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Just came back from my first audio show and oh boy

Fluffy

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#1
(Technically I've been to Canjam London, but I meant that this was the first Hi-Fi show with high-end speakers and such)

I went today to a hi-fi show in Israel, very close to where I live in Tel-Aviv. I's something pretty local, I don't think anybody here heard of it (it's called DigiTown 2019). Yet its scale was pretty impressive to me, spanned all over three floors of a convention center, plus an entire floor of demo rooms in a hotel. My phone is pretty much a potato, so I didn't take pictures, sorry.

My overall impression of the entire thing was of sameness – everything sounded kinda the same pretty much, except for a few stand outs, which I'll get to later. It was mostly stereo systems, with some rooms demonstrating all kinds of surround sound systems like Atmos, that still doesn't really do it for me. I'm just a two-channel kind of guy, even for movies. And besides those there were a small amount of headphone dealers and also some TVs.

And unexpectedly, almost everything I saw there came with a ridiculous price tag. Who are these people that just go and buy 40,000$ worth of speakers? And that's not even the most high-end I saw there. The prices in the audiophile world are indeed beyond making sense. After the show I talked to a guy that wanted us to bet a 1000$ that he could distinguish between different speaker cables in a blind test. I suppose he represents the kind of people with the spare cash to blow on all of those 10,000$ tube preamps and 3,000$ speaker cables…

At the convention center there were big show rooms, each contained one main flagship system that played loops of the same music, along with many other less pricy products from the same brand. The ones I remember were those weird sail shape speakers from Kef that sounded like meh, some flagship Focal model that were fine I guess, and also there were some Martin Logans that kept playing boring single female singer recordings that probably supposed to make them sound their best. There were other systems that just weren't unique or recognizable enough to remember. It's very unsurprising that they focus just on acoustic music that’s designed to sound well in show conditions. You can't really get a sense of what these systems are capable of. And on top of that, you can't really listen to anything because of the general noise and talking all around.

At the hotel it was room after room of what seemed like the same system with the same music and the same crappy acoustics. Yes, it all looked very different, but sounded the same. Some people tried to position the system properly or add some diffusion to the room, some showers just gave up apparently. I really can't remember which speakers I heard there, let alone to what amplifiers, dacs and turntable they were connected to. There is so much variety and who can realistically remember what every individual piece of equipment sounded like.

There were a couple of rooms that stood out enough for me to remember them. there was a room with horn speakers that just played really loud all the time. I can't testify to the quality of the speakers, but apparently they can go loud. There was another room that had Magnapens which really intrigued me, but the guy there messed up connecting them properly and it took time until I could actually listen to them. They sounded pretty good and were actually reasonably priced, but the presenter did a very bad job of trying to sell them – when I asked if there good for listening to Metallica for example, his eyes nearly popped out of their sockets and he tried really hard to convince me they are not for me. Ok dude, if you don't want my money, suit yourself.

The best sounding room overall had speakers that cost too much and I don't remember their name, but the guy there said they had diamond tweeters. Ok… anyway, I believe that the good sound there was simply because they were just positioned better. First of all, the room was pretty empty with the speakers quite far into the middle of the room, and pushed as far from each other as possible. The listeners sat at a sofa a good distance away, while in the other rooms everything was much closer. And most importantly to my view, in this room the presenter had opened the window curtains, exposing the big glass window behind the speakers. In every other room the curtains were closed and often blocked by some diffuser. I really think that by opening that window he allowed for much more sound reflections that just made the speakers sound huge and impressive. It's surely wasn't the fancy turntable he used or the ridiculous cable risers he had there…

So to summarize, my initial impression that the audiophile world is full to the brim with snake oil vendors and pretentiousness was revealed to be pretty true. Most of all this experience strengthened my belief that I should avoid the regular wasteful purchasing habits of audiophiles, and buy gear that is objectively proven to be with high value for money. If someone want to squander their money chasing after imaginary subjective improvements, it's their problem. Fortunately for me, I get the most enjoyment listening through equipment that is just objectively well engineered and reasonably priced. you can call it "the objectivist's snake oil" :).
 

