What the Sam Heck is IFA?

  • Up above. A pair of loudspeakers enjoys equal static demo status as a motorbike and a piano. Yamaha’s display at the Messe Berlin in 2017 is typical of IFA – “the world’s leading trade show for consumer electronics and home appliances”, according to its organiser.

    IFA? Internationale Funkaustellung. Translating from German to English: Internationale = International; Funk = radio; Austellung = exhibition. Oh, Messe = (trade) fair.

    This commentator’s twice-weekly German classes are starting to pay off. So too is bike ownership. A mere 9km separate the DARhaus from Berlin’s Messe. Here in the west of the city twenty-plus (exhibition) halls surround a radio tower and speak to this Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf location’s former life as the hub of West Berlin’s radio broadcasting.

    For IFA, the halls that were once used to transmit big band and orchestral sounds over the airwaves are repurposed for the likes of Sony, LG and Technics to show-off their latest electronics. Audio gear enjoys equal billing alongside fridges, washing machines, PCs, mobile phones, VR and drones; and not annexed as an oddity in a nearby hotel (as per Las Vegas’ CES).

    For the visitor with a strict audiophile agenda, only a single day is required to cherry pick the most interesting fruit. I’ve already done that. The only conversation about MQA to which I was privy was my own with Bob Stuart and Mike Jbara. Zero DSD talk.

    IFA doesn’t only attract the big guys. In the more audio-focussed 1.2 Halle, we note the likes of RHA, IFi Audio and Meze Audio. They rub shoulders with bigger players like Beyerdynamic, Sennheiser and (Germany’s biggest loudspeaker manufacturer) Teufel/Raumfeld.

    However. the most significant difference between IFA and an audio-focussed trade shows is its runtime: Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday – six days (!). One exhibitor let it slip that the two press days preceding the official opening Friday were a mess; many exhibitor stands were apparently still coming together. That makes eight days all up.

    What I like about IFA is how it normalises hi-fi. A place where the world’s best audio gear is pulled out of the audiophile ghetto and placed under the nose of the man in the street.

    Further information: IFA

    Written by John

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

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

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