The Audio Show and the Myth of Crappy Sound Quality







I was cruising the web today and found this on the new HPSoundings:

Unfortunately, this show was not the most awe-inspiring in terms of overall sound. What show is? Mostly, I was left wanting something, anything, to grab a serious hold on my attention. There were, of course, notable and praiseworthy standouts, but essentially each room had significant flaws that were difficult to overcome. To me, the most important thing to take from a show such as the RMAF, is what the experience represents, in and of itself.

I’ve argued this before, so I’m not sure that belaboring the point is particularly productive, but here’s the short-form: no, a room doesn’t always “work”, and no, a crap demo doesn’t entail that the gear involved is at fault. But that being true, it doesn’t therefore also entail that no room will be good.

Yeah, yeah, yeah — unfamiliar room, strange acoustics — blah blah blah. Come on. Hotel rooms are not roving alien time/space warp-bubbles that eat sound and fart death. In point of fact, most of the rooms in a hotel are very regularly shaped and are easily “tuned” — unlike what most of us use as a listening room. Look, there is nothing about the nature of the universe that requires poor acoustics at an audio show so why pretend it’s impossible?

In my admittedly limited experience (only 10 shows so far!), I’ve yet to attend one that had uniformly bad sound — or anything even remotely close to it. I mean, think about it. We’re talking about several hundred professionals with something like a bazillion years of aggregate practical experience between them. We’re talking about teams that have access to rather sophisticated tools at their disposal, including several cottage industries that sell entire suites of measurably successful and market-proven products that do nothing but deal with the issues of “room setup” and “room interaction”. Isn’t it weird to think that they couldn’t somehow manage to pull together at least a few decent-sounding demos — even if by accident?

This is probably a dead horse by now, but whatever. To the vendors that actually take the time and expend the not-inconsiderable effort in constructing a successful demo for our listening pleasure, it’s the least we could do to recognize their skill, luck, and experience. Failing to do so because we have decided a priori that there can’t be good sound, because it’s a show and everybody knows all shows suck, isn’t that not only naive but disrespectful, too?