asking questions and discussing technology with some of the speaker constructors and why THEIR speakers sound soooo good ....many times me and my DIY buddies had a really good laugh.
I put a skeleton of my speaker on display to show people the construction techniques so I didn't get so many questions. Generally, people looked at it and couldn't really laugh until they'd got over the shock (something like the picture here: Nonsuch construction photo.)

Laugh at your leisure.
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Old 12th June 2003, 04:46 PM   #6
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I put a skeleton of my speaker on display to show people the construction techniques so I didn't get so many questions. Generally, people looked at it and couldn't really laugh until they'd got over the shock (something like the picture here: Nonsuch construction photo.)
I`m sure not the guy who usually wants to please with compliments just like that and also I do not find many speaker projects very interesting (unless a N. Pass Rushmore for example) but I have to say (I have seen those pictures in Your other thread) that definetly I`d have wanted to hear (and see) Your speakers if I were there.

I find Your concept very interesting not only because it is "unconventional" as You did say but IMO the basic concept with the Bandor full range drivers combined with a sub appears VERY promising soundwise. Not to speak from the complex enclosure and the great finish (and I have some experiance in pro quality made&looking enclosures that I can say that) and overall pleasant appearance.

I don`t know how Bandors compare to Jordans but when they are similar what I assume the result likely is outstanding. I have heard the 50mm Jordan`s many years ago and unless the low sensivity (which meanwhile with the newer models isn`t so low anymore, I believe), I take them for the one of the best moving coil drivers ever made (without any exaggeration). We made some sound comparisons with an active crossover (bandpass 500Hz/5kHz, equalized levels) with some other well respected mid range drivers (okay, of that time I have to say but nonetheless) and more often the others sounded like broken transistor radios.
The only thing that was able to keep up soundwise was a Strathearn midrange ribbon.

So I take Your speakers for a really great project and You show big courage to go commercial with such unconventional design but no matter how good they are I promise You a hard stand in the predominantly very mainstream orientated Hifi business (but I believe You`re aware of that already).
Exactly therefore I wish You GOOD LUCK (which You certainly will need also.... even with a good product) and success though!
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Old 12th June 2003, 05:18 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by cocolino
but no matter how good they are I promise You a hard stand in the predominantly very mainstream orientated Hifi business (but I believe You`re aware of that already).
Exactly therefore I wish You GOOD LUCK (which You certainly will need also.... even with a good product) and success though!
Christoph,

Thank you for your kind words. Yes, I think that the Bandor drive-units are so good that my main job as an enclosure designer is to do my best not to mess them up.

Of course you're quite right that 90% of the High End purchasers will go for the mainstream. I'll try to reach the other 10% and take it from there.

I'm on a mission (to quote The Blues Brothers) and it's going to take a heck of a lot to divert me.

With thanks
Steve
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