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My Love/Hate Relationship with Audio Shows

Steven Stone looks at his journalistic relationship with audio shows…

By the time you read this I will have just finished attending and I’m now going through all the links and USB sticks from the Rocky Mountain Audio Show, working on my show report for the Absolute Sound. This is a part of attending shows that I enjoy the least – the dues a journalist must pay. And while paying these dues said journalist becomes painfully aware of their own shortcomings in terms of organization and real-world, real-time, decisions during the past four days – the photographs not taken or the piece of product info that never made it into the bag. 

AR-Love-hate2a.jpgWhat do I love about audio shows? The circus of people, known and unknown, liked and not liked. And, secondly, the gear. One of my favorite aspects of an audio show is nowhere but at an audio show do all the exhibitors begin with roughly the same sonic environment to work with. And at the show can we hear how successfully they are able to use their gear to create a pleasing sonic result. 

My reporting beat for the show was digital electronics and portable/personal electronics, which means I have to at least poke my head into every room and look and every table in CANJAM to successfully cover the show. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for small talk, which is a major drag because one of the things I most enjoy about doing at shows is the talk… 

So, I spend four days feeling conflicted between rushing to cover every part of the show and spending time talking with people. Love/hate – see what I mean? 

One of the other things I love about shows is that I learn about new stuff. I make myself a promise before every show, which I invariably don’t keep, that I will spend more time with my eyes open and my mouth closed than the inverse. During the time that I do stop, look, and listen, I often discover new products, ideas, and technologies that I had no idea existed. Those are magic moments. 

AR-Love-hate3a.jpgOne of the things I hate about shows is the fact that from the moment I close my hotel room door in the morning until I retire, I know I am “on,” representing not just myself, but also The Absolute Sound and Audiophile Review. I steel myself for a long day of interacting with a variety of folks who would like me to do something to advance their business or careers, and will judge me on my reactions. At times at shows I feel like a walking pitching target. Other folks content themselves with merely showing me how much smarter they are than I am. 

And then there are the evenings after the show officially closes. Some years ago, when I still went to CES, I swore off any and all manufacturer’s dinner invitations there, preferring to grab some food on my way back to my hotel so I could get some work done and get to bed at a reasonable hour. At RMAF I have done dinner, and encouraged my hosts to embrace local restaurants instead of going all the way into downtown Denver (and adding an hour travel time to the whole evening.) Some nights I hang around the hotel, grab something there, and maybe even visit the bar. The bar, especially after the show has closed by a couple of hours, gets interesting… 

AR-Canjam1a.jpgI know that some people have a hard time sleeping at audio shows for various reasons including noise or nerves. I usually sleep well, due in part to what I learned from J. Gordon Holt many years ago at the first Stereophile Show in San Francisco. Journalists are usually put on floors that have active displays, as we were for that show. The first thing Gordon did was introduce himself to the exhibitors on either side of us and let them know he was sleeping next to them and they could make as much noise as they wanted until 11:00. It was quite effective. We slept undisturbed. 

And what were your favorite parts of this year’s RMAF? 

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