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Show Me:  Roger Skoff Writes About Hi-Fi Shows - Past and Coming

07-12-2021 | By Roger Skoff | Issue 116

Roger Skoff is the former CEO and Lead Designer of XLO, and the current Chief Honcho and Lead Designer of RSX Technologies. Full disclosure = no conflict of interest, eh?

The views expressed here are Roger's own...but they happen to be ones that I would agree with.

You might, too, eh? And if not, la vie continué, n'est-ce pas?

Dr. David W. Robinson, Ye Olde Editor

It seems that COVID 19 and even the "Delta variant" may soon be things of the past. With multiple vaccines available and with a majority of people taking them, the pandemic may soon be over and we may once again be able to turn our attention back to more pleasant things. Like spending time with our friends, eating in restaurants, and—after what seems like altogether too long a time, going to movies, concerts, sports, and other public events.

Although some things will have been changed permanently by the virus and our response to it, most will not, and will likely go back to at least a reasonable semblance of what we remember. One of the things that I hope might even come back better is Hi-Fi Shows.

Whether consumer-oriented local shows or bigger, trade only, shows like CES, Hi-Fi shows have, in the past, always left something to be desired.

The first and most obvious thing is the sound. 

Whether you blame it on the room (either too large, if it's one of the meeting halls, or too small, too crowded, or too something else, if it's just one of the ordinary guest rooms), or on the set up or lack thereof, the sound at shows is seldom as good as what you might hear at home or in a dealer's showroom.

One of the reasons for that might simply be economic necessity: Participating in a show can be very expensive, especially for a small exhibitor, and that might make it necessary for up to several exhibitors to reduce their costs by sharing a single display room with other companies. Just doing that can make for problems, though, both for the exhibitors and for the audiophiles or potential audiophiles who come to learn about their products.

For one thing, there's always the risk that one or more of the products being demonstrated together might not be sonically compatible with all of the others. Unless everything being played works well with everything else, even the best gear, well set up, in a good-sounding room, can't sound good. And, if that's the case, why let people hear it? It would be far better to either find different room partners or just run a silent display.

Although they're not necessarily as entertaining as rooms with music, silent displays can actually be better for both exhibitors and audiophiles. For one thing, if the products on display feature some important new technological or other innovation (and why would anyone want to exhibit them if they don't?) the room can be set up with a "lecture" or "seminar" format, given "closed door" several times a day, with each of the exhibitors given full time to tell about his products and each of the attendees actually learning something about them, instead of just sticking his head into the room, taking a quick peek, and moving on to the next room, possibly missing out entirely on the greatest thing at the show.

"Closed-door" displays—just by their air of exclusivity and the feeling of importance given by their restricted seating and limited presentation schedule—can actually heighten showgoer interest in the products on display.

Another thing they can do is to prevent non-speaker products from being judged on anything other their own merits: Think about the all-too-often predicament of the amplifier, cable, turntable, or other product manufacturer who has people come to his room, hear the sound, love it, and think "Wow, what great speakers," and ignore his own products entirely. Or about the perhaps equally likely prospect of people coming to his room; hearing sound that—perhaps because of inappropriate speakers, bad setup, or poor acoustics—hear less than great sound and blame it on his products. It happens all the time; and it can blow the benefit of the Show for both the exhibitor and for those who may have come to the show to find and buy just what he's offering but miss-out on a great product through no fault of its own.

The fact of it is that, although—at least for me—there's nothing quite like the thrill of hearing great music sounding so real that you feel as if you could walk right up and shake hands with the performers, there's a lot more to a Hi-Fi Show than just making or hearing good sound. Sure, people come to meet old friends and to make new ones. And sure they also come to hear, see, and perhaps lust after toys and goodies that they're never likely to be able to afford. At the bottom of it, though, the exhibitors are there to sell their products and the Showgoers are there to learn about, and at least consider, buying them.

That's why exhibitors need to do more than just play music in a room and allow people to come in and hear it without ever making a presentation to them about what they're listening to; how and why it's so great; and why they really ought to buy it. It's also why it's not enough to just leave a pile of product literature on a table somewhere in the room for people to pick up

Before people are willing to part with their money to actually buy something, they need to know what it is; what it does; and why it's better, or cheaper, or has more or better features, or quality, or value, or something than its competition. Most of all, they need to know why adding that new thing to their system will personally benefit them. That's why exhibitors need to greet them as they come into the room and tell them about their products, instead of just sitting there and waiting for people to ask them. If they'll do that, they'll sell more products; Showgoers will be happier; and everybody, including our industry will be better off.

Have a happy Show season!

For audio industry manufacturers or dealers, Roger Skoff has prepared two helpful multi-page write-ups on how to do a Hi-Fi Show exhibit, either for consumers or for the trade. These are available via the download links below courtesy of Positive Feedback without charge. Note that Roger Skoff retains full copyrights, all rights reserved, on both of the brochure .PDFs below, and they may not be re-published or re-used without his written permission.



Portrait of Roger Skoff by David W. Robinson.