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What a hi-fi show REALLY sounds like (Munich High-End 2023)

  • The numbers are in. Munich High-End’s body count for 2023 was 22,137. We came, we saw — but did we listen? With an average of 5500 people descending on the MOC each day, the side-effect of so many people in one exhibition centre cannot, by definition, be captured by the words-and-pictures product launch reporting of websites and magazines, nor the post-show photo dumps landing on Facebook and forums. And that side-effect is noise.

    The clichรฉ that hi-fi shows are more about the people attending than the gear being shown rang truer than ever at the 2023 edition of the world’s largest hi-fi show. It was near impossible to escape the din of conversation as it reverberated throughout the host venue’s large indoor exhibition spaces, even on the traditionally quieter Sunday. Such is the price of this show’s success.

    No doubt noise mattered little to the exhibitors manning the passive displays in one of the open-plan exhibition halls downstairs where conversations become the very essence of business. Upstairs, however, it was a different story. Any exhibitor wanting to create a listening space quiet enough for reliable visitor buying decisions had her work cut out.

    As with previous years, the manufacturers with the deepest pockets netted the larger show-n-tell spaces, many of which open onto an Atrium whose 50-foot-high glass ceiling exacerbate the hall’s conversational roar (see header image). Exhibitors operating from the smaller rooms lining the corridors flanking those halls face lower levels of external white noise but must tolerate (or not) the room door’s mechanical closing as it punctures the quiet.

    Furthermore, exhibiting manufacturers not lucky enough to score breakaway meeting rooms on one of the Atrium’s open floors were forced to find another spot to converse with their products’ distributors, suppliers and members of the press. And with the MOC’s on-site cafes and restaurants usually packed out from 11am, those same exhibitors were forced to hold their meetings in the same room as their hardware demonstration. For one-man bands in charge of in-room music selection, the meeting room decision became Hobson’s choice. And that’s before we address the other elephant in the room: paying punters chatting amongst themselves.

    The upshot is that many of the hi-fi demonstration rooms in Munich are rarely conducive to the one thing that many come to do: listen. This is a truth that cannot be captured by photography. But it can by video.

    I’ve not made a short video like this since Munich High-End 2016. My intent in previous years has been to highlight the type/s of music getting played at hi-fi shows. This 2023 video extends that intent to include the sound of the event beyond the loudspeakers in the listening rooms.

    Take note: if you’re going next year, seek out the small prefab rooms built on the show floor downstairs. In my ten years of Munich show attendance, they are the most likely to deliver a space quiet enough for conclusions about loudspeakers (but not electronics) to be drawn reliably.

    When your show is as well attended as Munich High-End, there isn’t much that can be done about conversational noise. That means, as visitors, we need only adjust our expectations of what’s possible.

    Further information: High-End Society

    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.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram

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