MRC01

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#4
Nice description of audio shows, and why I avoid them.

... Magnepans ... when I asked if there good for listening to Metallica for example, his eyes nearly popped out of their sockets and he tried really hard to convince me they are not for me. Ok dude, if you don't want my money, suit yourself.
...
Shout out to Magnepan for saying certain music doesn't work on their speakers.
I've been known to crank up Led Zep, Rush, Van Halen, Dream Theater or Swans on my Magnepans. Sounds great to me, and reveals subtle musical details with fingers on strings, drum sticks, etc.
 

GrimSurfer

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#5
I wonder if the guy with the Maggies made that comment with a whiff of superiority... as in "I don't think these are the speakers for you" because he didn't see a higher end Rolex on your wrist? (Hey, I'd get it if the comment was backed with a mumble about bass response etc.)

Fashion conscious salesmen are my favorite. You see the look of deep sadness on their face when you go back the next week and let it drop that you bought something "better" elsewhere... all while wearing a Seiko and Levi's.
 

617

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#7
Nice description of audio shows, and why I avoid them.
I've been known to crank up Led Zep, Rush, Van Halen, Dream Theater or Swans on my Magnepans. Sounds great to me, and reveals subtle musical details with fingers on strings, drum sticks, etc.
I don't doubt it. I find the magnepan attitude puzzling, they're pretty high value speakers made in the USA at fairly attainable prices. Surprised to see them unable to contain elitism.
 

Fluffy

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#10
Shout out to Magnepan for saying certain music doesn't work on their speakers.
I've been known to crank up Led Zep, Rush, Van Halen, Dream Theater or Swans on my Magnepans. Sounds great to me, and reveals subtle musical details with fingers on strings, drum sticks, etc.
He played them pretty loud, so that's why I didn't get his attitude. What, does he think that 100 db SPL on Metallica is louder than 100 db SPL on Strauss?

I wonder if the guy with the Maggies made that comment with a whiff of superiority... as in "I don't think these are the speakers for you" because he didn't see a higher end Rolex on your wrist? (Hey, I'd get it if the comment was backed with a mumble about bass response etc.)
Well he was pretty impatient with me, I can tell you that. but he looked somewhat stressed in general so I don't know if it was me specifically. About the bass, before I talked to him I heard a discussion he had with some other attender where he defended the bass response of the speakers, saying that you don't need a subwoofer with them. When I asked him how low to they go he said 30 hz. I don't know if that's completely honest, but from the demo files he played they definitely did not lack bass.


Were these the speakers with the diamond tweeters, by any chance ?

https://www.bowerswilkins.com/en-gb/home-audio/800-series
No, I heard those in another room. It was something weird that I never saw before, and they weren't diamond-covered, they supposedly were actual synthetic diamonds.

Searched a bit, it was those: https://e-shop.highendstudios.de/ISOPHON-CASSIANO-DIAMOND-Floorstanding-Loudspeakers--DEMO-.html
 

ahofer

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#11
“ After the show I talked to a guy that wanted us to bet a 1000$ that he could distinguish between different speaker cables in a blind test.”

Send him our way, please.
 

Killingbeans

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#12
No, I heard those in another room. It was something weird that I never saw before, and they weren't diamond-covered, they supposedly were actual synthetic diamonds.

Searched a bit, it was those: https://e-shop.highendstudios.de/ISOPHON-CASSIANO-DIAMOND-Floorstanding-Loudspeakers--DEMO-.html
That's "just normal" Accuton tweeters. You can buy those for DIY project too if you have more money than brains :)

https://accuton.com/en-home/produkte/lautsprecher/diamant

EDIT: No wait. Didn't see the "Our diamond speakers are only sold to loudspeaker producers." -part :oops:
Anywho.. it's Accuton.
 

restorer-john

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#13
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GrimSurfer

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#14
Whenever I see "diamond tweeters" advertised, I get an overwhelming urge to ask if they come in something that fits better in my budget... like cubic zirconia tweeters.

