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What a high-end audio show REALLY sounds like (reprise)

  • What kind of music gets played at a high-end audio show? The world’s largest show by floor area – Munich High-End – takes place each May. In 2016, it returned the following result (complete with video evidence):

    “If your musical taste doesn’t meet classical, jazz, light acoustic, girl + guitar or white-guy blues head on, you’d probably come away none the wiser as to how Trentemøller, Depeche Mode, Giant Sand or Prince might benefit from a big rig.”

    In other words, in the main, with a few rare exceptions, the musical programme could be likened to the narrow safety of a Starbucks compilation CD.

    Six months later we ask: does the Hong Kong High-End show sound any different?

    The opening day’s sky high attendance made listening close to impossible. Even getting into some rooms proved to be a considerable challenge. Necks craned, smartphones were held aloft. Then came the dire warnings from numerous quarters that Saturday and Sunday would be even more of a squeeze. “You won’t be able to move in here,” said one exhibitor as he gesticulated toward the main hall on level 3 of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

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    The Hong Kong high-end show is run by local publication Audiotechnique and reportedly attracts upwards of 30,000 attendees across its three day run. That’s roughly three times that of Newport Beach or RMAF/Canjam and fifty percent more than Munich. Blimey.

    Mercifully for this commentator, being packt like sardines in a crushd tin box in Wan Chai didn’t materialise. Whilst still as busy as the previous day, I took my video camera out early and late – and avoiding peak time – for tours of the twenty or so larger listening rooms found on levels 2 and 4, and a similar number of prefabricated rooms built along the perimeter of the main hall.

    The show opened with a long queue, bagpipes and a quick sprint from early birds eager to catch worms and ended with a drum solo. In between, the sights and sounds of some of the world’s finest high-end audio systems:

    The musical programme? Our vinyl vendor’s sign said it all: “Jazz / Light music”. Zero hint of rock n roll or electronica, even from the usually more adventurous KEF and Dynaudio. The latter, like the majority of brands at this high-end event, are represented by their local distributor. Only the Hit Audio (Zu Audio / Line Magnetic) and Devialet rooms showed any sign of inclination to stir attendees’ blood with more athletic selections. Elsewhere, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” was as racy as it got.

    Perhaps the weather outside the exhibition centre, consistently 33C and 95+% humidity throughout the weekend, demanded nothing but serenity and placidity within.

    Further information: Audiotechnique


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    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

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