What a nice day I had at Axpona on Sunday. Came excited and left with a smile and some tired ears. Here are some early impressions and I will upload some pictures later and yes, I caught some good ones of AC industry contributors "dancing"
This was my first show ever, but after taking Tyson and Pez' entry level course in attending audio shows over the last few years, I felt properly prepared. I'm now even more amazed how they could cover so much ground and do the live write ups.
It turned out Sunday was a perfect day to attend with easy access to the best chair in most rooms. If you only have one day to attend - go on Sunday. Not only that, show up early and use the pre opening hours to go to the headphone room. They were welcoming me and my friend early with open arms and by the time of the official opening time, we had listened to most headphone setup of interest and were ready for the speaker rooms. Plus listening first to headphones set a really good reference level to compare the big stereo systems with.
Surprise numer 1: I actually really liked headphones.
Problem number 1: of course I liked one of the more expensive one combined with an expensive dac/ amp the best.
Surprise number 2: high end portable audio interfaces suck. Even the vendors said, let's not use that one because the user interface is too clunky and hard to use.
Surprise 3: I probably could have guessed this one but since I'm new to headphones, I didnt realize that stock cables are that poor. Dana cables had a stock cable vs. their own cable A/B test and the difference was enormous. It was kind of going up one price level in headphones by just swapping the cable.
There was also a big difference in performance depending of the amps/dacs used. Interestingly, one or two of true headphone vendors in the room didn't have any good dac/amps (and one other even had an AVR) so they kind of undersold the performance. But I guess it worked out OK anyways, since they loaned out multiple models to the booths that had the good set ups.
After ticking off the headphones, our strategy was to avoid any rooms with loud music or too much hifi sounding analytical high frequencies to save our ears as long as possible. In other words, we skipped all the super expensive systems until the very last which was a good move. After having just attended one day, I will now call BS on anyone claiming they can hear micro detailed differences of specific equipment used after three days that some reviewers seems to be able to extract. Yes, you'll definitely hear the character of the System/room set up, what you like or dislike of the system/room , but that was pretty much the only things at least my untrained ear could distinguish after a couple of hours. After hitting the loud rooms in the afternoon it started to feel the same thing as barhopping trying out different beers. Big difference in the beginning and in the end it all seems to be mixed together.
Scratching my head number 1: one of the double refrigerator sized speakers had so much cabinet vibration they had put multiple pillows underneath and behind. This was clearly visible to the audience. It vibrated kind of like an old washing machine during the rinse cycle. First of all, why does a speaker costing that much even have that poor vibration and if it does, why wouldn't the vendor come better prepared? Isn't the goal to actually inspire sales? I need to look up the name.
I need to continue the write up later, so to round it off, here is my Best thing of the show: The absolutely best thing was the opportunity to meet and talk to the designers themselves which probably is also the reason I found most of the smaller vendor's room more engaging.
To be continued.