All kidding aside, I'm more impressed by folks who lead-off with performance statements. That leads to the inevitable question "how can it be that good", to which the salesman then replies "because of the depleted uranium driver baskets etc.".

Frankly, if some company had a way to turn dogshit into lossless (and odourless) sound, why should any of us care?
 
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Fluffy

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#15
I want to tell a bit more about that guy I met that offered the bet. He was accompanied with two other guys, one of them a sound engineer in the music business. They all were very adamant in their view that cables sound different, that hi-res is super important, and that even DAWs sounded different! They were completely perplexed by me saying that I don't see any point to hi-res or cable upgrades or even super expensive dacs. One of them said that it's just not the show for me and I should stick to listening through smartphones… :rolleyes:

Anyway, after the conversation I thought of a really good response to those kind of people. It's very simple – I can enjoy the same amount as you while spending the fraction of the money. So who is better off, really? ;)
 

GrimSurfer

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#16
It would have been funny to ask them if they sold any super expensive DACs. When they said "no" you could then ask whether that was influencing their sales pitch.

A good con-artist wouldn't be put off by this and would have a clever answer. A bad con-artist would be very insulted.
 

ahofer

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#17
@Fluffy : Other good responses:
  1. Why is ignoring 5 decades of AES papers and hundreds of blind tests the “expert opinion” in this discussion?
  2. How does the set up differ for the cables? Would they pass a null test?
  3. What is the measured amplitude, phase, frequency of the audible difference? If you don’t know, why are you credible?
  4. If you are chalking it up to something unmeasurable would you be willing to take a refereed blind test? And again, why is believing in magic sophisticated?
  5. That smartphone crack makes you sound like a real ass. Take your golden ears and shove them where the sun don’t shine
I’m sure there are more.
 

MRC01

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#18
IME, if you point out the lack of any test showing anyone able to differentiate redbook 44-16 from higher rates in a controlled test when the only difference was the data rate (higher rate properly resampled & dithered to 44-16, with no other changes), they always reply with some claim that DBTs are either invalid or insufficiently sensitive.
 

Fluffy

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#19
@ahofer
Unfortunately, these are all objectivism based arguments, and these people were completely immune to that kind of logic.

AES papers - The sound engineer guy wanted to reference me to studies proving his point, and this is not different from any opinion holder on the internet that bases his opinion on what he believes to be credible evidence. In other words, there is always a study that had the opposite results, so you can't really prove anything like that. And I think it's pointless to talk with these people about confidence level, reproducibility and methodology. If a study said it's true (and it supports our claim!) then it must be true, no matter how sketchy it might be.

Blind testing – "I don't need to blind test, I've heard it", a direct quote. What can you say to that?

The most interesting view they had is basically the exact opposite of the common view in this forum. They said that if you hear it, then it must be real. He told me that if I heard a difference, I would probably make up some psychological excuse why there isn't really a difference, and by doing that I'm not trusting my own senses. They are of course completely oblivious to psychological biases and mental illusions, and I don't believe any of them ever performed a true blind test, despite two of them stating that they did. The sound guy said he basically do it all the time when mixing music, so I asked him to give a description of one blind test that he did. He casually avoided answering that question.

P.S - Oh and I remember now that his reason for claiming that hi-res is important was some crazy fact about how the hairs in our cochlea perceive not only frequencies but also sound envelopes, and higher sampling rate improves the shape of the envelopes and my brain hurts now…
 

RayDunzl

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#20
Having attended my first Audio Fashion Show, I will surely attend the next in February.

No fee for tickets as in some places. --- https://floridaaudioexpo.com/

And happens to be closer than any of the shops I might go to to listen (should they decide to humor me) to something that might catch my eye.

Audio Buddy and I attended last February, and it made for a nice afternoon.

I don't think either of us left with the "I gotta get one/a pair of those!", so, they failed in that respect.

I'll have to be on the lookout for other members of Le Audio Cognoscenti, of whom, the only face I recognized, was that of Mr Fremer.

I should get to work on the design for my RayDunzl name tag... Hmmm...
 

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