The inaugural Audio Advice Live event in Raleigh, North Carolina is in the books. From my perspective, it was a smashing success. In the weeks leading up to the event, I could already tell this one was going to be a bit different. The Audio Advice team was incredibly prepared, working with those of us participating in the event, well in advance to make sure absolutely everything would run smoothly. When I arrived at the venue, it was clear that this event had a very different vibe compared to other audio shows I've attendee over the years.
I hesitate to call Audio Advice Live an audio show, which is why I use the term "event" instead. It just didn't feel like an audio show in the traditional sense. The Audio Advice team planned it this way. Everything was spread out in different areas of the hotel, giving not only the attendees room to breathe, but also the exhibitors room to do their own thing. Visiting the demonstrations, I didn't feel like it was an assembly line of room after room that I had to visit, experiencing the same thing but with different components, every 15 feet or so.
The large room setup for the sessions, such as the streaming audio session in which I participated, was a breath of fresh air. I'm used to being shoved into a utilitarian room, that could double as an SAT testing center, and handed a microphone. The space at Audio Advice Live was fantastic, and felt much more inviting and relaxing for those of us on stage speaking. The real result that matters though, is a better presentation for those attending the show. I hope there are even more presentations next year, as I believe that's where attendees derive the most benefit at shows.
The people I met for the first time, and those I met again, after first meeting at an Audio Advice event ten years ago, were the real highlight of the show for me. So many wonderful people, who just want to learn a bit more, and share their own experiences of musical enjoyment, are what these events are all about. Ok fine, there were some really nice audio systems as well :~)
The best musical presentation of the weekend was put on by MoFi's Jon Derda, through a system using the new Piega Master Line Source MK II LTD speakers and new BAT REX 500 stereo amplifier. Of course $350,000 speakers should sound amazing, but as they say, you'd be surprised. Jon played some great tracks for those of us listening and even took requests. Dire Straits' track Brothers In Arms had an incredible mount of depth and layering on this system. With the speakers a few yards from the back wall, and a spacious room, it was like everything came together perfectly.
I played a few other tracks on this system and didn't hear the same magic, but we were all lucky that the room even had sound. The shipping company not only lost all the acoustic panels for the room, but Derda had to create a DIY cable for the right channel to even work because the custom Piega cable was also lost in transit. If anyone else noticed the Birkenstock footprint on the back of the left channel, please understand that isn't a feature, but rather more handy work of the shipping company who oversaw the speakers falling out of the containers, walking on them, scratching them, and re-boxing them without any sense of what it was doing.
Note: For some of the first day, Derda was playing mono recordings because he only had one working speaker. Great ingenuity Jon. Well done.
The electronics used in the MoFi room
I listened to two very different systems from MartinLogan. One used the flagship two channel Neolith speakers with Parasound monoblocks. The other used the flagship in-wall Statement 40XW speakers with an Anthem processor. Both systems are capable of great sound quality, but people may be surprised to hear that the better sounding system used the in-wall Statement 40XW and Anthem processor. The rubber meets the road with the laws of physics and proper use of digital signal processing. The Anthem processor was setup to use DSP.
There's only so much a person can do to limit the effects of the room when setting up an audio system, especially at an audio show. Speaker positioning and whatever acoustic panels may be on hand are the extent of it. That is unless DSP is used properly. I've long believed that each room at an audio show should be measured and a convolution filter created and used, before the first consumer sits down in the listening position. If one wants to demonstrate equipment, rather than the effects of the room, use DSP.
For a better look at the Statement 40XW, check them out on MartinLogan's site - https://www.martinlogan.com/en/product/statement-40xw
In one of the more obvious, but never before seen (by me) moves, the Audio Advice team installed speakers in the ceiling of a demo room, knowing it would just replace the six ceiling tiles after the event. Perhaps this has been done before, but I've never seen it. It just seems so obvious, as the height channels for immersive audio are imperative and ceiling tiles can be replaced easily.
The demo used a Trinnov processor and sounded really good. My only issue is that I'm not a video guy. The picture looked amazing, the seats were comfy, and everyone else was enthralled with the presentation, but I was checking email after 30 seconds. Some Atmos music played through this system would've been stunning and captured my attention, I have no doubt, but I didn't want to be that guy. I didn't want the tail to wag the dog. This specific system was there to demonstrate a full theater and it did so very well.
One demonstration that captured my attention for a longer than usual amount of time, was put on by Sonus Faber's Will Kline. I always enjoy talking with Will and listening to his demos, whether at the McIntosh townhouse in NYC or an event such as Audio Advice Live. Will is a great guy who understands every product in the system very well and plays great music. On Sunday, Will even had a few "older" gentlemen tapping their feet to Bad Guy from Billie Eilish. The Rotel Michi S5 amplifiers, each bridged for mono, sent serious and effortless power to the Songs Faber Lilium loudspeakers. The system was setup very well, and sounded good from several of the seats in which I sat. Every time I got up to ask Will a question or shoot a photo, someone took my seat. First word problems in a room with good sound :~)
I look forward to Audio Advice Live 2023 and hope many of you do as well. The show was great, the people were great, and the entire vibe was refreshing. With success usually comes growth and change. I hope Audio Advice Live remains in the sweet spot between a stadium show (Munich high end) and a private performance (dealer showroom). I have full confidence in this team to pull off an event better event next year.