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The Art Of the Demo

Having spent two busy days at the High End Munich, we couldn’t be more happy to experience the added value of live international meet ups. The pandemic has left us isolated from each other and that does not work us social animals. Humans love to meet, to be together. Having said that, we were less happy to find out that many exhibitors applied effective tactics of deterrence, leaving us no other choice but to fleeing the exhibitor’s booth. Therefore we thought it useful to share some do’s and don’ts: the Art of the Demo. Hope to see you next year!

Never change a winning demo setup

Swiss NAGRA is a good example of a brand that consistently hosts excellent demos. They hire the same booth/room every year and the setup is humongous and complex but stays the same in terms of main structure and technical setup. This enables NAGRA to pinpoint novelties it aims to share with the audience. This year it was the world premiere of the NAGRA turntable. We were impressed by a 1958 Decca recording af a classical piece; and not only we, the people just kept on entering the demo room.

Play at decent sound levels

Some exhibitors still think that louder is better. Well, it isn’t. It scares people. Moreover, at high sound pressure levels, we lose the perception of detail and sound stage. Add to this the flimsy walls that separate the booths and we find ourselves immersed in bass-heavy boom boom.

Avant Garde is very very good at this. Their horn drivers are continuously driven to the max, leaving the booth visitors and their neighbours nothing left but to communicate in mime. A few years ago, turntable brand Thorens was exhibitioning next to Avant Garde. There was simply too much trembling from the neighbours to play the records properly. We saw the tonearms shaking (not kidding…!).

Avoid long and technical presentations

People come to shows to experience the music, to see and feel, touch and try the new equipment. They do definitely not come to listen to long and technical presentations and powerpoint slides. This is what they already have at work. If you want to share technical backgrounds, this is much more effective on a banner or in a handout. Let us experience that it sounds awesome. Alternatively you can briefly mention a special feature of the product and then demonstrate it by playing a track. And remember rule no. 2: don’t play it too loud please.

Vinyl looks good and sounds good

Playing music on a show is easier said than done. Network audio can become complex. And with a bad hotel-network it can lead to trouble. Either setup your own private – wired! – network, or just spin records. Also, in case of physical records: the visitor wil instantly know where the music comes from instead of having to guess from what black box the music (or the silence) originates from.

Play a variety of music

Diana Krall live in Paris, Nils Lofgren’s Keith Don’t Go and other audiophile tracks (often singer-songwriters, voice and guitar close miked so we can here every detail) have one common treat; it sounds good on all systems and it’s boring. Play music instead that is aired on the popular radio stations; try ABBA, or Billy Ocean, and above all; try classical music. It reveals what a good audio system can do. From chamber music to symphonic bombastic, you and your audience will be surprised.

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