MIA in the PRC

  • Gentlemen (and ladies), start your violins because I’m about to call out one of the bigger downsides of travelling in the name of hi-fi: finding time to write whilst away from home. You’re presently reading the first post on DAR in over five days; an unusually long period of radio silence for this website.

    Why so long M.I.A.?

    Along with a handful of Australian and New Zealand store owners and representatives, I’ve been in China this past week as a guest of Oppo, Rotel and their Australian distributor Interdyn.

    DAR isn’t just a website, it exists in the broader context of my posts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and it’s well known that China’s government-managed Internet firewall blocks access to these websites and services. However, there’s nothing like first hand experience of the same to really hammer home how much DAR relies on them; little point posting if I can’t push those posts out to DAR readers via social media. Sealing the door on communications to the outside world was China’s prohibition of all Google services, the sharp end of which was not being permitted to access Gmail.

    It also took some mental adjustment to use Bing as my search engine of choice, not knowing if it would return results that would ultimately find themselves blocked by the Great Firewall of China.

    Moreover, a jam-packed schedule of back-to-back meetings, presentations, factory tours and (*cough*) social engagements kept me and my Macbook separated for the entirety of the trip. And you really don’t want to read that which I commit to my notepad on the back of three hours’ sleep.

    Anyway – know that a several slabs of PRC-related coverage are coming just as soon as my brain lands. Right now it’s still in Kuala Lumpur.

    In the meantime, here are selection of smartphone snaps…














    John H. Darko

    Written by John H. Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram


    1. Did you go to see any Chinese rock ‘n roll bands live? Are there any? Forget the corporate tour, did you see any live music that changed your opinion of China? What is the music scene like in China? We don’t care about the products or the firewalls, we already know about that. We want to know about the music scene. How did the Chinese music scene translate? What was your experience of live music in China?

      • Lots of questions about live music in China there Dave but alas the schedule was packed so tightly that I only got to see a brief acoustic set in a bar during the first night in Zhuhai.

    2. Having lived here for 3 years I hear you, but John no point railing against the old fart, Diana Krall listeners at trade shows if your geek quotient is so low you can’t even get a VPN. Hope you get to go to Line Magnetic in Zhuhai, my fav Chinese brand by a long way. Just remember, Chinese baijiu is not a drink it’s a competitive sport, so don’t let the side down.

      • I’ve no issue setting up a VPN service (I use one for Netflix) but just didn’t see the point with such a super-packed schedule ahead of me. Didn’t get to Line Magnetic I’m afraid – sorry.

    3. Good, I wish more reviewers would admit they attend paid industry junkets. Not questioning your integrity or anything unsubstantiated like that, but at least I’ll know your full history with a brand when I read a review of one of their products. Unconscious bias is a hell of a drug.

      • I wouldn’t call it a junket but yes, I thought it proper to set the background to the factory tour commentary coming down the pike.

    4. The live music scene is still in very early stages, at least anything we would appreciate. There are some venues in Shangjhai and Beijing to see live bands, mainly post-punk, Beijing has more venues that Shanghi and the music scene is more vibrant there. Outside of those cities it’s a desert. But it’s a hard road for alt-Rock or Electronic music here for a number of reasons, most Chinese people under 40 listen to what I would call bad, 1970 boy/girl group music from Chinese, Taiwanese or Korean groups. It’s terrible, they love it and it’s everywhere. Secondly you can’t make money from downloads (itunes sales are non-existent) or streaming, so the only way is to play live. Both Beijing, Shanghai have 2 or 3 summer music festivals, small scale but multiple stages and quite fun. Last year, off the top of my head, I remember Swans and Deerhoof played amongst others plus a lot of homegrown. Questlove – The Roots drummer – has been doing mix sets, on and off, at a club in Shanghai for the past year. Over 40’s do seem to be into Jazz. Lots of Western music in restaurants, if I hear Hotel California one more time I’m going to stab myself with a fork.

      Everyone listens to music on their phones, QQ music and Xiami have surprisingly good Western music catalogues, I can find almost anything I can find on Spotify. Many albums will stream at 320Kbps and you can download to the Android or iphone apps, all for free of course. Spotify works sporadically if you have an account – can’t sign up in China. Tidal doesn’t work without a VPN sadly.

      One observation on HiFi, China brands sell some really good amps and Dacs there days, but I am still yet to find decent Chinese brand speakers, strange in that many are made here for Western companies .

    5. Thanks for the update JD, great pictures! Look forward to “hearing” more about your trip and insights…

    6. Lookin absolutely spiffy in white there John. I’d hire you if I ever opened a restaurant.

      As always, big thanks for everything you take the time to share with us. Looking forward to em.

    dBpoweramp comes to OS X

    Rotel Electronics – a Zhuhai factory tour