Intermission: another travelling song

  • “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” – Ernest Hemingway

    My name is John and I am 43 years old. I’m 6’5” tall but I’m overweight. I’m a long way from approaching what might pass for obese but I’m carrying too much cargo.

    My name is John and I’m a hi-fi journalist. Living in Australia, that means two or three long haul trips per year to cover trade shows. Show coverage is the number one of driver of site traffic and if I wanted to go hard on Google Stat maximisation I’d contract the room-to-room out to writers on the ground in each show location whilst I stayed put in Sydney and continued to pen reviews.

    Alas, a writing team approach would massively dilute the core essence of DAR: a singular perspective. I therefore choose to handle global show coverage myself, often to the amazement of exhibitors who frequently exclaim on the number of air miles I must be racking up. Yes, I travel a lot – almost as much as Xuanqian Wang from AURALiC and the guys from Astell&Kern. And yes, travel is fun.

    The downside of so much time spent away from home is its impact on my weight. I eat out more and I spend large slabs of time sat stationary on planes and in transit lounges. It’s tough to rack up 10,000 steps per day on show floors alone.

    An absence of routine on the road mens the Sydney-side exercise and diet regimes slips away quickly. I take advantage of hotel fitness centres whenever possible. In Munich, I walked to and from my Schwabing-located hotel to the M.O.C. each day – about 3kms. Since then I’ve been in New York visiting friends and walking the city as much as possible, sometimes clocking as much as 15kms of footwork per day.


    Two weeks later and I’m in Irvine, CA. T.H.E. Show Newport Beach has a new location this year: the all-in-one Hotel Irvine. The bar name says red but all I see is tangerine; the retina-scorching aesthetic of these surroundings sits somewhere between a 1970s airport lounge and the work of an interior designer too lazy to think beyond the mandate of ‘funky’. It looks as bad as I feel right now.

    In the eye of this show storm I’m not thinking about hi-fi, I’m thinking about health…or rather the lack of it. I’ve been away from home for almost 3 weeks and I don’t recall a time when I felt so downright rough. I have a cough that won’t quit and a waistline that’s moving in the wrong direction.

    These might sound like first world problems but they are problems nonetheless.

    A healthy body begets a healthy mind. With physical state all wrong, my head is a long way from the clear thought required to do justice to the notes and photographs I’ve been laying down weekend. For Newport show coverage proper, dear reader, you’re going to have to wait. I’ll be back down under in a day or two, back into a healthy diet and regular gym visits. From there I’ll spend a week or so disseminating what I’ve seen and heard at T.H.E. Newport Beach Show. Hang tight.

    John Darko

    Written by John 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. JD- Huge fan of yours, it’s a marathon, not a sprint (to the gate…). Appreciate the update, commitment and your great writing. Want to keep reading your good work a long time into the future…
      Take care (of yourself),

    2. The articles/reviews/features can wait. Get as much rest as you desire. Once you’re okay, get more rest. Get on a pushbike and put on some in-ears. No uber-DAC can replace lost health. Take care, JD.

    3. Wow; you don’t look 6’5″ in your photo above ;O) I always imagined you being a 5’10” kind of guy.
      How do you survive on the plane? Business Class?
      I’m only 6’1″ and I won’t fly from Australia to Europe now unless it’s in BC; fortunately my London-based, fund-managing, youngest brother has been shouting me the tickets to date.
      It’s the half bottle of Veuve at 5.30 in the morning, in the Emirates lounge that makes all the difference…

      • Business class pricing is far too rich for my blood so I pay for exit row seats on every flight.

    4. Yes , we wan’t you to look after your health .
      You are worth having around )
      Don’t underestimate quality water and fresh air tho !
      Thanks for all your hard work .

    5. I, for one would be OK with you farming out assignments for these never-ending shows. For me, it’s the reviews I look to you for and as interesting as it is to see your take on all the show debuts, that’s not where any really good listening is happening, so readers have to take everything with a grain of salt anyway. It would be cool to see you take on only the shows you like the most and produce more reviews. That’s just me, for what it’s worth. Keep up the good work and please get healthy again!


    6. First, wow you are tall!

      Second, get better soon!

      Third, take care of yourself. I’ve heard Camperdown Fitness is good.

