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No. 103 December 2012

EXHIBITION – A WORLD OF OPPORTUNITIES

As I wrote once before, the Audio Show, which sixteenth edition will take place in Warsaw between November10-11th, reminds me in the first place not of audio equipment but rather of books. The reason is that 1996, the year of the very first Audio Show, was also the first year of the Krakow Book Fair that usually takes place just before the audiophile show, this year between October25-28th.

Although these are seemingly two different worlds, there are more similarities between them than one might realize. First of all, both reading books and listening to music on high-end audio gear are, as it turns out, elite activities. Fewer and fewer people read books (especially Poland) and less and less music lovers, fans of good music, listen to it in good conditions, which from our point of view is the same as to stop listening to music altogether and start listening to noise. And finally, both fields have to do with the arts and both appeal to our sense of beauty.
A fair or a show (exhibition) is one of the few places where you meet all links of the chain associated with a certain industry (branch) - from authors (designers), through publishers (producers), wholesalers (distributors), bookstores (showrooms), and ending with the most important link, the readers (music lovers). The obvious difference between a fair and an exhibition lies in the fact that a fair is primarily focused on sale and promotion while an exhibition is more about promotion and prospectively sale. Although even that slowly changes.

According to Oxford English Dictionary an exhibition is "a public display (of works of art, manufactured articles, natural productions, etc.); also, the place where the display is made.” Similarly, a show is “a display on a large scale of objects for public inspection; esp. a temporary exhibition in a particular place and under special regulations of objects (e.g. flowers, cattle, motor-cars) arranged so as to facilitate inspection, comparison or purchase.” The Audio Show in Warsaw fits that definition almost perfectly. We only need to substitute 'inspection' with 'listening' and the match is perfect. Although…
The word ‘exhibition’ implies a certain “museum like” order of things, i.e. no direct contact with the ‘exhibit’ – the synonyms like ‘show’ or ‘display’ are concepts indicating a distance between the watcher and the watched, a kind of real or virtual glass between them. And unfortunately for most exhibitors that’s what the show in Warsaw is like. The visitors enter a room or a hall, sit obediently on chairs and listen to what the exhibitors have to say and play. With some luck, they may get to listen to their own CD. To touch – no way, nada! To look – OK, as long as from the proper distance. That’s not a hard-and-fast rule, of course; there may be some variations on a theme but that is the most typical presentation.
And, actually, it's hard to blame anyone for this and make a big complaint about that. The presented audio components are expensive, very expensive and extremely expensive and most exhibitors simply can’t afford buying extra sample components for touching, disassembling or any kind of ill-treatment. As I said - I understand that. And yet during the show I miss something tangible, something real that would allow me to better understand what is happening. Something to help me to get to know better exotic products and manufacturers.
But there is something that can by and large do away with that “glass” – it is the presence of manufacturers and designers. I do not understand why the visitors (another “museum connotation”…) do not gain more benefit from that fact! It may have to do with the language barrier or maybe with some shyness – let’s not be afraid! I am convinced that the distributors will be happy to help with getting acquainted and with translation if needed. Let us come with confidence, let’s ask, praise, comment – in short, let’s note them. After all, they come to Poland not as exhibits but as the faces of their brands. You can learn a lot from them. It is simply worth getting to know them because they are usually amazing, interesting people. We do not immediately have to agree with them but if we disagree let’s do it with class, or to put it bluntly, let’s not be bumpkins and at least be aware of our differences.
This year a lot of interesting people will be in Warsaw. And again, like each year, the distributors seem to have missed an opportunity, because instead of advertising particular names and inviting the visitors to meetings and presentations with them, they count on the fact that most will guess or figure out that e.g. the man standing in the corner is Mr. Ken Ishiguro, the owner of Acoustic Revive, or Mr. Andreas Hofmann, the owner of Octave. I give that example simply because their representative, Ether Audio, is one the very few, in addition to Audio Center Poland and Moje Audio to have us informed about who is coming to Poland. And yet that’s the best advertising! It is worth thinking about that in advance next year and instead of putting another amplifier on the advertising board and inviting to see it during the show better encourage to meet a real flesh and blood person. It always pays off.