    7. Perhaps you need to rewrite the belief of “I love to travel” by admitting to your deeper self that living out of a suitcase for weeks on end and eating restaurant food isn’t all it’s cracked up to be -:)

      Any personal routine of when to eat, what to eat, working out and such gets quite turned around on the road. For myself, I have no issue admitting that I no longer enjoy traveling as I once did. Hence I do a hole lot less of it now.

      I don’t think your readers would care if you scratched one or two show reports from your annual agenda. As you said yourself more than once, shows are no place for getting any serious listening done. And just ogling shiny toys against crap audiophile music in rooms too small for their big speakers kinda gets old quick too, don’t you think?

      Perhaps the real issue is that you want to get out of Oz more often? Then it might be easier to just move to Europe or the US for good. Chris Sommovigo is just about to get his container in Japan to set up shop there -:)

      • Indeed. This trip has re-written that belief all by itself. I DO love to travel but trying to weave it in and around show attendance is becoming problematic. Japan is indeed closer and I would’ve been there for the Fujiya-Avic show a few weeks back had it not clashed with Munich. Good job there’s another in October.

        So, why do I currently cover (so many) shows? I prefer to interact face to face – I’m an auditory learner – so shows afford me a better handle of the bigger picture as well as technical nitty gritty. Sat in the same room as the manufacturer or product designer REALLY helps with technical understanding of how stuff works. I live in a country with a population so small that it can barely sustain its own hifi show.

        My issue with Munich (for example) is this: flying in and out just for the show seems like a waste of being in Europe, especially as it’s such a very long way from home base in Sydney. These shows are how I maintain connection with the audio world proper; the majority of manufacturers are to be found outside of Oz in Europe and the USA.

        All that said – and as you say – something requires a readjustment. With Type 2 diabetes running in the family, I can no longer afford the weight gain that comes with being on the road for weeks at a time. Once I drop 10kgs and get a better handle on my weight I might feel differently.

    8. Face-to-face time could be rigged up via Skype perhaps to give you your own personal door into deeper understanding?

      Like you said about tripping all the way to Munich from faraway Oz and thinking you ought to do more for that than just covering one show… it’s about the most efficient way of maximizing your time and money. Meanwhile having to schedule your travels around specific show dates which force you to be in a specific place for a specified length of time whilst having to use the in-between time for fun and sightseeing… that’s not the best way to travel and improvise and follow the spur of the moment.

      In short, mixing pleasure and business can take chunks out of either. Personally, I prefer to either go on business (and then the mind set is a bit terminator-like and focused on results and fulfilling the function and purpose behind a given trip)… or to go for pure pleasure and let the other role go completely.

      You’ll find your own right balance soon enough. Just don’t mess with Type 2 diabetes!

      • That’s right: maximisation is the name of the game when I’m travelling so far from home. However, with one foot in pleasure and the other in business the waistline suffers. I need to find a way to either a) do these trips without weight gain or b) shorten the trips themselves. I’m simply not prepared to undo all the hard yards put it two years ago that enabled me to shift a serious number of kilos. A detox/diet will be first priority when I land back in Sydney.

        As for Skype – it might bring deeper understanding but it doesn’t facilitate chance contact. The Newport Show brought with it many first encounters that just wouldn’t arise elsewhere. For example, I chatted at length with the guys from Roon for a much better hold on their software roadmap. I get to see what they’re about and just as importantly, they get to see where I’m coming from. That resulted in an email from them this very morning: “Just wanted to drop you a line and say thanks for taking the time out to meet and put a face with the name… life is much better when you meet the people you work with and get to find out they are awesome.” The face-to-face is unbeatable and THAT’s why I do so many shows.

    9. The best advice I can offer is my old regime from music business touring and which is to eat twice a day and eat two meals then skip one.
      Skip lunch
      Skip Dinner

      • Interesting suggestion – worth a go. Thanks Dave. A more radical move might be to quit drinking.

    10. John, I also did the Schwabing -> MOC walk on the Friday. The free buses were full so there was no choice! It’s actually quite pleasant so long as you allocate enough time – you get to see more of the locality you are visiting.

      I guess it depends on the person but with regards weight I would’ve thought watching what you eat is more important than exercise (although exercise helps and is necessary for other reasons). It’s always a little disappointing to see how few calories, compared to intake, exercise consumes.

      Cut down on the white carbs and eat in your hotel room! On second thoughts, that doesn’t sound like much fun…

    11. I grok the “impromptu encounters” only a live meet generates.
      But there’s another way for those to happen, too.