As I said, a fair is not the same as a show or an exhibition. We have already talked of the latter so let’s add to that a fair is “a gathering of buyers and sellers at a particular place and time for trade” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). As can be seen, a fair assumes a completely different model of interaction between the "exhibitor" and the "visitor". It is all about sales.
And, as it turns out, audio shows more and more often operate on the same principles as the above mentioned Krakow Book Fair. It’s because that’s the only opportunity during the year where you can showcase your products to a wider group of potential customers. Why not in an audio salon? Well, because classic audio salons are getting few and far between, being replaced by online stores. I have nothing against the Internet (for obvious reasons) and such move ‘online’ causes a drop in prices but in case of audio gear a purchase must be preceded by an audition. Otherwise it’s more or less Russian roulette. And the emergence of online retailers, actually just front ends to shipping goods from the distributor’s warehouse to the customer's home resulted in closing down of many stores with audio equipment or in such their change that it’s difficult to call them "audio salons".
And that’s why the show or exhibition is the best place to hold sale. Hence the abundance of many regional events, primarily in the U.S. but also in the United Kingdom. Shows become fairs. It’s where you can listen to, see, and sometimes even touch components that would otherwise remain beyond our reach. And that’s good.

For that makes them grow from strength to strength. Despite catastrophic predictions and apocalyptic prophets, according to which specialized audio (and book sales) should have been over a long time ago, it is exactly the opposite. High End show in Munich is a proof that an ultra-high-end exhibition can attract more visitors and journalists than ever, that people are interested in and that they need contact with something less prosaic than the toaster, which – as it happens – can also play mp3 files.
And in Poland? I’ve already mentioned the similarities between the Krakow Book Fair and the Audio Show so it's easier for me to return to that parallel. It turns out that this year's editions of the two shows are among the largest, most "rich" in their history.
In the words of Richard Kozik, the editor of the Krakow addition of "Gazeta Wyborcza":
The crisis has forced many publishers to fight harder for readers and so the 16th Krakow Book Fair opened yesterday looks surprisingly rich. [...] Many stalls in the exhibition hall at 41A Centralna St. look better than in recent times; a lot also happens around them.
Ryszard Kozik, Bogato w trudnych czasach, "Gazeta Wyborcza. Gazeta Kraków", 26 October 2012, p. 3.
And now compare it with the information we received from the Audio Show organizer:
Ladies and Gentlemen!
We are pleased to announce that this year's edition of the show will be the largest in history! Not more than 3-4 months ago it seemed impossible to beat the last year's all-time record… However, the exhibitors seemed to have had other plans :)
Sincerely,
Adam Mokrzycki

Doesn’t that sound alike? As you can see, even the current crisis can have a positive effect on us, the customers.
However we call the audio show, be that a fair or an exhibition, it is primarily a meeting place, a kind of modern agora. I mean, where else does a journalist get a chance to meet his/her readers, manufacturers meet their product’s owners, distributors find new brands, retailers meet all of them in one place? Let’s appreciate that, let’s look at the show as a whole world of opportunities. For it’s only up to us whether we take advantage of them. We get them served on a platter, only for the admission fee.

CONVERSATIONS XII

Stereo Cassette Deck

“Stereo Cassette Deck” is a device for recording and playing sound on a Compact Cassette tape. Compact Cassette (audio cassette, cassette tape, cassette, tape) is a recording and playback format from Philips, using for this purpose a magnetic tape 3.81 mm (0.15 in) wide, moving at 4.76 cm/s (1 ⅞ inch/s), enclosed in a protective cartridge. CC was the dominant format in home audio systems during the 70s and the 80s, even into the 90s. With the arrival of CDs, especially CD-Rs, and then MP3 files its role very quickly diminished and somewhere around the beginning of the 21st century it disappeared even from car audio where it survived the longest. It actually got the point where the 2011 basic edition of the new release of Oxford Dictionary omits the phrase "cassette tape" altogether.