      For me, many of those unexpected encounters happen by email. That’s when freshly minted manufacturers approach me for a review. That happened with Wow Audio Labs, COS Engineering, Fore Audio and Cyenne Audio in the recent past. I’d knew none of ’em before they rang my bell. A few weeks Cembalo Labs did the same. And so it continues, well before they attend any shows.

      Of course this didn’t happen overnight. Over many years, we’ve built a reputation for liking to cover out-of-the-mainstream newer companies. With that established, a well-published email is all it takes now to *be encountered* rather than doing it in person during a show abroad.

      What I’m saying (and another poster said it already) is that if you focus on generating more reviews rather than show report bloggage, people will seek you out of their own accord, no debilitating costly cross-world travels involved.

      I mean, that’s the whole appeal of being online, ain’ it? You’re connected to a world-wide audience in real time. It don’t matter whether you’re on a mountain top in Hawaii; or in a condo on top of Hong Kong. If you’ve got email and UPS can find your crib, you’re all set.

      If you maximize that aspect, you could literally never have to leave home whilst keeping busier than beaver. I’m not saying one should become a hermit. I’m simply saying that the content you create becomes its own filter. If you want different results, change the filter – more hard reviews, less soft show coverage -:)

      • I can’t argue with your success in abundant content production Srajan – it’s why you’re number 1 in the world at what you do and it is absolutely why new companies seek you out.

        Alas, whilst *still* building a reputation as a site/fellow that can offer well-written insight in the ever-crowding reviewer space, face to face contact with manufacturers is a must. I can’t entrust DAR’s success to ‘build it and they will come’. Besides, I don’t want to remain home alone doing reviews for 365 days of the year. I enjoy covering shows and it gives me exposure to a smorgasboard of gear, much of which doesn’t make it down under. Or does but not in a timely fashion. I’d be waiting well over a year to hear Andrew Jones’ new ELAC or Clayton Shaw’s Spatial speakers, each of which I might have completely missed had I not gone to Irvine last weekend.

        Readers LOVE show coverage more than anything else – the numbers don’t lie – so I have to find a balance between it and reviews. As such, I’m happy to give over 8 weeks a year to show coverage because I want that content on DAR. It gets me out of the house and away from the bottom of the world. What I’ve yet to establish, and the point of this post, is *how* to implement those travel plans such that they doesn’t affect/influence my long-term health goals.

        Furthermore, down here in Sydney I live in a solo reviewer bubble. Attendance at shows allows me to exchange stories and ideas with my peers. I wouldn’t miss catching up with for all the white asparagus in Munich – I learn/process more in 90 minutes over dinner than a month of email exchanges could provide. I also spent a significant amount of time talking to Michael Lavorgna in Munich. Invaluable face-time for both of us (I hope) given he and I both run digitally-focussed websites (and still spin vinyl at home). Plus, like you, he ain’t a dickhead! You can’t say that about every reviewer. Haha.

        Finally, show attendance puts me directly in front of opinions that wildly diverge from my own. I sat on a panel in Irvine with David Robinson of PFO. He’s BIG into DSD. In the face of stupidly small content library, I’m not. We got to duke it out a little (in a friendly way of course). Ditto Cookie Marenco – an invaluable chance encounter.

        Long story short: I’m a people person. The face to face puts energy in my belly. I just gotta find a way to make sure that energy doesn’t make its way to waistline storage.

    12. Feel more like an agony aunt than an audiophile reading and commenting on this blog! Lack of routine is an absolute killer for overall fitness, I travel a little on business and it’s sooooooooo difficult to maintain weight and fitness when you have the temptation of a full breakfast, free meals etc. Good luck however I don’t think you are a routine sort of guy which is what makes reading your blogs so entertaining.

      • I agree, Mike.
        Darko, your reviews are the dog’s proverbials; informative and highly entertaining for those of us who grow up reading and loving WORDS.
        You’re half way there big feller; you’re aware of having to take good care of yourself. As an ol’ codger in me late 50’s, it doesn’t get any easier BUT it is still possible.
        Having said that, I’m off out for a few pints and a Ruby Murray with some mates this evening…*sigh*

    Astell&Kern launch AK380 ecosystem at Munich High-End 2015

    Zu Audio Omen MKII loudspeakers at T.H.E. Show Newport 2015