As it turns out, some kind of nostalgia brought back to circulation, at least temporarily, this – after all - very imperfect technology. I also indulged in it. Not, however, to listen to music but rather to listen to radio dramas I originally bought while still in high school and later lost somewhere. I am speaking about three dramas issued by the Polish Tonpress KAW:
∙ Michael Markowski, Garaż śmierci (Garage Death), TK-51,
∙ Marcin Wolski, Całe ryzyko (The entire risk), TK-52,
∙ Frederic Harris, Triumf Adama Pecksniffa (Adam Pecksniff’s Triumph), TK-53.
Those who in the 80s and 90s (just like me) used to listen to Theatre Green Eye on “Radio Three” (PRIII) will know what I mean - the phenomenally prepared radio dramas, featuring the best Polish actors, directed by the best directors. The dramas that were a vehicle of imagination in its purest form. Many of them, recorded at home on cassette tapes, have survived to the present time and converted into MP3 files are available on the Web. It's just that they have a nightmarish quality. And it's not even because they had been recorded on tape but because they were later massacred by compression.
To hear what I'm saying, just take any of the titles I mentioned. I bought them for 11 PLN a piece at Allegro.pl and even though quite aged they still sound phenomenal! At least when compared to the mp3 files. The material was recorded on analog reel to reel tape and copied (analog) on cassette tape master. And from there it was copied in a copier onto cassette tape available for purchase. It is therefore an absolutely analog recording, through and through. Never in my life have I heard such a deep voice, such fullness of sound even on the best CD player. Why, for God's sake, doesn’t Polish Radio release that on CDs or in FLAC files? For the life of me I don’t understand…

What’s important, however, is that after many years I was able to re-use cassette. The AKAI GX-75 borrowed from my friends reminded me of the technological marvels that were the top cassette decks… Something like that no longer exists. To be clear - Compact Cassette is a very poor signal source. Its comeback has nothing to do with common sense. Turntable and reel to reel are still the best available sources, and Compact Cassette is only nostalgia. But in the future I would like to prepare an article in which I could show and discuss the best tape decks that used to be available. If you own one of the top, really the best decks, a sort of the said Akai, or Tandberg, Nakamichi, Sony, Tascam, etc., please let me know, maybe something will come out of this.

First Impression Music

Mr. Winston Ma, the owner of First Impression Music read an account of a meeting of the Krakow Sonic Society (see HERE) and sent me the following email:
Dear Wojtek,
Thank you very much.
You folks are true audiophiles and can find out the LE version has better sound. It is because they are the first lot.
Well done!
Winston Ma

To receive a written commendation from someone like that is not to be underestimated. All the more so that the e-mail was followed by a large parcel from the U.S. with FIM albums – a number of the best versions of their CDs but also three FIM LPs:
The All Star Percussion Ensemble, GS LP 001-LE,
∙ Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio, Autumn in Seattle, GS LP 004-LE,
∙ Tchaikovsky, 1812, wyk. Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, GS LP 005-LE.

All were pressed on 200 g “Flat Profile” vinyl and the letters "LE" indicate that we are dealing with one of the first 1000 copies. The signal source were DXD digital tapes. How do they sound? I don’t know yet but I'll let you know and describe how these versions differ from their digital counterparts.

For Sale

I still have some components for sale that remained after my reviews, either my own or offered by companies that after the reviews prefer to sell them here, in Poland, rather than ask me to send them back.

Here’s my ‘for sale’ list:

1. Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA5100 RCA analog interconnect. Comes from my own system, sent directly from Japan. Mint condition, after a review. It’s the 2 meter version; comes with no box. The review can be read HERE. Original price per 1 meter – 12,900 PLN. I’m asking 8,000 PLN for a 2 meters length.

2. SAEC XR-4000 XLR balanced interconnect, originally 980 Euro, asking price 500 Euro/1.2 m. Review HERE.

3. KingRex UC192 USB DAC (reviewed in "6moons.com" HERE). Best offer.

4. Acoustic Revive RAF-48 isolation platforms (air floating; under CD players and amplifiers). I have two for sale, one brand new, still in original box, and one used, in mint condition. Came straight from Japan. The review can be found HERE. Catalog price 6,200 PLN, asking 4,000 PLN and 3,500 PLN accordingly.

5. Wireworld Platinum Eclipse RCA-RCA analog interconnect, 2 m long. Catalog price 22,390 PLN, asking 10,000 PLN.

Contact: wojciech.pacula@highfidelity.pl

Wojciech Pacuła
Editor-in-chief



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Our reviewers regularly contribute to  “Enjoy the Music.com”, “Positive-Feedback.com”“HiFiStatement.net”  and “Hi-Fi Choice & Home Cinema. Edycja Polska” .

"High Fidelity" is a monthly magazine dedicated to high quality sound. It has been published since May 1st, 2004. Up until October 2008, the magazine was called "High Fidelity OnLine", but since November 2008 it has been registered under the new title.

"High Fidelity" is an online magazine, i.e. it is only published on the web. For the last few years it has been published both in Polish and in English. Thanks to our English section, the magazine has now a worldwide reach - statistics show that we have readers from almost every country in the world.

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